The Center's top business stories for 2017

Net neutrality. Tax cuts for the rich. The cost of Medicare and billing mistakes — those are some of the deep dives our finance team took this past year. We looked into the ways economic policy affects CEOs, the agriculture industry and the taxpayer.

Read on for our biggest investigations in 2017, and how they could impact your money.

Trump, Wall Street and the ‘banking caucus’ ready to rip apart Dodd-Frank


Carolyn Kaster/AP

Now that Donald Trump is president, the banking industry is well on its way to accomplishing what has been its top priority goal for years: upending Dodd-Frank, the massive regulatory law that emerged from the financial crisis.

The Trump transition team website said it “will be working to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act and replace it with new policies to encourage growth and job creation.” President Trump, while signing an executive order earlier this year to limit new regulations, told reporters he planned to “do a big number on Dodd-Frank.”

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Saving face: Facebook wants access without limits


In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation

Facebook faced a lawsuit in Illinois for storing digitized faces in its growing database. The suit is ongoing, but behind the scenes, the social network giant is working feverishly to prevent other states from enacting a law like the one in Illinois.

Tech companies, whose business model is based on collecting data about its users and using it to sell ads, frequently oppose consumer privacy legislation. But privacy advocates say Facebook is uniquely aggressive in opposing all forms of regulation on its technology.

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Fraud and billing mistakes cost Medicare — and taxpayers — tens of billions last year


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Federal health officials made more than $16 billion in improper payments to private Medicare Advantage health plans last year. Adding in the overpayments for standard Medicare programs, the tally for last year approaches $60 billion — which is almost twice as much as the National Institutes of Health spends on medical research each year.

James Cosgrove, who directs health care reviews for the Government Accountability Office, told Congress in July that "fundamental changes are necessary” to improve how the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ferrets out billing mistakes and recoups overpayments from health insurers.

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How Trump’s immigration crackdown threatens ‘Made in America’ dairy-industry miracle


Joy Pruitt/Center for Public Integrity

Idaho's Magic Valley’s dairy boom is a contemporary rural American success story — the kind that President Donald Trump railed as a candidate is too often missing across the country. Unemployment here was less than 3 percent this summer, about as good as it gets, and optimism should be high. Yet on dairy farms, among both owners and workers, a sense of dread hangs in the dry southern Idaho air.

Why?

In a word: Immigrants.

Dairy farmers lean heavily Republican in this deeply red state of only 1.7 million people, where 88 percent of the voting-age population are non-Hispanic whites. But in the age of Donald Trump — who won Idaho handily — even the farmers who supported the new president fear the fate of their businesses is about to run headlong into a harsh political reality.

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Big tax cuts for the rich, less for the poor


Lateshia Beachum/Center for Public Integrity

A group of conservative think tanks wants the nation’s tax system to look more like North Carolina’s. But so far, for the working poor, that hasn’t been a great deal.

Experts from think tanks heavily subsidized by anti-tax, free-market groups such as the Charles Koch Foundation have descended on state capitals armed with scholarly research arguing that tax cuts for the well-to-do lead to economic growth.

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Trump country trade-off: Tariffs could trigger U.S. job losses


Susan Ferriss/Center for Public Integrity

In a five-county region surrounding Dalton, Ga., three-fourths of voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump. And yet, if the president follows through on one of his frequent campaign promises — to get tougher with our trading partners — some economists believe that Northwest Georgia wouldn’t become a beneficiary, but a victim.

Big time.

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FCC packs broadband advisory group with big telecom firms, trade groups


Blake Dodge/Center for Public Integrity

The FCC loaded its 30-member advisory panel with corporate executives, trade groups and free-market scholars. More than three out of four seats are filled by business-friendly representatives from the biggest wireless and cable companies such as AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp., Sprint Corp., and TDS Telecom. Crown Castle International Corp., the nation’s largest wireless infrastructure company, and Southern Co., the nation’s second-largest utility firm, have representatives on the panel. Also appointed to the panel were broadband experts from conservative think tanks who have been critical of FCC regulations such as the International Center for Law and Economics and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The FCC says the makeup of the BDAC and its subgroups represents a diversity of views and those who best understand the issues. But local officials say their exclusion from the committee reflects a not-so-hidden agenda — one pushed by Pai himself with help from his allies in Big Telecom: to create a set of rules that lets the telecom more easily put their equipment in neighborhoods with far less local oversight.

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The future of the internet is up for grabs — theoretically


Andrew Harnik/AP

Our report from earlier this year on FCC chair Ajit Pai's road to repealing net neutrality.

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