Reports

Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Big Complaints

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, to educate consumers about these practices, and to regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them. 

To help accomplish these goals, the CFPB has created and made available to the public the Consumer Complaint Database.  The database tracks complaints made by consumers to the CFPB and the responses of financial institutions to those complaints. The Consumer Complaint Database enables the CFPB to identify financial practices that threaten to harm consumers and enables the public to evaluate both the performance of the financial industry and of the CFPB.

Report | WASHPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

Americans have cut their per-person driving miles in 46 states plus Washington, D.C., since the middle of the last decade. The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.In Washington state, driving per person in has fallen nearly 9 percent since 1999—it's peak driving year. This is the equivalent of drivers leaving their cars parked for more than a month per year.

Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Direction

The Driving Boom—a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over.

Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term. The unique combination of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom—from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation—no longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation—the Millennials—is demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.

 

Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Tax

Following the Money 2013

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts with private entities for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, grants, and other forms of spending. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent. 

In recent years, state governments across the country have created transparency websites that provide checkbook-level information on government spending – meaning that users can view the payments made to individual companies and details about the goods or services purchased. These websites allow residents and watchdog groups to ensure that taxpayers get their money’s worth from deals the state makes with companies.

In 2013, for the first time, all 50 states provide some checkbook-level information on state spending via the Internet. In 48 states – all except California and Vermont – this information is now searchable. Just four years ago, only 32 states provided checkbook-level information on state spending online, and only 29 states provided that information in searchable form.

This report, WashPIRG Education Fund’s fourth annual evaluation of state transparency websites, finds that states are closer than ever before to meeting the standards of “Transparency 2.0” – encompassing, one-stop, one-click checkbook transparency and accountability. Over the past year, new states have opened the books on public spending and several states have pioneered new tools to further expand citizens’ access to critical spending information. Many states, however, still have a long way to go to provide taxpayers with the information they need to ensure that government is spending their money effectively.
 

Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Safe Energy

Too Close to Home

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which took place in March 2011, delivered a reminder to the world that nuclear power comes with inherent risks. Over a period of several days, three Japanese nuclear reactors suffered meltdowns. A large amount of radioactive material escaped into the environment over the ensuing months.

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