Housing Crisis

It’s Time for Voters to Take Out the Senatorial Trash

— by Vickie Rock, Humboldt Dems Secretary and proud Navy Veteran

Today, S1982 came up for a vote in the Senate. S1982 is the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.  S1982 amends federal veterans provisions, revising or adding provisions concerning medical services and other benefits provided to veterans and/or their dependents through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the following areas:

  • survivor and dependent matters, including benefits for children of certain veterans born with spina bifida;
  • education matters, including the approval of courses for purposes of the All-Volunteer Force and the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance programs;
  • the expansion and extension of certain health care benefits, including immunizations, chiropractic care, treatment for traumatic brain injury, and wellness promotion;
  • health care administration, including extension of the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Professional Scholarship Program, and
  • complementary and alternative medicine;
  • mental health care, including an education program and peer support program for family members and caregivers of veterans with mental health disorders;
  • dental care eligibility and expansion, including a program of education to promote dental health in veterans;
  • health care related to sexual trauma, including appropriate counseling and treatment and a screening mechanism to detect incidents of domestic abuse;
  • reproductive treatment and services, including fertility counseling as well as adoption assistance for severely wounded veterans;
  • major medical facility leases;
  • veterans’ employment training and related services;
  • veterans’ employment, including within the federal government and as first responders;
  • career transition services;
  • employment and reemployment rights of members of the Armed Forces after active duty service;
  • small business matters, including contracting and subcontracting participation goals with federal departments and agencies;
  • administrative matters, including regional support centers for Veterans Integrated Service Networks;
  • the revision of claims based on military sexual trauma as well as claims for dependency and indemnity compensation;
  • jurisdictional matters, including with respect to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims;
  • the revision of certain rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, including protections with respect to the expiration of professional licenses, a prohibition on the denial of credit or the termination of residential leases due to military service, and the temporary protection of surviving spouses under mortgage foreclosures; and
  • outreach and miscellaneous matters, including: (1) repeal of the provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 that reduces the cost-of-living adjustment to the retirement pay of members of the Armed Forces under age 62, and (2) the accounting for discretionary accounts designated for overseas contingency operations/global war on terrorism.

When the bill came up for a vote, we witnessed pure unadulterated partisanship run amok as 41 reprehensible members of the REPUBLIBAN displayed their disdain, not support, for our troops and voted against passage of S1982:

Alexander (R-TN) . Ayotte (R-NH) . Barrasso (R-WY) . Blunt (R-MO) . Boozman (R-AR) . Burr (R-NC) . Chambliss (R-GA) . Coats (R-IN) . Coburn (R-OK) . Cochran (R-MS) . Collins (R-ME) . Corker (R-TN) . Cornyn (R-TX) . Crapo (R-ID) . Cruz (R-TX) . Enzi (R-WY) . Fischer (R-NE) . Flake (R-AZ) . Graham (R-SC) . Grassley (R-IA) . Hatch (R-UT) . Hoeven (R-ND) . Inhofe (R-OK) . Isakson (R-GA) . Johanns (R-NE) . Johnson (R-WI) . Kirk (R-IL) . Lee (R-UT) . McCain (R-AZ) . McConnell (R-KY) . Paul (R-KY) . Portman (R-OH) . Risch (R-ID) . Roberts (R-KS) . Rubio (R-FL) . Scott (R-SC) . Sessions (R-AL) . Shelby (R-AL) . Thune (R-SD) . Toomey (R-PA) . Vitter (R-LA)

It’s one thing to shut down our Government because they don’t want to pay the bills that they authorized and that they had already incurred.  It’s another thing entirely when they send our children to unwarranted wars and then refuse to provide necessary funding to support healthcare for the injuries of war incurred, PTSD, sexual trauma, traumatic brain injuries, et.al.  Our troops should never be thrown out with the trash like these GOP Tartufes did today.  This is an election year.  It’s time for voters across this nation to take out the Senatorial trash.

The President’s Housing Plan–What You Need to Know

The White House

President Obama took Wednesday morning to answer your questions on housing during an online interview, and it’s worth a watch. It’s part of his push for a more secure foundation for middle-class home ownership.

We want to make sure you’ve got the facts about President Obama’s plan, and the resources that are already available for homeowners.

Here’s what you need to know: The President’s plan involves simple, commonsense steps that folks on both sides of the aisle agree on. That means making it easier for families to refinance, reforming the system so families aren’t on the hook for the bad behavior of certain mortgage lenders, and helping folks who aren’t homeowners yet get affordable housing that’s right for them.

Click here to find out more about President Obama’s plan.

And while  we need to do more, there are some resources we’ve already helped make available:

  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov is there to help get you mortgage relief and avoid foreclosure. If you or someone you know needs assistance, they can help you find programs that can help — both online and through a free, 24/7 support line that can connect you with housing experts.

Take a minute to share this information with your family and friends, so that people who might not know about these resources can start getting help if they need it.

Victims Of Foreclosure Fraud Can’t Cash Reimbursement Checks

— by Sarah Edelman, Guest Blogger on Apr 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Could federal regulators and their cast of private contractors possibly do a worse job of getting relief to families who were wronged during the foreclosure crisis?

First, private contractors botched their initial review of banks’ foreclosure files. Then, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency cut a bad deal with mortgage servicers that pays very little – about two-thirds of borrowers will receive only $300.

Finally, adding insult to injury, borrowers are having trouble cashing the disappointingly small checks!

Apparently, in order for borrowers to cash the compensation checks they received, their bank must contact Rust Consulting, the company handling the distribution of compensation funds for the U.S. government in order to verify the checks are cashing. However, when these banks followed typical protocol and contacted the bank issuing the checks, Huntington National Bank, the issuing bank was unable to verify and give approval to cash the check.

In the grand scheme of things, this bureaucratic slip-up can be resolved fairly easily, and the Federal Reserve has assured the public that borrowers should be able to access their compensation going forward. However, this most recent debacle underscores how this entire process has failed millions of families who have already lost their homes and savings during the foreclosure crisis.

A major problem throughout this process has been poor communication and outreach to borrowers. Last summer, the General Accountability Office reprimanded the OCC for ineffective outreach to more than 4 million borrowers who could be eligible for compensation. What’s more, the closed review process by the bank contractors – for which reviewers were paid more per hour than most borrowers will end up getting in total compensation – offered borrowers no opportunity to provide additional information as the contractors were determining whether or not they were wronged and if so, the amount of compensation they were owed.

As that review process became increasingly costly and bogged down, the OCC made a deal with 13 banks which, yet again, provides little meaningful redress to the vast majority of those whose foreclosure were mishandled.

Perhaps it could be amusing – or even inspire a comedy TV show – if a small-town sheriff was bungling its affairs this badly. But it’s no laughing matter when the primary federal regulator of big-bank safety and soundness and its high-priced contractors look like the Bad News Bears.

Our guest blogger is Sarah Edelman, a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

White House White Board: Refinancing

In this installment of the White House White Board, Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, explains how President Obama’s plan would make it much easier for millions of American homeowners to refinance their mortgage and save hundreds of dollars every month.

The ability, or inability, to refinance a home mortgage is a problem confronting Americans across the country. Millions of families who bought homes before the financial crisis, and have been paying their bills on time every month since, are locked in at the high interest rates of the past. Even though they have done everything right, they can’t refinance at today’s rates, which are historically low.

If these folks were able to lower their rates, they’d have more money in their pockets each month. That’s good for their families, their local communities, and the nation’s economy.

So take the time to learn more about President Obama’s refinancing proposal, and tell us what you think so that we have the information we need to help get this done. Your answers will shape the work we do in the weeks ahead.

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/27/2012

Why Your Prius Will Bankrupt Our Highways

Gas taxes have funded our roads for decades. But our fuel-efficient cars and tax-allergic Congress are leading to an infrastructure break-down. Since back in the Eisenhower era, the federal government has maintained a Highway Trust Fund, paid for mostly by taxes on fuel, that helps cover the repair and construction of our country’s roads, bridges, and mass transit. The idea was that drivers themselves should bear some of the cost of the roads they used. Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax since 1993. Since then, inflation has eaten away at least a third of its value.

Could New Argument Against SB1070 Prove Law Is Unconstitutional?

Yana Kunichoff, Truthout: “Margaret Hu, an assistant professor at Duke University, argues that by making laws like SB1070, Arizona ‘represents an attempt to control the terms of what federal resources and officers must be appropriated to accommodate a myriad of state immigration enforcement programs.’ While it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to do this under the ‘anti-commandeering principle,’ Hu argues that it should be unconstitutional for states to do it as well. She calls the attempt by Arizona to use federal resources for its enforcement goal ‘reverse-commandeering.’”


Budget Control Act Military Cuts Will Cover the Social Security Shortfall

Robert Naiman, Truthout: “But if you look at the claims advanced on behalf of cutting Social Security benefits, a common theme is the claim that ‘the country can’t afford’ the Social Security benefits that we have been promised. That claim has nothing to do with the method of financing. Well, if the country can’t afford to pay the Social Security benefits that we were promised, then the country can’t afford to maintain current levels of military spending, and the level of military cuts in the sequester must stand. Because the two things are the same size.”

Disabled People Protest to Preserve Their Benefits

Rose Aguilar, Truthout: “We should all be outraged over how people with disabilities are treated in a country with so much wealth. For many of these activists, just leaving the house is a chore. But if they don’t travel to the nation’s capitol to speak out and raise awareness, who will? They could lose their in-home supportive services; they could lose the right to stay in their homes. And that’s why, year after year, they make the trek, knowing they might be arrested and won’t get much media attention unless a celebrity joins them.”

Romney’s Magical Capitalism

NationalMemo_300x250_1EJ Dionne:  Mitt Romney has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve. He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside as unconstitutional almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney’s campaign, and it may prove to be his undoing.

Are States’ Rights More Important Than Human Rights?

Dekker Dreyer, Op-Ed: “Two modern examples of States’ Rights being used as an attack on ethnic minorities are the numerous citizenship checkpoints which dot the interior of South-Western states and Arizona’s identification check laws enacted in 2010 which allows police officers to demand proof of citizenship from any person at any time. When my wife and I were stopped on a recent drive through New Mexico so that we could have our citizenship checked our hearts sank for every person living in that state who doesn’t “look” American.”

Gov. Rick Scott’s Drug Testing Regime for State Employees Declared Unconstitutional

Ian Millhiser, News Report: “It’s important to note that these drug-testing laws are not just unconstitutional, they are also completely unnecessary. Only one percent of Florida workers who took drug tests tested positive, and only two percent of state welfare recipients subject to Scott’s other drug testing law failed their drug tests. Yet, while these tests are both unconstitutional and a solution in search of a problem, there is still some risking that they could be upheld by an increasingly partisan Supreme Court.”

Is CISPA SOPA 2.0? We Explain the Cybersecurity Bill

Megha Rajagopalan, News Analysis: “The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, up for debate in the House of Representatives today, has privacy activists, tech companies, security wonks and the Obama administration all jousting about what it means – not only for security but Internet privacy and intellectual property. Backers expect CISPA to pass, unlike SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act that melted down amid controversy earlier this year. Here’s a rundown on the debate and what CISPA could mean for Internet users.”

When Half a Million Americans Died and Nobody Noticed

Alexander Cockburn, Op-Ed: “In September 2004, Merck, one of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies, issued a sudden recall of Vioxx, its anti-pain medication widely used to treat arthritis-related ailments. There was a fair amount of news coverage after the recall, but it was pretty slim considering the alleged 55,000 death toll. A big class-action lawsuit dragged its way through the courts for years, eventually being settled for $4.85 billion in 2007.”

Is There Room for Accountability in a Society Plagued by Everyday Corruption?

Shelly Bernal, Op-Ed: “Our political system is structured in such a way as to include money and influence as vital and integral components of the election process. Any elected official on local or national levels is required to accept money to pay for activities that will get him/her elected. The average winner of a U.S. House race in 2008 spent about $1.4 Million. The Senate? About $8 Million. I suspect that an untold number of promises must be made to motivate enough people to separate from that amount of money.”

Halfway Through the Lost Decade

Robert Scheer, Truthdig Op-Ed: “Without resurgence in housing value, consumer confidence will remain moribund and a woefully weak labor market will persist. Every time housing seems to be rebounding, the banks and the feds unload more of their toxic mortgages and prices edge lower. The only thing preventing a complete collapse, one that would plunge us into deep recession or worse, is the Fed’s extremely low interest rate, which Wednesday’s report reiterated will remain at near zero until late 2014.”

Millennium Scholarship gets no new aid from Nevada lawmakers

With the state in recession, legislators over the past two sessions have reduced funding for higher education and have had to find funds to keep the Millennium Scholarship solvent. Gov. Brian Sandoval has vowed not to make any additional cuts to education in 2013.

Killing the Messenger: The Downsizing and Death of the Postal Service

Dean Baker, Op-Ed: “If the Postal Service had a more reasonable prefunding requirement and were allowed to invest its pension in the same way as private companies, it would have run a profit over the last decade. This does not change the fact that the Post Service faces enormous challenges going forward. First class mail volume, the system’s bread and butter, has collapsed. Some of this is due to the recession, but most of it is clearly technological. It’s easier and cheaper to pay bills online.”

Senate Passes Postal Service Reform: Sanders Provisions Strengthen Bill

News Report: “The Senate bill would keep open more than 100 mail processing plants that were on the Postal Service chopping block. It also would prevent the closing of many of the more than 3,600 mostly rural post offices from being closed and would require additional reviews before a facility could be shuttered.”

Citizens Sue Iowa Plant Over Air Pollution

Chris Hamby, News Report: Grain Processing Corp. spokesperson Janet Sichterman said the company, known as GPC, hadn’t received a copy of the lawsuit and had no comment on it. As the Center documented, GPC reported releasing more acetaldehyde — a substance the Environmental Protection Agency considers a probable carcinogen — than almost any plant in the country in 2010. A state inspector has repeatedly noted a “blue haze” coming from some of the plant’s smokestacks that could indicate the presence of acetaldehyde.

Under the Reading Lamp — March 7, 2012

ANALYSIS: The End of Health Insurance as We Know It?
Wendell Potter, News Report:
Bertolini ticked off a number of reasons why providing basic health insurance to Americans was no longer viable — changes in demographics and the economy and, of course, health care reform at both the state and federal levels. What he did not say was that the standard operating practices of the industry were simply not sustainable and actually contributed more to the demise of the business model than any external factors.
HR 347 & S 1794 aka The ‘Trespass Bill’ of 2011 Criminalizes Protest…
Jeanine Molloff, Op-Ed:
“The legislators responsible for bringing this legislative excrement to life are Representative Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) in the House of Representatives and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.) leading the Senate version. The ‘Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011’ sounds more like an appropriations bill authorizing monies for federal grounds landscaping. This bill potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S.–a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”
Nurses Fight for a Dose of Tax JusticeNurses for Tax Justice photo by SJSEEM
Sarah Anderson, News Analysis:
National Nurses United (NNU), a union representing registered nurses, is a major, visible force in the growing movements challenging corporate power. One of their key demands is a financial transaction tax: a small fee on each trade of stocks, derivatives, bonds, and other financial instruments, which could generate massive revenues while discouraging high-frequency speculative trading.
99% Spring April 9-15
Dave Johnson, Video Compilation:
“Action Coming — Spread The Word! This is a Big Deal, just look at end of this post for the list of organizations that are signed on to this so far – and more coming. April 9-15, 2012, the 99% Spring: 100,000 Americans will train for non-violent direct action. Sign up. And spread it around. This spring, the 99% Spring.We will gather across America, 100,000 strong, in homes, places of worship, campuses and the streets to train ourselves in non-violent action and join together in the work of reclaiming our country. History is calling; it’s time to step up.”
Jim Hightower | Woody at 100
Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “In these times of tinkle-down economics — with the money powers thinking that they’re the top dogs and that the rest of us are just a bunch of fire hydrants — we need for the hard-hitting (yet uplifting) musical stories, social commentaries and inspired lyrical populism of Woody Guthrie. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary grassroots troubadour, who came out of the Oklahoma dust bowl to rally America’s “just plain folks” to fight back against the elites who were knocking them down.”
Obama Releases Housing Plan to Help Military Veterans Who Were Victims of Illegal Foreclosures
Travis Waldron, News Report:
Obama’s plan seeks to remedy those problems by providing relief to members who sold their homes at a loss due to a permanent change in station, and provides $10 billion from mortgage services to bolster the Veterans Housing Benefits Program. It also draws on the recent mortgage fraud settlement between the government and major lenders to force banks to compensate service-members who were improperly foreclosed upon by paying lost equity, plus interest, and $116,785.
State Investigators, Workers Cite Labor Abuses in Warehouse EmpireLilly Fowler, News Analysis: “As a warehouse worker in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, the nation’s biggest distribution hub for consumer goods, Jorge Soto handles shipments for retail giant Walmart every day. But Soto, who works for a subcontractor, claims that, along with routine jobs such as unloading trucks, he also has been ordered to perform an illegal task: falsifying employees’ time sheets to cheat them out of getting the minimum wage.”
Limbaugh Launched 46 Personal Attacks on Fluke; He Apologized for Two Words
Research:
“Rush Limbaugh has ‘sincerely apologize[d]’ for using the words ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ to describe Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke on two separate days and claimed that he ‘did not mean a personal attack’ on her. These statements fail to account for the other 44 times that Limbaugh personally insulted Fluke over the course of three days. Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, much of her testimony was about women who take birth control for medical reasons.”
Monsanto’s Roundup Shown to be Ravaging Butterfly PopulationMike Barrett, News Report: A 2011 study published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity found that increasing acreage of genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans is heavily contributing to the decline in monarch butterfly populations within North America. Milkweed, a plant butterflies rely on for habitat and food, is being destroyed by the heavy use of glyphosate-based pesticides and Roundup Ready crops. Over the past 17 years, the monarch butterfly population in central Mexico has declined, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.
Dean Baker | Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Bowles-Simpson Commission ReportDean Baker, Op-Ed: “Parents often find it useful to tell their children about non-existent creatures to instill habits of good behavior. It seems that many political leaders are going the same route. How else can one explain the repeated references to the Bowles-Simpson commission report and its advice to the country on how to reduce the deficit? The point here is a simple one: there was no Bowles-Simpson commission report. There was no document that commanded the necessary majority of commission members to be adopted as an official report.”
The True Cost of Tar Sands
Joe Romm, Video Report:
“What does environmental devastation actually look like? At TEDxVictoria, photographer Garth Lenz shares shocking photos of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project — and the beautiful (and vital) ecosystems under threat. This powerful talk is for anyone who thinks the tar sands are just another source of oil — and that the only source of greenhouse gases from the tar sands come from burning gas and oil.”
The Best Reason for the Very Rich to be Paying A Lot More in Taxes
Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed:
“The super-rich like to believe their own initiative and creativity have been the primary drivers of growth in technology and science and business and medicine. Some innovative business leaders deserve credit for putting the pieces together on specific initiatives. But the pieces themselves were put together over many years by thousands of less conspicuous people.”
Where are the Progressive Christians?
Dekker Dreyer, Op-Ed:
“Where are the left-wing Christian voices in American politics? The rise of Rick Santorum to a contender position in the GOP primary race, alongside the current debate over contraception has shown proof positive that Christian conservative politics are near the height of their power in guiding the national conversation. This month, while questioning President Obama’s Christianity, Bill O’Reilly said, “A Christian wouldn’t be telling other Christians that you have to put your belief system aside and do what the government tells you as far as birth control or anything else.”
The ‘All Natural’ Scam: How to Shop Healthy For You and Your Family
Andre Evans, News Analysis:
“How do you make an educated food purchase that will protect you and your family from harmful yet common food contaminants? You must be privy to the subtleties. Many people today accept ‘all natural’ as a stamp of integrity for their food. FDA regulations, however, make the guidelines for authenticity rather lenient, and capitalize on the unawareness of the average buyer with strong advertising.”
How to Fund an American Police State
Stephan Salisbury, Op-Ed:
“Government budgets at every level now include allocations aimed at fighting an ephemeral “War on Terror” in the United States. A vast surveillance and military buildup has taken place nationwide to conduct a pseudo-war against what can be imagined, not what we actually face. The costs of this effort, started by the Bush administration and promoted faithfully by the Obama administration, have been, and continue to be, virtually incalculable. In the process, public service and the public imagination have been weaponized.”
Greg Palast | BP Settlement Sells Out Victims
Greg Palast, Op-Ed: And here’s the sick, sick part. This is exactly the same thing BP did in the Exxon Valdez case. It was BP, not Exxon, that was responsible for stopping the spread of oil in Alaska in 1989. In Alaska, decades ago, BP told federal regulators it would have oil spill “boom” (the rubber that corrals the spreading stuff) ready to roll out if a tanker hit. When the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef, BP’s promised equipment wasn’t there: BP had lied.
BP Settlement Leaves Most Complex Claims Unresolved
Abrahm Lustgarten, News Report:
The payout agreed to Friday is BP’s best estimate of what it will cost to meet outstanding claims, but is not capped and could wind up being higher. As of now, though, the amount is significantly less than many had expected and does not appear to require BP to spend any money that it had not already agreed to pay. The settlement will come out of a $20 billion fund set aside in June 2010 by BP at the behest of President Obama to cover claims from disaster victims.
The Right-Wing Effort to Smear Obama and Liberals as ‘Anti-Israel’
Ben Adler, Op-Ed:
On Sunday ECI released a thirty-minute Web video intended to build a case that Obama has not been a loyal friend to Israel. Its documentation takes the same approach as the ads. They quote partisans leveling criticisms against Obama rather than offering strong independent evidence. They ask what Obama’s real approach to Israel has been and then answer with a long quote from Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the very conservative Hoover Institution.
Anthony Gucciardi | Genetically Modified Food Labeling Initiative Gains Momentum
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report:
Advocates have repeatedly demonstrated their resistance to GMOs, with more than 500 activist groups banding together over the Just Label It campaign. One petition to the FDA, filed by the Center for Food Safety, called upon the agency to require labels for GMO-containing foods. Shockingly, the petition received 85,000 signatures in support. The number marked the most ever for a federal food petition.Deadline Today to tell Congress to Label GMOs! http://t.co/4e0oPCxl
Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have BothD
ave Johnson, Op-Ed:
Recent stories about the conditions of Apple’s contractors in China have opened many people’s eyes about where our jobs, factories, industries and economy have been going, and why. The stories exposed that workers live 6-to-12-to-a-room in dormitories, get rousted at midnight to work surprise 12-hour shifts, get paid very little, use toxic chemicals, suffer extreme pollution of the environment, etc. Is this “trade?” Or is it something else?
America the Possible: A Manifesto
Gus Speth, Op-Ed:
We work the media and other channels to raise public awareness of our issue, and try to shift public understanding and discourse in our favor. We lobby Congress, the current administration, and government agencies with well-crafted and sensible proposals. When necessary, we go to court. With modest resources, we devote what we can to the electoral process and to candidates for public office. And we hope somehow that lightning will strike and events will move in our favor.
What If Corporations Couldn’t Use Our Commons for Free?Invest in Sharing PhotoA cushion of reliable income is a wonderful thing. It can help pay for basic necessities. It can be saved for rainy days or used to pursue happiness on sunny days. It can encourage people to take entrepreneurial risks, care for friends, or volunteer for community service. Conversely, the absence of reliable income is a terrible thing. It heightens anxiety and fear. It diminishes our ability to cope with crises and transitions. It traps many families on the knife’s edge of poverty, and makes it harder for poor people to rise.
The Opposite of Snobbery
David Sirota, Op-Ed:
N+1 magazine notes that since the late 1970s, when Santorum was enjoying his taxpayer-subsidized higher education, “the price of tuition at U.S. colleges has increased over 900 percent.” In 2011, that meant the average total cost of a year at a public university was $21,477, up 5.4 percent in just 12 months. Thanks to cuts to programs that make college and vocational education more affordable — cuts Santorum supported in Congress

WEEKLY ADDRESS: It’s Time for Congress to Act to Help Responsible Homeowners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 04, 2012
White House
Office of the Press Secretary

WASHINGTON, DC—In this week’s address, President Obama continued his call for a return to American values, including fairness and equality, as part of his blueprint for an economy built to last.  This is why the President is sending Congress his plan to give responsible homeowners the chance to save thousands of dollars on their mortgages by refinancing at historically low rates without adding a cent to the deficit.  The housing crisis has been the single largest drag on the recovery, and although the Administration’s actions have helped responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages and stay in their homes, Congress must act now to do more to continue assisting homeowners and the economy.  President Obama asks all Americans to tell their elected officials to pass this plan to keep more families in their homes and more neighborhoods thriving and whole.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address—The White House—Saturday, February 4, 2012

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been traveling around the country and talking with folks about my blueprint for an economy built to last.  It’s a blueprint that focuses on restoring the things we’ve always done best.  Our strengths.  American manufacturing.  American energy.  The skills and education of American workers.

And most importantly, American values like fairness and responsibility.

We know what happened when we strayed from those values over the past decade – especially when it comes to our housing market.

Lenders sold loans to families who couldn’t afford them.  Banks packaged those mortgages up and traded them for phony profits.  It drove up prices and created an unsustainable bubble that burst – and left millions of families who did everything right in a world of hurt.

It was wrong.  The housing crisis has been the single biggest drag on our recovery from the recession.  It has kept millions of families in debt and unable to spend, and it has left hundreds of thousands of construction workers out of a job.

But there’s something even more important at stake.  I’ve been saying this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class.  And the housing crisis struck right at the heart of what it means to be middle-class in this country: owning a home.  Raising our kids.  Building our dreams.

Right now, there are more than 10 million homeowners in this country who, because of a decline in home prices that is no fault of their own, owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.  Now, it is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom.  I don’t accept that.  None of us should.

That’s why we launched a plan a couple years ago that’s helped nearly one million responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages and save an average of $300 on their payments each month.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit it didn’t help as many folks as we’d hoped.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.

That’s why I’m sending Congress a plan that will give every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgages by refinancing at historically low rates.  No more red tape.  No more endless forms.  And a small fee on the largest financial institutions will make sure it doesn’t add a dime to the deficit.

I want to be clear: this plan will not help folks who bought a house they couldn’t afford and then walked away from it.  It won’t help folks who bought multiple houses just to turn around and sell them.

What this plan will do is help millions of responsible homeowners who make their payments every month, but who, until now, couldn’t refinance because their home values kept dropping or they got wrapped up in too much red tape.

But here’s the catch.  In order to lower mortgage payments for millions of Americans, we need Congress to act.  They’re the ones who have to pass this plan.  And as anyone who has followed the news in the last six months can tell you, getting Congress to do anything these days is not an easy job.

That’s why I’m going to keep up the pressure on Congress to do the right thing.  But I also need your help.  I need your voice.  I need everyone who agrees with this plan to get on the phone, send an email, tweet, pay a visit, and remind your representatives in Washington who they work for.  Tell them to pass this plan.  Tell them to help more families keep their homes, and more neighborhoods stay vibrant and whole.

The truth is, it will take time for our housing market to recover.  It will take time for our economy to fully bounce back.  But there are steps we can take, right now, to move this country forward.  That’s what I promise to do as your President, and I hope Members of Congress will join me.

Thank you, and have a great weekend.

Under the Reading Lamp — 11/28/2011


Despite GOP Claims, U.S. Health Care Nowhere Near ‘Best’ in the World
Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Boehner is not the first nor the only Republican to try to make us believe that the U.S. has the world’s best health care system and that we’re bound to lose that distinction because of Obamacare. I’ve heard GOP candidates for president say the same thing in recent months, charging that we need to get rid of a President who clearly is trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing, something that isn’t broken in the first place.”


Decade-Old Bush Tax Breaks Continue to Loom Over Budget
Lisa Mascaro, News Report: A decade later, those tax cuts continue to loom large, becoming central to almost every budget debate in Washington. Whether to maintain the reduced tax rates for wealthy Americans was a question that deadlocked the congressional “super committee” in its search for a plan to cut the government’s long-term deficit. The expiration of the tax cuts at the end of next year will be a major issue in 2012 campaign.


Wall Street Banks Earned Billions in Profits in Secret Fed Loans Made During the Financial Crisis
Travis Waldron, News Analysis: In the lead-up to the financial crisis that crippled the American economy and plunged the country into a recession, the Federal Reserve made trillions in undisclosed loans to struggling banks and financial institutions, according to official documents obtained by Bloomberg News. Six of the country’s largest banks then turned those loans into more than $13 billion in previously undisclosed profits.


Guantánamo: The Most Expensive Prison on Earth
Angela Williams, Op-Ed: “The United States has spent billions in taxpayer money on weapons, operations, and salary to support the ‘war on terror.’ However, we must not disregard the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on the upkeep and operations of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. The facility was established in 2002 by the Bush administration to hold detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and later Iraq. Guantánamo currently houses about 171 captives. It costs roughly $800,000 per year to house each captive, which includes $38.45 of food per day.”


Hunger in America, By the Numbers
Pat Garofalo and Travis Waldron, News Report: Last year, 17.2 million households in the United States were food insecure, the highest level on record, as the Great Recession continued to wreak havoc on families across the country. Of those 17.2 million households, 3.9 million included children. On Thanksgiving Day, here’s a look at hunger in America, as millions of Americans struggle to get enough to eat in the wake of the economic crisis:


After BP Oil Spill, Future Uncertain for Vietnamese Fishers
Nina Kahori Fallenbaum, News Report: When the BP oil spill started gushing into fishing waters, it hammered an industry that had been struggling for years. Until the early 2000s, the gulf provided most of the shellfish eaten in the United States. In the last decade, however, the growth of commercial fish and seafood farming in Southeast Asia (and the subsequent influx of low-cost seafood) has bitten deep into the American seafood industry.


Wisconsin GOP Faithful Stoop To New Lows In Tampering With Recalls
Segway Jeremy Ryan, Addicting Info: So what do people do when they are used to having control over everything and they see that control slipping? They cheat, that is what they are good at. Realizing that this was democracy in action and the people were about to take control, again, the GOP faithful, the few who still stand by and swear allegiance to Scott Walker, concocted a plan to try to derail the recalls. It started with complaining about how much it cost. Keep in mind this is the same party that ran fake Democrats in the previous recalls just to force an extra election.


Congressional Perks: Lawmakers’ Most Surprising Benefits
Corbin Hiar, News Report: “It’s seemingly been a pretty rough autumn on Capitol Hill. But there’s still plenty for the nation’s lawmakers to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Being a member of Congress remains a surprisingly sweet gig. In addition to the power to shape policy and public discourse, legislators get great health care and retirement benefits, hefty salaries with annual cost of living increases and the incumbency-boosting ability to blanket constituents with mail touting their achievements.”


Don’t Blame This Mess on Obama
Ruth Marcus, Op-Ed: “The collapse of the supercommittee is not Obama’s fault. If he had pushed and prodded and cajoled and horse-traded, the result likely would have been the same. Perhaps even worse, in the sense that the partisan digging-in might have been even more entrenched. For all the eleventh-hour, ‘where-was-Obama?’ moaning, the bipartisan congressional directive to the White House as the supercommittee did its work was simple: Back off.”


Foreclosed Homeowners Re-Occupy Their Homes
Zaineb Mohammed, News Report: “On Dec. 6, there will be a national day of action, ‘Occupy Our Homes,’ where people across the country facing predicaments similar to Gage and Richardson may follow their lead. Partly inspired by the Occupy movement, the day of action is supported by various community organizations like Take Back the Land and ACCE. The call to action is for people to move back into their foreclosed properties and to defend the properties of families facing eviction.”


No Country for Young Children
Jeff Bryant, Op-Ed: Speaking at one of America’s top institutions of learning, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Gingrich, who had earlier in the week bragged about being paid millions to be a “historian” for mortgage behemoth Freddie Mac, boldly declared that laws preventing child labor are “truly stupid.” So say what you will about “crazy Newt.”


Tar Sands Oil Producers Eye California
Ngoc Nguyen, News Report: “Last week, Canadian firms bought up thousands of miles of existing pipeline in the U.S. Midwest, intending to reverse oil flows southward to Gulf Coast refineries – a “workaround” that would get oil flowing in the right direction, but still not enough to accommodate the volume of crude being produced. A second – lesser known — alternative involves piping tar sands oil westward across Canada to Vancouver, where it would reach West Coast refineries by tanker.”


As the World Crumbles: the ECB Spins, FED Smirks, and US Banks Pillage
Nomi Prins, Op-Ed: “Elsewhere in my trolling, I came across a gem of a working paper on the IMF website, written by Ashoka Mody and Damiano Sandri, entitled ‘The Eurozone Crisis; How Banks and Sovereigns Came to be Joined at the Hip” (The paper does not ‘necessarily represent the views of the IMF or IMF policy’. ) In the IMF paper, the authors convincingly make the case that it wasn’t just the US subprime asset meltdown itself that initiated Europe’s implosion, but the fact that our Federal Reserve and Treasury Department adopted a reckless don’t-let-em-fail doctrine.”


GOP’s Phantom Job Losses
Michael Morse, News Analysis: “Republicans — eager to show that President Obama’s oil and gas drilling policies ‘cost jobs’ — have been using a number they now admit was more than three times too high. Even after they corrected their error (after we pointed it out), they started using a figure that is based on industry-sponsored studies, uses dubious assumptions and doesn’t apply to any jobs that currently exist.”


Pulling Accounts from the Unaccountable
Amy Goodman, Op-Ed: “Just after the financial crash in late 2008, activists in Oregon started looking into the creation of a state bank, modeled after the only state-owned bank in the United States, in North Dakota. The cities of Portland and Seattle are now looking into shifting their massive municipal accounts away from the Wall Street banks. According to one report, Bank of America may lose upward of $185 billion from customers closing accounts.”


With 50 Million Americans in Poverty, David Vitter Proposes Gutting Food Stamp Program
Travis Waldron, News Analysis: “A record number of Americans have fallen into poverty since the financial crisis sparked a deep recession in 2008, but that hasn’t stopped House and Senate Republicans from targeting the poor on their crusade to slash federal spending. In September, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) declared that “the poor are getting richer even faster” than the rich while relying on government programs, even as the number of children and senior citizens living in poverty has increased to record levels.”

Romney Schmoozes with Foreclosure Crisis Profiteering Donor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2011
Contact: Zach Hudson, Comm. Dir., NSDP
(702) 737-8683

Romney Holds High-Dollar Fundraiser with Donor who Made Billions off Foreclosure Crisis

Romney donor makes huge profits off housing collapse then funnels money into Romney campaign

NV DEMS: No Wonder Romney Hopes for  NV Housing Market to “Hit Bottom” 

Las Vegas, NV – No wonder he doesn’t want to stop the foreclosure crisis- it is actually helping fund his campaign.  Yesterday, Steve Sebelius from the Las Vegas-Review Journal reported that Mitt Romney is holding a high-dollar fundraiser tonight with a hedge fund manager who made billions off the foreclosure crisis by betting on the collapse of the housing market.  Romney-donor John Paulson made over $3 billion from the foreclosure crisis, with his company netting $15 billion according to the Wall St. Journal.  Paulson has held multiple fundraisers for Romney and has personally donated $1 million to a pro-Romney super PAC.

Romney has faced intense criticism after telling the Las Vegas-Review Journal that we shouldn’t “try to stop the foreclosure crisis,” and that homeowners facing foreclosure need to “hit the bottom.”  Yesterday, Nevada Democrats launched a petition demanding Romney apologize.

“It isn’t surprising that Mitt Romney doesn’t want to stop the foreclosure crisis since his campaign is benefiting from high-dollar fundraisers by someone who made billions off the collapse of the housing market,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson.  “Romney came to Las Vegas and told struggling Nevada homeowners they are on their own but he eagerly raises campaign donations with someone who made huge profits from Americans losing their homes.  Romney’s refusal to apologize highlights the clear choice Nevadans have between President Obama who is committed to helping Nevadans facing foreclosure and a Republican like Mitt Romney who would rather get campaign donations from people who profited off the foreclosure crisis than help struggling Nevadans stay in their homes.”

Under the Reading Lamp — 10/24/2010


Why (Almost) Everything Women Are Told About Work Is Wrong
That’s the message of the career advice book Rachel and I are working on together, and that’s the message of this new report from nonprofit research group Catalyst. Despite all the advice women receive telling them that they fall behind men in the workplace because they don’t ask for raises; because they don’t network; because they don’t promote themselves, it turns out that women actually do all of these things, as much as or more than men. The problem isn’t us, it’s them.


Defending Bloated Military Spending
Ryan Alexander, News Analysis: “Had the political leaders tackling our budget mess visited this spectacle, they would have gotten a good lesson on federal spending. The Pentagon’s budget stands the risk of being subjected to a process known as ‘sequestration,’ which would impose $600 billion in defense cuts over 10 years if Congress doesn’t approve a $1.2-trillion deficit-slashing plan that the panel of lawmakers known as the super-committee will propose later this year. In his address to the convention, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called this plan a ‘doomsday mechanism.’”


Bank of America Makes 6.2 Billion Tax Free Dollars in Third Quarter Profits
Brian Walker, News Report: Bank of America reported $6.2 billion in third quarter gains this year, nearly recouping a $7.3 billion loss from the same time last year. Bank of America ceded its ranking as the largest bank to J.P. Morgan & Co after CEO Brian Moynihan began a campaign of mass asset sales in an effort to boost the bank’s capital. Moynihan has suggested that new regulations mean the bank will have to start charging fees for services that have traditionally been free, such as debit cards and checking accounts.


Republicans in Congress Are in a Quandary on Jobs
Kathleen Hennessey, News Report: “[Republican Rep.] Tom Rooney’s candid assessment puts a fine point on the political predicament facing GOP lawmakers when it comes to jobs bills. With President Barack Obama touring the country to sell his $447 billion plan, Republicans increasingly are under pressure to present an alternative vision for reviving the economy. For months, the party has focused on shrinking the government, sparking ugly battles with Democrats over the budget and the debt ceiling.”


Without Credit Card Donations, WikiLeaks Facing Funding Crisis
Mark Seibel, News Report: “WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website that has been at the center of some of the world’s most controversial news for the past 18 months, is facing dire economic times, largely, the website says, because Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have refused for more than 10 months to process donations made on its behalf. The total financial cost of what WikiLeaks calls a blockade is uncertain, but the lack of resources mixed with turmoil that has surrounded the organization has kept the website from accepting new documents from would-be leakers for much of the year, its spokesman says.”


Captured Government’s Increasing Irrelevance Shows Occupy’s Importance
Dave Johnson, Op-Ed: “Our captured political institutions make themselves increasingly irrelevant by not addressing the problems of the 99%. Each day we see more examples of our government being ‘captured’ by and serving the interests of the top 1% against the rest of us. Even as more and more people take to the streets in protest, Washington ignores We, the People, continuing to serve only the top few.


Throw Them Out With the Trash
What the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, is that most ordinary, biologically necessary activities are illegal when performed in American streets – not just peeing, but sitting, lying down, and sleeping.


Robert Reich | The Flat-Tax Fraud, and the Necessity of a Truly Progressive Tax
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Herman Cain’s bizarre 9-9-9 plan would replace much of the current tax code with a 9 percent individual income tax and a 9 percent sales tax. He calls it a ‘flat tax.’ Next week Rick Perry is set to announce his own version of a flat tax. Former House majority leader Dick Armey – now chairman of Freedom Works, a major backer of the Tea Party funded by the Koch Brothers and other portly felines (I didn’t say ‘fat cats’) — predicts this will give Perry ‘a big boost.’”


Occupy the Mortgage Lenders
Simon Johnson, Op-Ed: “Participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement are right to argue that the big banks have never properly been investigated for the mortgage origination, aggregation, and securitization behavior that was central to the financial crisis – and to the loss of more than eight million jobs. But, thanks to the efforts of New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, and others, serious discussion has started in the United States about an out-of court mortgage settlement between state attorney generals and prominent financial-sector firms.”


Sending Troops Home Could Pave Way for More Non-Competitive Defense Contracting
R. Jeffrey Smith, News Analysis: “Out go all the U.S. troops by year’s end, President Obama said Friday about Iraq. And in go the contractors, along with some familiar contracting problems, say other government officials and independent experts. As the United States pulls out its remaining 50,000 or so troops after a decade of conflict costing around $1 trillion, many of the soldiers’ non-fighting functions will be pursued by a force of State Department-funded government contractors expected to near 15,000.”


Is the National Security Complex Too Big to Fail?
Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “Whatever Washington turned over to the banks, the Complex has it so much easier. After all, its managers essentially pay themselves more or less what they desire in the name of supporting the troops and promoting American safety. Yes, our congressional representatives officially dole out the money, but they have little choice when it comes to offering less than what’s asked of them. And presidential election campaigns always lock candidates into yet more of the same.”


Shocking Report Reveals the Pentagon’s Addiction to Fraudulent Contractors
George Zornick, News Analysis: “The report, released today, showed that hundreds of defense contractors found guilty of civil fraud received more than $1.1 trillion in defense contracts since 2001. The study took into account only companies that were found to have defrauded taxpayers of more than $1 million dollars.More than $573 billion went directly to companies that were guilty of defrauding taxpayers, and when you factor in the awards that went to the parent companies of those contractors, the total is $1.1 trillion.”


The Choice Between Democracy and Autocracy
David Sirota, Op-Ed: “This might all sound like Medieval Europe, but it’s not. It’s America circa 2011, as these clashes are now taking place everywhere. Alas, it’s a predictable situation. Horrifying economic inequality has prompted the bottom 99 percent of income earners to finally exercise their constitutional rights to protest. In response, the nobles in the top 1 percent are demanding their political puppets make clear that such dissent will not be tolerated — and they expect their demands to be followed.”


Montana Looks North for Health Care That Works
Rebecca Leischer, News Report: “A little over a decade ago he was busing Montana senior citizens to Canada to fill their prescriptions at reasonable prices—a way of protesting the American pharmaceutical industry. Now, Montana governor Brian Schweitzer is planning to establish a state-wide universal health care system modeled after that of the state’s Canadian neighbor, Saskatchewan. The governor, a Democrat, announced last month he will seek a waiver from the federal government to design his own health care system in Montana.”


Robert Reich | The Austerity Death-Trap
Robert Reich, Op-Ed: “Under these circumstances, the harder a country works to cut its debt, the worse the ratio becomes — because the economy shrinks even faster. The only way out of this vicious cycle is for the government – the spender of last resort – to boost the economy. The regressives are all calling for the opposite. But even without these hare-brained Republican plans, we’re heading in their direction anyway. Unless Republicans agree to a budget deal before the end of the year (don’t hold your breath), the temporary payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits we have now will end.”


Republican Field Shies Away From History on Insurance Mandate
Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “In the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged, apparently in an unguarded moment, that a core element of “ObamaCare,” the requirement that all Americans be enrolled in either a private or public health insurance plan, was a proposal originated by the Heritage Foundation, a powerful conservative think tank. I’m sure the other presidential hopefuls on the stage in Las Vegas were holding their breath.”


Progress on government transparency threatened by proposed budget cuts

Alexandra Duszak | iWatchNews:  “Groups pushing for more government transparency agree with the Obama administration’s recent self-assessment that  progress is being made —but budget-cutting efforts on Capitol Hill could threaten both recent gains and the prospect of future progress.”


Robert Reich | The 7 Biggest Economic Lies
“The President’s Jobs Bill doesn’t have a chance in Congress — and the Occupiers on Wall Street and elsewhere can’t become a national movement for a more equitable society – unless more Americans know the truth about the economy.

Here’s a short (2 minute 30 second) effort to rebut the seven biggest whoppers now being told by those who want to take America backwards.”


Billionaire Tycoon Claps For Herman Cain’s Attacks On Occupy Wall Street Movement
Lee Fang, News Analysis: “Many people in the crowd began clapping for Cain’s response. But one person in particular stood out: casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. Adelson owns casinos in Las Vegas and China, including the Venetian, where the debate was held tonight. Adelson has served as a major donor to far-right causes. This New Yorker profile reveals Adelson’s many years of funding stealth attack group and Bush-era Republican politicians.


Super Congress Hauls in Super Donations as Special Interests Try to Influence Budget Cuts
Aaron Mehta and Josh Israel, News Analysis: “Formed as part of a compromise in late July between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the committee faces a serious uphill task: they must come up with $1.5 trillion or more in budget savings, enough to match increases in the government’s ability to borrow enough money to pay its bills through the beginning of 2013. It requires a bipartisan majority of at least seven of the committee’s 12 members to recommend legislation to be presented to the whole Congress for an up-or-down vote by Dec. 23.”


House GOP Wants to Waive Environmental Laws on US Borders
Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers | Report: “In a move aimed at improving national security, House Republicans want to give the U.S. Border Patrol unprecedented authority to ignore 36 environmental laws on federal land in a 100-mile zone stretching along the Canadian and Mexican borders.”

Graphic | Border zone bill would waive environmental laws — In Washington state alone, the zone would apply to about 1/2 of the land area within the state and would include three of the largest cities and it’s capital.


Hispanic Alabama Schoolchildren Face Bullying In The Wake Of Anti-Immigrant Law
Ian Millhiser | ThinkProgress: “In a sadly predictable development, Hispanic public school students in Alabama — some of whom are United States citizens — are now facing racially motivated bullying in the wake of the state’s unconstitutional attack on undocumented school children”