Proposing a new way to present information about mortgages

After more than a year of research, testing, writing, and review, today we’re submitting a proposed rule to the Federal Register to create new, easier-to-use mortgage disclosures.

Take a closer look to learn more about the proposal. 
www.consumerfinance.gov/knowbeforeyouowe 

The proposal means different things to different people. For consumers, the proposed forms are simpler than the current forms and highlight certain key pricing information right on the first page. For industry, the forms are easier to explain to customers and the regulatory changes make the rule easier to comply with. And for everyone, the proposal offers a way to judge an experiment in public participation.

Early last year, we began a project to develop a more effective, and ideally simpler, set of mortgage disclosures. The Dodd-Frank Act mandates that the CFPB combine the Truth in Lending and Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act mortgage forms. We believe that these new, combined forms would be better if they are designed with input from the people who will actually use them.

We called this participatory approach “Know Before You Owe.”

The proposed rule we are releasing today is in many ways the result of that idea. We’ve provided several types of information to help you explore our work:

  • A side-by-side comparison of the current and proposed disclosures
  • A timeline of the project, from the beginning through today
  • The proposed rule, including an annotated disclosure connecting what goes on page one to what we’re proposing in the rule
  • Summaries of what the proposal means for consumers and for industry, as well as reports on what we learned through this process

The input we’ve received from people like you – consumers, industry, designers, regulators, and more – has helped to shape the proposal we’re submitting today. Thank you. Now we need you to help us one more time.

Review the proposal. Then submit a comment to let us know what you think of it.

www.consumerfinance.gov/knowbeforeyouowe

Thank you,
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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The Week Ahead in Congress

The House is out all week, and the Senate is expected to spend most of its time on a five-year farm bill. But, other issues may surface, such as the Congressional response to alleged White House security leaks regarding terrorist “kill lists” and cyber-attacks against Iran’s nuclear program.

IN THE SENATE

The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act (S 3240)
This is “the farm bill” (#10 on POPVOX), which would reauthorize and adjust U.S. farm policy for the next five years.  While the Senate will officially start work on the bill this week, it’s expected to take several weeks to finish the job. Senators might spend several days and perhaps weeks behind the scenes working out an agreement on what amendments to the bill might be allowed.

Security Leaks
Republicans and Democrats alike are upset at leaks to news outlets about national security issues, from unnamed U.S. officials. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said he would introduce a resolution calling for a special counsel to examine the incident, and will likely push for it to be considered.
other bills of interest

The Legislative Branch Appropriations Act (HR 5882)
The House easily passed this bill (#1 on POPVOX) last week, with support from several Democrats. This bill was heavily commented on by people in favor of bulk access to legislative information. The bill establishes a task force “composed of staff representatives of the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, the Clerk of the House, the Government Printing Office, and such other congressional offices as may be necessary, to examine these and any additional issues it considers relevant and to report back to the Committee on Appropriations of the House and Senate.” In addition, House Leadership issued a statement in support of these efforts.

The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (HR 5855)
The House approved this bill (#8 on POPVOX) last week. The bill cuts spending by 1 percent from 2012 levels.

The Protect Medical Innovation Act (HR 436)
This bill eliminates the 2.3 percent tax on medical device companies that was passed as part of the 2010 healthcare law. The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the measure. (From Rep. Erik Paulsen [R, MN-3])

The Student Loan Forgiveness Act (HR 4170)
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) introduced this bill (#3 on POPVOX), which would significantly limit monthly payments on student loan debt. While House Leadership continues to negotiate ways to keep the interest rate on new Stafford loans low for another year, this bill is not expected to advance.


NEW BILLS
Check out the list of Newly introduced bills. (This list comes directly from POPVOX user requests!)

WEEKLY ROUNDUP
Missed a bill last week? Take a look at the list of bills POPVOX users found most important.

Under the Reading Lamp — 4/30/2012

ALEC’s Comeuppance

Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “ALEC’s operatives take these cookie-cutter bills from state capitol to state capitol, getting Republican governors and key legislators to introduce them. Then the organization helps organize astroturf campaigns to ram such ugliness into law. Gov. Scott Walker’s repressive agenda in Wisconsin is an ALEC product. So is Arizona’s war on Latinos, as is Florida’s murderous “stand your ground” shoot-em-up law.”

Putting Our Premiums Into Medical Care, Not Profits

Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “The recent news from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation that health insurers will have to send rebate checks totaling more than $1.3 billion to Americans this summer was especially gratifying to me. It more than justified my decision three years ago to clue members of Congress in on how insurance companies have systematically been devoting ever-increasing portions of our premium dollars to rewarding their shareholders and top executives.”

Top Republican Strategist Denies Women are Paid Less Than Men

Igor Volsky, Video Report: “Now we know, at least from both of your perspectives,” Maddow said, pointing to Castellanos and Romney surrogate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), “women are not fairing worse than men in the economy that women aren’t getting paid less for equal work.” “It’s about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don’t believe is happening,” she added.

Five Tax Fallacies Invented by the 1%

Paul Buchheit , Op-Ed: “In 2009, the United States ranked 26th out of 28 OECD countries in total federal, state, and local taxes as a percent of GDP. Only Chile and Mexico had lower tax rates. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, ‘federal taxes on middle-income Americans are near historic lows.’ For taxpayers in the top 1%, the tax burden has fallen dramatically in recent years.”

AZ Lawmakers Lash Out at Imaginary United Nations Conspiracy With Assault on All Poverty & Environmental Laws

Ian Millhiser, News Report: “If this bill becomes law, Arizona’s government agencies would instantly be forbidden from doing anything to reduce poverty. Or to combat air pollution. Or to ensure that radioactive waste does not contaminate the environment. Or potentially to do anything at all to promote human health. Under this bill, Medicaid, state unemployment and welfare programs and nearly any environmental programs would need to cease, immediately.”

War, Money, and Moral Hazard

Thomas Magstadt, Op-Ed: “In the wake of the US bank-induced 2008 global financial crisis, policy makers, pundits, and economists suddenly rediscovered moral hazard in the under-regulated "free-market economy" both as a theoretical concept and as an existential danger. Nobody was more ardent in pushing this idea than then Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, who served in that position from 2006 to 2009.”

Don’t Let Congress Kick College Grads in the Teeth

Robert Borosage, Op-Ed: “The Republican chair of the House education committee says he has “serious concerns” about the bill. And the Republican budget — championed by Paul Ryan and embraced as “marvelous” by Mitt Romney — both calls for deep cuts in Pell grants and assumes that the interest rates on government sponsored student loans will double. What are the Republican “concerns”? They claim to be opposed to the $6 billion cost of keeping the rate low. But jacking up the rate simply shifts that $6 billion cost onto the next generation of students who are already crushed by debt.”

Trickle-Down Gulf Wreck-onomics

Robert S. Becker, Op-Ed: “‘BP’s toxic sludge inundation,’ or ‘BP’s fatal frothy flood,’ even ‘BP’s contagion of contaminated crude’ — crude and indiscriminate indeed when this glut of gunk continues its death march. Even bacteria called upon to consume oil slicks are nixed, slain by two million gallons of the solvent concoction Corexit. Keen observer of the Gulf tragedy, I’d be downright remiss to withhold scandalous news about oil stuck to human skin, eyeless shrimp, fish-scale infections, or rising mortality for marine mammals and previously endangered sea turtles.”

Feds File First Criminal Charges Related to BP Gulf Spill

Abrahm Lustgarten, News Analysis: “According to an FBI affidavit submitted to the court along with the indictment, Mix, who worked for BP until January 2012, was directly involved in BP’s efforts to understand how much oil was flowing out of the broken Macondo well. On April 21, 2010, Mix estimated that between 68,000 and 138,000 barrels of oil were leaking each day— far more than the 5,000 barrels that were estimated publicly at the time.”

Fracking Industry California Dreamin’: A Future California Nightmare?

Steve Horn, Op-Ed: “Yesterday, The Bakersfield Californian reported that another oil and gas industry giant is making its way to The Golden State: Hess Corporation. Hess has operations on six of the seven global continents and will be headed to California’s yet-to-be-fracked Monterey Shale basin, which contains some 15 billion barrels of proven recoverable shale oil, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.”

Chesapeake Energy Well Blowout in Wyoming Causes Evacuation, Methane “Roared” for Days

Brendan DeMelle, News Report: “Once again, the failure appears tied to a faulty casing job. The Douglas Budget reports that, “the horizontal part of the drilling had been completed. The drillers pulled out the bit and were going to run the casing into the horizontal leg of the well.” That’s when the blowout occurred, apparently. Tom Doll, a Wyoming State Oil and Gas supervisor, told local press that the state had no idea how much methane gas had spewed into the air following the blowout, and would rely on Chesapeake to supply an answer.”

Rights Groups Hold International Drone Summit in Washington, DC

News Report: “We’re dragging this secretive drone program out of the shadows and into the light of day,” said Medea Benjamin, one of the Summit organizers and author of the new book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. “It’s time for the American public to know the true extent—and consequences—of the killing and spying being done in our name.” Lawyers representing Pakistani drone-strike victims and journalists investigating the attacks shared their experiences of these events in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. New footage of interviews with victims was aired.

The Viet Nam Conflict and the Fabricated Lies of War

Javier Rodriguez, Op-Ed: “That war was no different than the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the war against that other colonial power, Spain, the recent coup de tat against President Manuel Celaya and the democratically elected government in Honduras, and this one in particular hits the veins, the war on Mexico, where we lost over half of the territory. Indisputably history says, they have all been fabricated. No exceptions.”

Burden of Proof: Geithner, Obama, and Wall Street’s Unpunished Crimes

Richard (RJ) Eskow, Op-Ed: “Now the President’s really cracking down on Wall Street, we were told. In the face of widespread criticism for his proposed foreclosure fraud settlement with five top banks, the President eventually accompanied that deal with a promise of tougher enforcement. He appointed New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been pursuing banks and resisting previous deals, to his previously lethargic mortgage fraud group.”

Congressional Activity This Week

Here’s the new weekly update from POPVOX.


From our Hill sources — the week ahead includes consideration of these bills:

The House will consider several bills dealing with cybersecurity this week, while the Senate will spend much of the week on a bill to save the U.S. Postal Service.

Four cybersecurity bills in the House on Thurs, Fri

— The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act (HR 3523), from Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI-8), which would allow the government to share information with companies to help protect their networks. This was the fourth-most discussed bill on POPVOX last week.

— The Federal Information Security Amendments Act (HR 4257), from Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA-49), is aimed at “improving the framework for securing information technology of federal government systems.”

— The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act (HR 2096), from Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX-10), is meant to foster coordinated research between federal agencies to help address cyber threats.

— The Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Act (HR 3834), from Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX-4), would reauthorize the government’s NITRD cybersecurity program. Bills in the Senate

— The 21st Century Postal Service Act (S 1789) (number 8 on POPVOX last week), is a bipartisan bill that would allow the U.S. Postal Service restructure its retirement payments in a bid to keep the USPS fiscally sound. Starting on Tuesday, the Senate is expected to start voting on up to 39 amendments to the bill.

—  The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on SJRes 36, a Republican resolution that disapproves of a 2010 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board meant to speed up union elections. —  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S 1925) should be debated later in the week.

— Highway funding: Also look for the House and Senate to start reconciling their differences over federal highway funding. Last week, the House passed an extension of highway programs through the end of the fiscal year, HR 4348. In March, the Senate approved a two-year extension, S 1813. Both bills have overwhelming negative comments on PopVox.

Also in the House this week

The early part of the week for the House will be filled with several non-controversial bills. On Tuesday, the House will consider six bills dealing with federal land use:

— To authorize the conveyance of two parcels of land in the Coconino National Forest (HR 1038)

— The Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act (HR 2050)

— To facilitate a land exchange in the Inyo National Forest (HR 2157)

— To release the U.S. interest in land conveyed to establish an airport in Minnesota (HR 2497)

— To modify the boundaries of the Cibola National Forest (HR 491)

— The Lowell National Historical Park Land Exchange Act (HR 2240)

And on Wednesday, the House will consider two others:

— The Small Business Credit Availability Act (HR 3336), which ensures the exclusion of small lenders from certain regulations of the Dodd-Frank Act

— The DATA Act (HR 2146), a bill aimed at increasing the transparency of federal spending

Other noteworthy bills

— The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, (HR 4089), the most-discussed bill on POPVOX last week, passed the House on April 17.

— The Paying a Fair Share Act (S 2230), the second-most discussed bill on POPVOX, failed to advance in the Senate last week. The bill would impose a minimum tax on all income above $1 million.

The Student Loan Forgiveness Act (HR 4170) sets up a program to ease the burden of student loans on students. This bill, the third-most discussed on POPVOX, is currently not being discussed in any of the committees to which it was referred.

(Find this on the POPVOX blog.)


Newly Introduced

WARNING!
The list of newly introduced bills is LONG, we’ve highlighted many of them at http://www.popvox.com/blog/2012/newly-introduced-bills-congress-week-april-16/ . (Keep in mind that these bills are so new that many don’t yet have bill text available online. So keep checking back.)


Recent Issue Spotlights

We developed Issue Spotlights to pull together bills by category, making it easier for individuals to find bills related to a particular issue. Spotlights have become popular among our users, and are often shared through email and listservs. (If you have an idea for an Issue Spotlight, please let me know.)

What about HR 4646 — the 1% tax on financial transactions?
“HR 4646” has consistently been a popular bill search term on POPVOX, even though no current bill numbered HR 4646 exists. Get the scoop.

The Research Works Act: The Research Works Act (HR 3699), which would prohibit Federal agencies from disseminating publicly-funded research without publisher consent, was withdrawn by its sponsors on Feb. 27, 2012. Learn why POPVOX users opposed the bill.

Vietnam Veterans Day
President Obama signed a proclamation declaring March 29 as “Vietnam Veterans Day.” The last American troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

Estate Tax
According to the IRS, “the laws on Estate and Gift Taxes are considered to be some of the most complicated in the tax code.”

Personal Income Tax
Given Tax Day, it seemed fitting to do a spotlight on tax bills!

Making It Easier to Compare College Costs

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

— by Rohit Chopra, Student Loan Ombudsman, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Getting accepted to college should be cause for celebration, a point of pride for both students and their families. But with so much information to navigate about schools, grants, and loans, financing that education can sometimes be overwhelming.

We want it to be a little less daunting for people to figure out how they’ll pay for college.

Today, we take a big step in that direction with a new prototype Financial Aid Comparison Shopper.

Try it out: www.consumerfinance.gov/payingforcollege/

Try the Financial Aid Comparison Shopper

This year, millions of students and families will sift through college acceptances and student loan information. We want to help them make the best college financing choices for themselves.

Our goal is to give parents and students, especially high school seniors, an easy-to-understand view of how their decisions today will impact their debt burdens after graduation. This tool helps users make side-by-side cost comparisons between schools, tailored to their unique financial circumstances and estimated costs of attendance.

This is just our starting point, and we need your help to ensure that the Financial Aid Comparison Shopper addresses the needs of students and their families. Your feedback will directly impact the changes we make before our full launch.

So tell us what you think. Did you learn something? Did you find it useful? If you are already in school or a graduate, would this tool have helped you when deciding which school to attend?

Was the tool easy to navigate? What about it was difficult to understand?

Whether you want to help students and their families understand their financial choices or you want to get a bit of insight into your own family’s choices, we invite you to test the public prototype of our new Financial Aid Comparison Shopper.

www.consumerfinance.gov/payingforcollege/