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.

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Are We Returning to a Path of Owing Our Souls to the Company Store?

The Center for American Progress recently completed two related reports that are read-worthy:

Cash for Homes: Policy Implications of an Investor-Led Housing Recovery

Across the country, investors have been taking advantage of the nation’s foreclosure crisis to purchase homes at bargain prices, often beating out potential homeowners who have been a bit hesitant to purchase, frequently choosing to sideline themselves. In July 2013, cash-on-hand investors bought about 55 percent of the homes sold in Las Vegas and numerous properties in other major metropolitan areas such as Miami, Phoenix, and Prince George’s County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Investors can play a key role in a housing recovery. By absorbing excess inventory, they establish a floor for home prices and jump-start appreciation. Responsible investors can also offer quality, affordable rental opportunities to families who may be locked out of home ownership due to foreclosure or lost wealth from the recession.

But while they can support communities, irresponsible investors can also destroy them by allowing properties to sit empty, declining to bring rental properties up to code, and neglecting tenants’ needs in instances where the home is occupied. Additionally, investors that buy large quantities of properties in a single area can cause prices to overheat and increase market volatility. Conversely, if institutional investors following a set business plan sell numerous properties in the same time frame, prices in those neighborhoods could decline again.

Read this full PDF report here

When Wall Street Buys Main Street
The Implications of Single-Family Rental Bonds for Tenants and Housing Markets

In October 2013, an institutional investor created the first triple-A-rated, mortgage-backed security supported by revenue from single-family rental properties, a development that may offer even lower-cost financing to institutional buyers than has been available thus far through bank credit lines. A mortgage-backed security is created by pooling assets together and then selling interests in that pool to investors, who then receive regular payments from the asset pool. This process provides access to a much larger pool of investors than would otherwise be feasible, increasing liquidity and generally providing a less expensive source of funding than traditional borrowing from banks or private investors.

In this instance, a subsidiary of the private equity firm Blackstone took out a $479.1 million loan from Deutsche Bank that was secured by a pool of more than 3,000 single-family rental homes. The loan was then turned into a security that was purchased by investors, who now receive monthly rental cash payments from the homes. If the loan is not repaid, the trustee—the legal representative of the bondholders—has the right to seize the homes.

The emergence of a new form of mortgage-backed securities tied to single-family rentals is certain to have an impact on the housing market, communities, and tenants. Analysts predict that the funding of single-family rental acquisitions through securitization will likely become a dominant model quickly; American Homes 4 Rent and Colony American Homes, two new single-family rental firms, are reportedly preparing to launch single-family rental bonds in the coming months. The market for this new asset class is expected to top $70 billion per year by 2016, on par with the bond financing for apartment buildings, casinos, and commercial real estate for this year. While institutional investors only represent a fraction of those in the housing market—mid-sized companies and small mom-and-pop investors who own less than 10 properties are currently far more prevalent in most markets—securitization may begin to shift this balance.

Depending on the success of this new asset class, investor appetite for these types of bonds may boost the size and scope of this relatively new and untested industry to a level that may not be sustainable, either because the industry does not have the capacity to manage thousands of new homes or because a significant increase in purchases inflates home prices.

Read the full PDF Report here.


This material 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.

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.

Under the Reading Lamp — 2/8/2012


The Great Carbon Bubble

image03Bill McKibben, Op-Ed: “It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.) Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.”


Right-Wing Media Aren’t Concerned About Helping the Poor, but They Sure Want to Help the Rich

image07News Analysis: As income disparities continue to increase, and the effective tax rate paid by the rich remains at historic lows, right-wing media figures work hard to make sure none of that changes. They routinely attack the poor and programs designed to assist them, while simultaneously extolling the rich and defending them against any attempt to get them to pay their fair share of taxes.


BP Made $3 Million an Hour In 2011, While Spill Victims Continued to Suffer

image01Rebecca Leber, News Report: “BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill is still affecting the lives of many Americans, particularly the tens of thousands that have not settled lawsuits with the company. Yet the company has bounced back from the billions it lost in the wake of the spill. BP announced today that its 2011 profit totaled $26 billion, a 114 percent jump from the year before, when the company’s ‘failure of supervision and accountability’ caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.”


The Downward Mobility of the American Middle Class, and Why Mitt Romney Doesn’t Know

image06Robert Reich, Op-Ed: January’s increase in hiring is good news, but it masks a bigger and more disturbing story – the continuing downward mobility of the American middle class. Mitt Romney says he’s not concerned about the very poor because they have safety nets to protect them. He says he’s concerned about the middle class. Romney doesn’t seem to realize how much of the middle class is becoming poor.


Report Finds Millions of Families Three Months From Poverty

image05Susannah Nesmith, News Report: According to America’s Youngest Outcasts, a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million children in the United States were homeless at some point in 2010, the most recent statistics available. During the recession, from 2007 to 2010, child homelessness spiked 38 percent nationwide. According to the 2011 Council on Homelessness report, Florida’s public school districts identified over 49,000 Florida school-age children as homeless during the 2009-2010 school year.


Debt, Toll Roads, and Patents

image11Dean Baker, Op-Ed: It’s budget time, again. This means that the deficit hawks will be out in force warning us about the devastating debt burden that we are passing on to our children. So that this Halloween fright gang doesn’t needlessly cause any kids to lose sleep, here’s what parents can tell their children. First, it is important to tell your kids that the national debt is not in any way a measure of intergenerational transfers from the young to the old. Debt is also an asset to the people who own the bonds.


Meet the Obscure Federal Regulator Who’s Not Helping Homeowners

image04Cora Currier, News Analysis: Last week, ProPublica and NPR raised questions about a risky investment strategy at Freddie Mac that would pay off if homeowners stayed trapped in expensive mortgages. It’s just the latest example of how government-owned Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have frustrated many by not putting homeowners first. Fannie and Freddie are required to help homeowners while earning profits so they can pay back the taxpayers who bailed them out.


The Citizens United Catastrophe

image02E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it doesn’t work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.


Offshore Everywhere

image08Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “Think of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as a harbinger of and model for what’s to come. It was an operation enveloped in a cloak of secrecy. There was no consultation with the “ally” on whose territory the raid was to occur. It involved combat by an elite special operations unit backed by drones and other high-tech weaponry and supported by the CIA. A national boundary was crossed without either permission or any declaration of hostilities.”


Save the Babies

image09Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “After 20 years of delay forced by lobbyists for utilities, the Environmental Protection Agency finally came out in December with regulations to control the mercury emissions from power plants. Hallelujah — save the babies! But wait, the lovers of the unborn aren’t celebrating this move to stop industry from doing gratuitous damage to children’s IQs. Far from it. GOP lawmakers are now howling to overturn the EPA’s mercury regulations.”


The Battle for Vermont’s Health

image10Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Health insurers were not able to stop the state’s drive last year toward a single-payer health care system, which insurers have spent millions to scare Americans into believing would be the worst thing ever. Despite the ceaseless spin, Vermont lawmakers last May demonstrated they could not be bought nor intimidated when they became the first in the nation to pass a bill that will probably establish a single-payer beachhead in the U.S.”


California’s Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional – Again

image12Mike Ludwig, Truthout: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a federal judge’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court showdown that could set a national precedent on same-sex marriage.”

Opponents of Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, react after news of the ban being knocked down in court, outside the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, February 7, 2012. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

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.”