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Archive for January, 2012

Obama administration bolsters homeowner lifeline

(Reuters) – The Obama administration, in an election-year bid to help distressed homeowners, on Friday expanded its main foreclosure prevention program, and pushed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to forgive mortgage debt.

The administration said it would extend the life of the Home Affordable Mortgage Program by a year through 2013 and widen it to reach more heavily indebted homeowners.

It also said it would provide incentives to encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-controlled mortgage finance providers, to write down loans, an idea which their regulator has worried would unnecessarily add to the cost of taxpayer bailouts for the two firms.

The regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, withheld final judgment on the proposal, saying it would study it further.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee about half of all U.S. home loans, and their participation in principal reduction under HAMP could greatly expand the reach of the $29.9 billion program.

Nearly 11 million Americans are underwater on their mortgages – meaning they owe more than their homes are worth. With some key electoral swing states among the hardest hit by the housing crisis, the sector’s health could become an important factor in November’s elections.

President Barack Obama made clear in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he would continue to press for aggressive action to help homeowners, and Friday’s announcement was just the first of several on housing initiatives that are expected in coming weeks.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives last year sought to shut down HAMP, arguing it was ineffective, but the bill died in the Democratic-led Senate.

The HAMP program, which draws from the Treasury Department’s financial bailout fund, pays mortgage servicers to rewrite loan terms to reduce monthly payments.

When the administration launched the program in 2009, it expected as many as 4 million loans would be modified. So far, only about 900,000 households have permanently won new loan terms.

As of the end of last year, only about $3 billion had been spent of the $29 billion set aside for HAMP.

EXPANDING ITS REACH

As part of its effort to reach more Americans, both the Treasury Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said they would seek to aid homeowners pinched by other types of debt, including credit cards and medical bills.

In addition, the administration said it was tripling the incentives paid to investors when they reduce loan balances. Investors who rent out properties would also be able to access mortgage aid under the revamped program.

FHFA’s acting director, Edward DeMarco, has argued that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could provide equal relief to homeowners through loan forbearance at less cost to taxpayers than slashing mortgage debt.

Treasury has notified the FHFA that it “will pay principal reduction incentives to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac if they allow servicers to forgive principal in conjunction with a HAMP modification,” Treasury Assistant Secretary Timothy Massad said.

By offering taxpayer money to cover the costs of write-downs at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Obama administration is seeking to overcome DeMarco’s objections.

“DeMarco said he is willing to reconsider principal reduction for mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie, if, in his words, ‘a source of funds outside the enterprises emerge to cover some portion of the costs associated with reducing principal,’” Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

“The administration has now made those funds available,” Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, said. “I expect FHFA to promptly reconsider their analysis and help more Americans avoid foreclosures.”

Reed has been urging the administration to tap HAMP for principal reductions on loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The administration did not specify how much it would pay Fannie and Freddie to participate in HAMP.

(Reporting By Margaret Chadbourn; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Tim Ahmann, Andrew Hay, Leslie Adler)

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Fred De Luca, the founder of Subway, said in an interview with the BBC the US tax system was screwed up. He said that the rich need to pay more in taxes, not so the government can spend more, but to lower the taxes on working people.

Click here for the audio of the interview

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The Koch Brothers Puppet Governor of the state of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, has been caught with his hand in the tax payers money jar. Members of the governor’s staff have been caught using the equipment of the government to campaign for Walker, as well as doing it on taxpayers time. There are a number of state felonies involved. These antics have been going on for twenty months, so it’s highly unlikely that Koch Brothers Governor Walker didn’t know about the scandal unfolding twenty-three feet from his office. So Walker faces not only a recall, but potential prison time, as well.

Click here for the rest of the story

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How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the 1 Percent

Both countries had a history of horrendous poverty. When the 1 percent was in charge, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to avoid starvation. Under the leadership of the working class, however, both countries built robust and successful economies that nearly eliminated poverty, expanded free university education, abolished slums, provided excellent health care available to all as a matter of right and created a system of full employment. Unlike the Norwegians, the Swedes didn’t find oil, but that didn’t stop them from building what the latest CIA World Factbook calls “an enviable standard of living.”

Well it happened! Click here for the complete story

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We suffer from high sky premiums, families are bankrupted by medical bills, and all of this is because health insurance companies need to keep their profits moving higher to keep those dividends growing, and pushing their share prices higher. The 99 percent pays the premiums, the 1 percent own the shares. Sounds like an income redistribution scam to me because that’s what it is in the United States. It’s precisely why health care costs have been soaring ever higher for decades. Profits come before health. This is system doomed to failure at providing better or even good health care. That’s why the standard of care here is in decline.

Click here for the rest of the story

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The war began with a savage legislative assault by President Ronald Reagan. Working people voted for him as he slaughtered their livelihoods, starved their schools, bankrupted their nation, laid the foundation for mass corruption and destroyed the retirement accounts of the elderly. Now the Occupy Movement has come to challenge Reagan’s legacy. How did we get here?

Click here for the story

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The folks at the Federal Reserve have a grim view of the United States economy. They won’t raise historically low interest rates until late 2014, at the earliest, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is ready to expand the money supply by purchasing more treasuries.

This suggests Obama’s rosy outlook for the economy that he laid out in his state of the union address is substantial lunacy, essentially the ravings of a madman or a lying politician. It also suggests that neither the Fed nor Obama plan to do anything about the massive mal-distribution of income and wealth that has occurred via government policies over the last thirty years, and which has dragged the economy down and keeps it down. In fact, Obama’s policies have been to continue to redistribute income from working people to the rich. A prime example is the fact that he signed into law the South Korea free trade treaty.

Click here for the complete story

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The American middle class hardly needs to be told that it’s struggling: Obama needs to name the enemy, not emote empathy, but he’s not likely to do that. He doesn’t care about the middle class, except during election time. That’s now, and three years ago, and ten years ago. Obama wasn’t politically around ten years ago, but he was three years ago.

Substantively, nothing in Obama’s Kansas speech broke new ground. No new policies were put put forth and no new arguments were made. He spoke to restrained frustration dusted with hope – wasn’t much different from other recent addresses, either.

And you can’t argue he was breaking new ground by showing empathy with a disintegrating middle class.

“When people are slipping out of the middle class,” he said, “it drags down the entire economy from top to bottom.”

This is not news to anyone, anywhere. The president has been aware of this for quite some time.

“Soon, the middle class will only exist in speeches given by politicians and in the minds of workers who cannot allow themselves to identify as something below that. The face of poverty looks more and more like the face in the mirror as thousands of Americans turn to food banks and homeless shelters for the first time. Yet, I think we may be too proud to let the term “middle class” slip away – even as the moderate level of prosperity and disposable income that defined it becomes a day dream.” Ana Marie Cox

some people say that “Obama takes a risk in his willingness to openly discuss the fragility of our national self-image: admitting how bad things have become can only work to his electoral advantage if he offers a solution that feels right to voters – or if he can channel their discontent away from himself.” That may be true, but not likely. Americans are easily swayed. Obama’s core constituents will believe in his populist rhetoric, or at least, pump hope into their financially destroyed hearts. Obama will not follow his words with any substantial action.

The so-called experts have reacted pretty reliably to Obama’s speech: “those on the left have swooned over his embrace of populist rhetoric, those on the right have raised the tattered banner of “class warfare”, apparently not realising that class warfare has been going on for quite awhile now – and the rich have been winning.”

Ana Marie Cox said it best, “Politicians always put themselves rhetorically on the side of the middle class without ever admitting there’s a fight going on. Obama has finally acknowledged that the elephant in the room is crushing us.” Obama can’t and won’t fight the good fight to save the American middle class because he the disciple of Wall Street. He worships at the feet of greed. Just ask the folks at Goldman Sachs.

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Time Lapse Footage of the Northern Lights

The spectacular northern lights can be seen at the link below.

Click here for the video

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