Friday, May 01, 2009
Senate Folly of the Day: "No" to mortgage reduction in bankruptcy
The Senate handed a victory to the banking industry on Thursday, defeating a Democratic proposal that would have given homeowners in financial trouble greater flexibility to renegotiate the terms of their mortgages. —Stephen Labaton reporting in "Senate Refuses to Let Judges Fix Mortgages in Bankruptcy"
The Senate Republicans and 12 Democrats continue to do all possible for their banker friends and as little as possible for those who were duped by them into signing ill-considered mortgages. This is short-sighted even by the lights of bankers. Sen. Schumer put it well: "They’re being almost lemming-like, for their immediate, short-term interests." (It should be evident to one and all that the "industry" has no reason to claim they can even discern where their self-interest lies.)
Dick Durbin, the Senator responsible for trying to keep his Democratic colleagues in line, said before the vote, which was expected to fail—
I don’t know what the next step will be. It’ll surely be the conference committee and hopefully the House can keep some aspect of bankruptcy reform in this. If we fail ... we’ll wait another year and face a worse crisis and hope that the banks won’t have as much clout.
That is a vain hope unless there’s a popular outcry, since a portion of the very money that the government has poured into the banks will be returned to the campaign-finance coffers of the Senators.1 But Durbin is absolutely correct that by next year the crisis will be worse.
All Republican Senators rejected the legislation, and the usual Democratic suspects also voted No:
- Blanche Lincoln (Ark.)
- Mark Pryor (Ark.)
- Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.)
- Jon Tester (Mont.)
- Michael Bennet (Colo.)
- Robert Byrd (W.Va.)
- Byron Dorgan (N.D.)
- Tim Johnson (S.D.)
- Mary Landrieu (La.)
- Ben Nelson (Neb.)
- Tom Carper (Del.)
- and of course, Arlen Specter (Penn.)
If you happen to live in one of these states, give your Senators a buzz and let them know that their support for the bankers instead of homeowners has not gone unnoticed.
Top banks and automakers receiving hundreds of billions of dollars in federal bailout money cut back heavily on lobbying expenses at the beginning of the year.
Still, banks in particular continued to spend millions to influence Washington as President Obama and a new Congress took office.
Eight of the nation’s largest banks — which combined have received more than $170 billion in money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) — spent roughly $5.5 million on lobbying in the first three months of 2009, according to congressional records. General Motors Corp., its financing arm, Chrysler LLC and Cerberus Capital Management, Chrysler’s main financial investor, spent another $4.3 million.
For the automotive companies, the numbers represent a plunge of more than 30 percent in spending from the end of 2008, as well as from the same period last year. But for the banks, the lobbying expenses are a strong sign of continuing efforts to influence legislation and the Obama administration on a range of issues related to credit card policy, foreclosures and home loan modifications, among others.
The banks spent slightly more at the beginning of 2009 than the last three months of 2008, but roughly 20 percent less than during the first quarter of 2008 before the financial crisis enveloped the economy. The eight banks spent a combined $6.25 million on lobbying at the beginning of 2008.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup were the biggest spenders on lobbying at the beginning of this year, spending $1.3 million and $1.25 million, respectively. Still, for Citigroup, the numbers represent a drop of $200,000 from a year ago. The firm, receiving roughly $50 billion in aid and commitments from the government, has cut its lobbying expenses in each of the last four quarters.
The banks are trying to project the notion that they are reducing their lobbying expenditures, which they are—by a small percentage in almost all cases. But could any group of distressed homeowners match the $1.3 million spent by just one bank—Citigroup—for lobbying in the first three months of 2009? [back]
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Good News of the Day: Rise of the Secular Humanists
Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey [pdf], a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.
South Carolina, generally regarded as the Home of God, has seen the numbers of the unchurched grow by leaps and bounds, perhaps threatening the long-term plan to secede from the U.S. and establish a Christian nation—
Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent.
Today's good news is a "twofer." According to the AP, based on a report from the Southern Baptists,
The number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the fourth straight year in 2008 to the denomination's lowest level since 1987, and membership dipped slightly as well.
Baptisms last year dropped nearly 1.1 percent to 342,198, compared with 345,941 in 2007, according to an annual report released by LifeWay Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing arm.
Total membership was 16,228,438 last year, down nearly 38,400 from 2007.
The Godless are said to be taking their growth strategy from the gay-rights movement while the Saved are engaged in a 10-year central plan more along the lines of the Soviet model, hopeful that the drop in output is merely a part of the normal business cycle. As former pastor Rick Lance
The timing for the GPS strategy (God's Plan for Sharing) for Southern Baptists could not be better. This 10-year initiative is the right focus for the right time.... Our goal is to increase the population of heaven and to decrease the population of hell. GPS is a timely strategy to share the timeless message of Christ with the mission field we call North America.
Perhaps, we should view this as a temporary recession, not a permanent trend, for our denominational family. Recessions are downturns in the business cycle; therefore we are definitely in a recession currently. However, even the most pessimistic forecaster would admit that this recession will end at some point. What will bring it to an end? One way to answer that question is to reply, "When there is a revival in the economy."
My prayer for my denominational family is that in 2010 we can look back and see the beginnings of a revival among us and the end to our own denominational recession.
It appears the Baptists haven't yet realized that we are in a depression, not a normal recession, and are all going to hell in a handbasket.
"Come out of her, my people" - South Carolina to secede again (6/24/04)
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Lithium: "the essential element of the 21st century"
Bolivia has 70%-80% of the world's lithium reserves. It may prove to be quite a bonanza for the indigenous population if President Evo Morales can avoid losing control of the resource to international capitalists.
There was an announcement in March of an advance in lithium-ion battery technology that you may have missed.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Jobs Program of the Day
Some of the nation's largest defense contractors, labor unions and trade groups are banding together to argue that the Obama administration is putting 100,000 or more jobs at risk by proposing deep cuts in weapons programs. —Dan Eggen reporting in "Plan to Cut Weapons Programs Disputed"
Preparation for war—conceived as an American jobs program.