The current tumult in the nation’s economy—high unemployment, large federal deficits, a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating and the resultant gyrations of stock prices—stem from the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 and 2008 and subsequent meltdown of financial markets. While government programs enacted as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 propped up banks, brokerages and other firms—including auto manufacturers General Motors and Chrysler—the principal program to help homeowners has not fared nearly as well. In 2009, the Department of Treasury launched the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, to help ease the financial woes of three to four million Americans by adjusting mortgage rates to make their homes more affordable. The program provides an incentive to banks, giving them a predetermined amount for every modification completed. One of the goals of HAMP is to keep homes from being foreclosed upon, protecting local real estate markets from the declining prices that vacant, unsold homes can have on entire neighborhoods.Continue reading
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the personal finances of members of Congress grew by 11 percent between 2006... View ArticleContinue reading
The Bush Administration is getting quite good at death by budget, knocking off two federal open government programs in the last couple of weeks. Tony Soprano would be impressed.
Late last month, the administration submitted their 2009 budget, where it was revealed they eliminated the key provision of the Open Government Act of 2007 - the ombudsman whose job it is to oversee all Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. They pulled it off by moving the office from the National Archives and Records Administration to the Department of Justice where it is doomed to ineffectual exile. The second hit was on EconomicIndicators.gov, an award-winning web site full of current economic data at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The site will be put in mothballs effective March 1st. The administration said it was a budget cutting decision. The Web site has gotten a lot of attention for how easily it allows citizens to access the daily releases of key economic indicators and to cross reference the data among various bureaus and would send out e-mails to registered users whenever new economic data was released. Sure, Think Progress writes, the data will still be available but much harder - much much harder to access. Most of us wouldn't have the time to go and look at the individual sites and even know where to look for it.Continue reading