The Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program (known as "HAMP" to lenders and services, and MHA, or "Making Home Affordable" to the general public) is "failing."
I only learned this because I looked at the Associated Press's feeds on Christmas evening and saw this headline -- "No consequences for lying borrowers."
In an item time-stamped December 25, AP national business columnist Rachel Beck (note: not a reporter) used language that would ordinarily cause many in the press to characterize such a person as a hard-hearted meanie to describe the results of this core Obama initiative this far:
No consequences for lying borrowers
The government shouldn't reward liars. But that's the effect of changes to the Obama administration's failing program to help homeowners modify their mortgages.
On Thursday, the Treasury Department issued a press release, called "Update on Status of Support for Housing Programs." Its fourth paragraph reads as follows:
At the time the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship in September 2008, Treasury established Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements (PSPAs) to ensure that each firm maintained a positive net worth. Treasury is now amending the PSPAs to allow the cap on Treasury's funding commitment under these agreements to increase as necessary to accommodate any cumulative reduction in net worth over the next three years. At the conclusion of the three year period, the remaining commitment will then be fully available to be drawn per the terms of the agreements.
Translation: No matter how badly things further deteriorate at these former government sponsored enterprises, both of which since last year in essence have become government-controlled enterprises, Uncle Sam (i.e., current and future generations of taxpayers) will cover their losses.
Here is how three different news outlets headlined this Treasury/Obama administration move:
On Thursday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent John Blackstone gave attention to the danger for small businesses if the final version of health care reform requires employers to provide health insurance for their employees as he highlighted two business owners – one who fears health care reform could close down his night club business while the other is more optimistic about how her business would be affected. Substitute anchor Jeff Glor set up the report: "As we mentioned earlier, the health care bill passed by the Senate today would extend coverage to 30 million Americans. A key element is a mandate forcing many companies to pay for their workers' insurance or pay a fine – a very difficult choice for struggling small business owners."
Blackstone related that "the prescription for change includes some bitter medicine, mandates requiring companies to pay for health insurance or pay a fine." While Blackstone at one point argued that small business owners are likely to benefit "from insurance exchanges in the reform plans which should hold down premiums in many cases by helping small businesses join together for greater buying power," the CBS correspondent also gave substantial attention to nightclub owner Jay Siegan’s fears that " the music will go silent if he's required to provide insurance."
On Saturday, NBC News host Lester Holt seemed to lament the fact that the climate change conference in Copenhagen did not result in greater regulation of carbon emissions as, on the NBC Nightly News, Holt passed on that "many" called the agreement that was reached "weak and disappointing," and he seemed to accept the premise that more regulations would affect the climate as he relayed that President Obama "admitted a lot more needs to be done to achieve significant changes in global warming." Holt: "President Obama, who took the lead on getting that deal, calls it a breakthrough. But even he admitted a lot more needs to be done to achieve significant changes in global warming."
During the same morning’s Today show, as he introduced correspondent Mike Viqueira, Holt recounted that the conference "fell far short of what many hoped for." Viqueira passed on complaints by environmental activists: "But a lot of people say it falls short. It will monitor emissions cuts, would this agreement, but it sets no target for curbing greenhouse gases, and that has left a lot of people – particularly in the environmental community – very disappointed."
Below are complete transcripts of the relevant stories from NBC’s Today show and the NBC Nightly News from Saturday, December 19:
On Thursday’s Stossel show on Fox Business Network, host John Stossel got to do the kind of show he was not able to do earlier this year when he was at ABC, as he devoted an entire show to the debate over access to health care, and gave attention to the market-based plan utilized by most employees of Whole Foods, which uses health savings accounts and encourages employees to shop around for health care, and to conserve their money for use in future years. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who has been the target of attacks from socialized medicine advocates despite the popularity of his company’s program with its employees, was the featured guest on Stossel's show, though he and Stossel at one point did get to debate socialized medicine advocate Russell Mokhiber. When Mokhiber cited the dubious statistic that 45,000 Americans die yearly from lack of health insurance, and contended that "zero Canadians die from lack of health insurance," Mackey charged that in Canada, "They oftentimes die from a lack of health care as they wait for services that are rationed by governmental bureaucrats."
While Stossel argued that too much involvement by a third party like insurance companies or government programs have caused health care prices to increase because consumers shop around less, Stossel and Mackey also charged that government regulations that forbid health insurance companies to compete across state lines, and that require insurance companies to cover procedures in their plans that are not desired by many customers, have helped create the problem of high insurance prices:
Longtime readers of Associated Press dispatches have long since learned that many of the most important facts of a story -- especially facts that put the government, bureaucrats, and leftists in a bad light -- are often found in its final paragraphs. This is a way for the wire service to boast that it really did report all important facts while usually ensuring that harried broadcasters and other users of AP content who attempt to digest it down to a couple of sentences will probably will leave the meaty and incriminating stuff on the cutting room floor.
Such is the case with a report on the arrest of dozens of Medicare ripoff artists in various US cities. While the details of the arrests are indeed important, the final three paragraphs of AP writer Kelli Kennedy's report are the real jaw-droppers, especially in the context of the president's and Congress's dogged determination to set a statist takeover of the entire health care system into motion before the end of this year (bolds are mine):
CNN’s Larry King equated efforts against further regulation of the banking industry to letting the mentally ill run their psych wards on his program on Monday. King pressed conservative columnist S. E. Cupp: “Banks are lobbying against a bill to tighten regulatory controls. Are you going to let the inmates run the asylum? You don’t think we should regulate banks?” [audio clips from the segment available here]
The CNN host moderated a panel discussion on the economy during the first segments of the program. The panel surprisingly leaned to the right on economic issues. Besides Cupp, King had Penn Gilette and Larry Elder, both libertarians, and liberal former Clinton administration official Robert Reich. After the host used the “inmates run the asylum” idiom in his question, the columnist first answered that “we do need regulation, but it’s putting them in a really tough spot.” King interrupted with a blunt one-word question: “So?”
If there's a Ground Zero for America's foreclosure mess outside of much of California and metro Las Vegas, it's probably Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio city known in most of the rest of the state as the Mistake on the Lake.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mark Gillespie got out from behind his desk, committed some good old-fashioned journalism, and went looking for the mistakes that exacerbated the town's breathtaking home foreclosure rate. Lo and behold, he found that city government itself contributed mightily and extraordinarily negligently to the debacle. Go far enough into Gillespie's report, and you will also find an implicit admission that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) also played a pivotal role (bold is mine):
How Cleveland aggravated its foreclosure crisis
The city of Cleveland has aggravated its vexing foreclosure problems and has lost millions in tax dollars by helping people buy homes they could not afford, a Plain Dealer investigation has found.
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times dismissed the ClimateGate scandal during an interview on Thursday’s Situation Room on CNN, labeling it “nonsense” and an “idiot debate.” Anchor Wolf Blitzer only pressed Friedman slightly when he repeated his call for a “price on carbon that would trigger mass innovation in green technology,” meaning a large surtax on fossil fuels.
Blitzer raised ClimateGate during the second half of his interview with Friedman: “Let’s talk about ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ and global warming; this conference that’s under way in Copenhagen right now. The release of these e-mails, what’s called ‘ClimateGate,’ how much damage does that do to those who say man does have this significant role in global warming and this whole debate takes a new twist as a result of that?”
The New York Times columnist immediately played the “denier” card, and pointed to his favorite country, China, as an example of a society that wasn’t paying any attention to the scandal:
There's certainly an argument to be made that college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS) isn't an ideal system, but just to what degree should the federal government come in and regulate this multi-billion dollar industry?
According to Andy Staples, a writer for Sports Illustrated's Web site, SI.com who appeared on the Fox News Channel's Dec. 9 "Studio B," the industry should be revamped from a regulatory aspect because of an issue of "fairness." He was asked by host Shepard Smith why it is appropriate for Congress to be meddling in the college football.
"It is funny because everybody says, ‘Why is Congress wasting its time on this?'" Staples said. "It is a multi-billion dollar business involving more than 100 publicly funded universities. That is probably something Congress might want to dabble in if there is a question about it, and there are some questions about it."
Every now and then, we at NewsBusters like to point out a solid piece of journalism, instances where the media report news that cuts against the liberal narrative of the world that the MSM usually churn out.
And so today, I thought I'd pass along how USA Today noted today that "Fast-food standards for meat top those for school lunches" (h/t NB intern Mike Sargent ):
In the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC, a USA TODAY investigation found.
That isn't always the case. McDonald's, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.
And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
CNN made a real, day-long effort on Monday to address the climate-change debate as a debate, giving skeptics of manmade climate change a series of chances to match the leftist view, especially during its evening programming. CNN is also the only U.S. TV news outlet so far to send an anchor to the Climate Research Unit at the center of the ClimateGate controversy.
International correspondent Phil Black’s interview of Lord Christopher Monckton, a prominent skeptic of the theory of manmade global warming, ran four minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour. The “passionate skeptic on climate change,” as Black referred to him, traveled to Copenhagen for the UN’s climate change summit, and is one of the few skeptics of the theory of manmade climate change in attendance. The CNN correspondent actually compared belief in the theory to a religion at the beginning of his report: “Copenhagen’s Bella Conference Center has become an international temple for thousands of true believers, people who have no doubt the planet is warming and humankind is to blame. But there are a few people here who do not believe.”
Monday’s American Morning on CNN covered the ClimateGate scandal extensively, but slanted towards those who deny that the exposed e-mails amount to much. Anchor John Roberts let the interim director of the Climate Research Unit at the center of the controversy give his talking points without question. Out of the four segments on the scandal, two featured skeptics of the theory of manmade climate change.
Roberts, reporting live from the University of East Anglia, home to the CRU, led the 6 am Eastern hour with a preview of the program’s ClimateGate coverage: “I am in Norwich, England at the University of East Anglia and behind me here, this cylindrical building, is the Climatic Research Unit which finds itself at the epicenter of what’s being called ‘ClimateGate.’ Four thousand e-mails and documents were hacked out of the Climatic Research Unit’s server system...Some of those e-mails were looked at by skeptics, and are now being used to cast doubt on all of the science surrounding global warming. Skeptics claiming that some scientists were manipulating data to further their cause.”
gyp Slang vb gyps, gypping, gypped, gips gipping, gipped (tr) to swindle, cheat, or defraud [back formation from Gypsy]
Someone call the PC police. At a town hall in Allentown, PA today, Pres. Obama said he is seeking to regulate health insurance companies to make sure that people don't get "gypped."
Perhaps PBO thought the term would appeal to the crowd. This was Pennsylvania, after all, the state PBO imagines to be filled with bitter people clinging to "antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment."
A powerful Democratic lawmaker has stated his willingness to intervene on the behalf of the federal government in the nation's news sector. Insisting that the newspaper business is vital to democracy, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., suggested that the government "resolve" the problems in the industry, potentially though misguided federal bailouts.
At a workshop on the future of journalism at the Federal Trade Commission, Waxman, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, suggested the federal government secure "public funding for quality journalism as a means to preserve a critical mass of resources and assets devoted to public media."
Though Waxman raised other options, he devoted more of his address to public funding for newspapers than any other avenue for preserving the medium. Newspaper bailouts could, he stated, "preserve and maintain key functions of modern journalism ... by cushioning the economic squeeze publishers are facing."
Rupert Murdoch sees a future in journalism. With newspaper circulation at post-war lows and major dailies shutting down in a number of cities, he may be one of the few optimists left. But first, Murdoch claims, the American government must change its obsolete and destructive regulatory policies that, he says, are preventing major news outlets from competing.
"Good journalism is an expensive commodity," Murdoch told an audience at a Federal Trade Commission workshop on the future of journalism today. "Critics say people won’t pay, but I say they will. But only if you give them something good." Murdoch has announced plans to institute paywalls for all online content offered by his giant news conglomerate, News Corp.
Though Murdoch is confident that paywalls would more than make up for revenue lost by shortfalls in advertising dollars, other newspapers' experiences with the system have failed to do so. The New York Times in 2005 began charging for many of its columns, but eliminated the paywall after revenues failed to outweigh advertising dollars. Still, there are a number of unexplored options for online news payment schemes, and Murdoch is no rookie in the news business.
Ben Stein made an indirect reference to the ClimateGate e-mail scandal during a face-off with Democratic strategist James Carville on Wednesday’s Situation Room: “The truth is, we’ve now got a lot of data coming out that the scientific community who are on the side of anthropogenic global warming were cooking the data and were suppressing data to those requesting their data.”
Stein and Carville appeared on the program’s regular “Strategy Session” segment 46 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour, less than an hour before CNN aired a slanted report on the e-mail scandal. Substitute anchor Suzanne Malveaux first raised President Obama’s upcoming trip to Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference with the Democrat: “Obviously, this is a political issue. This is up to Congress. What can the President do on this issue?”
Carville went on the offensive out of the gate: “Well, unfortunately, I hope I’m wrong, but not very much, and I hope that talk radio and the pollution lobby are right that global warming is not a problem and 940 peer-reviewed scientific articles are wrong. That’s about all we can hope for because, right now, I have to tell you, that the pollution lobby and talk radio is winning this battle, and the will in the United States to do something about this is not what where I think it should be. But that’s the reality of the political situation as I see it right now.”
Stein rebuked his opponent for his labeling, and made his first reference to ClimateGate:
NBC’s Meredith Vieira used a liberal talking point against the Bush administration on the Today show on Tuesday. Vieira asked Inez Tenenbaum, the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, “Under President Bush, the Consumer Products Safety Commission was criticized for being too cozy with business- essentially, toothless. How do you assure the American public...that that’s no longer the case?”
The NBC morning anchor interviewed Commisioner Tenenbaum just after the beginning of the 7 am Eastern hour on the CPSC’s recall of 2.1 million drop-side baby cribs on November 23. Vieira tied-in the concerns of new parents about the safety of the cribs as she included the left-wing criticism of the government agency during the Bush era in her last question to the Obama appointee: “Under President Bush, the Consumer Products Safety Commission was criticized for being too cozy with business- essentially, toothless. How do you assure the American public, particularly parents out there that are worried, that that’s no longer the case?”
What’s hidden in health care reform that you haven’t heard about? Plenty. Without a news media interested in questioning the contents of the legislation, how could you know about the punitive taxes and job-killing provisions lurking in it?
My clients in the restaurant industry alerted me to the House bill’s mandate that all restaurants and retail establishments that are part of chains, franchise groups or multi-brand groups of more than 20 outlets be required to prominently post accurate calorie counts for most food items sold – including items on salad bars and buffets or self-serve counters.
Maybe this seems “healthy” on its face, until you consider the costs, the legal liability incurred in getting inaccurate information and posting it, the competitive disadvantage foisted on businesses with 20+ outlets vs. those with 19 or fewer, and the broader point of health care reform being used as means of creating new and expansive regulatory activity and interference in our lives.
(Incidentally, should you happen to own 20 restaurants, I advise shuttering the least productive one or ones and putting the staff on the unemployment rolls immediately. If you were thinking of investing in opening another restaurant and creating jobs, don’t.)
Last night the Baltimore City Council became the first in the nation to pass a law that would require pro-life crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post in writing disclaimers noting that they do not provide abortion services or contraceptives nor refer women to persons or clinics who do.
Reporting the story in the November 24 paper, the Baltimore Sun's Julie Scharper quoted the bill's author and council president Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) heralding the passage of the bill as "a step towards making sure that women have the information they need to make the right decision for their health and their future."
Yet Scharper failed to point out to readers that Rawlings-Blake actually voted against an amendment that would also apply her standard to abortion clinics. Reported George P. Matysek Jr. of The Catholic Review on November 17:
But it is also something that some in the financial media are reluctant to support, especially judging from the tone of CNBC "The Call" co-host Trish Regan and comments CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman. On the Nov. 20 broadcast of "The Call," CME Group reporter Rick Santelli made the case that Federal Reserve should be audited. He cited opposition to the Fed audit proposal from Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., which was based on Congress' inability to be fiscally responsible.
"He said, ‘You know, there independence is important to protect the soundness of the dollar,'" Santelli said. "Has he read any papers lately or looked at any charts? Come on. Amen, amen that this process is happening. They're not taking away their independence to make a decision on interest rates. We need to know where the money is going. I remember when Ben Bernanke faced committees of elected officials and said, ‘We can't audit the Fed because then you might look unfavorably on some of the counterparties we deal with. That's like finding paraphernalia under your kids bed and then not asking where he got it."
Two CNN programs ran news briefs on a new study on movie popcorn from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, but omitted its left-wing affiliation. Anchor John Roberts mentioned the group by name on Wednesday’s CNN Tonight, but didn’t mention its liberal politics. His colleague Kiran Chetry didn’t even mention CSPI by name during her brief on the study on Thursday’s American Morning.
Roberts read his news brief on the CSPI study 12 minutes into the 7 pm Eastern hour: “[W]e all know how expensive popcorn and soda is at the movie theater, but you may not know the cost to your waistline. The Center for Science in the Public Interest tonight says it has the answer. The group analyzed how much fat and calories are in a medium sized popcorn from Regal, which is the country’s largest movie chain.” He continued that “an astonishing 1,160 calories and 60 grams of fat- that is three days worth. Add a soda to the mix, and the combination is equal to eating three McDonald’s quarter-pounders plus 12 pats of butter. The calorie and fat count was far more than claimed by the movie theater company.”
Steve Waldman, the "founding soul of Beliefnet" and a former Newsweek reporter and US News & World Report editor is now spinning through the revolving door into the Obama FCC, reports Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today:
Steven Waldman, founder, editor and leading political blogger of Beliefnet.com, the nation's top Internet spirituality site, is leaving for a post in the Obama administration.
He's posted a farewell letter on his blog calling this "the most difficult (and surreal) post I've had to write" as he departs to become senior adviser to new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski.
Kudlow, referring to the Oct. 26 broadcast of MSNBC's "The Ed Show," which featured Rep. Barney Frank, perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader and the host Ed Schultz, noted all the participants were left-of-center. And in the appearance, Frank made a pitch for the expanded role of government and argued the only reason people opposed it was because they were disillusioned by the government for its failures during the Bush administration, specifically dealing with Hurricane Katrina.
Recent problems with the financial system could be used as a reason for regulators to have authority policing social networking sites like Facebook and other types of electronic communication like text messaging. If Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) CEO Richard Ketchum has his way, that's exactly what will happen.
Ketchum appeared on CNBC's Oct. 27 "Closing Bell" in an interview with the network's NYSE floor reporter Bob Pisani from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) annual meeting in New York City. Ketchum explained how the Internet and text messaging are unconventional means of communication that pose problems for regulators.
"With all of our kids, they don't talk by phones or certainly directly to each other anymore," Ketchum said. "They talk through the Internet and they talk through text messaging and they talk through Facebook."
Earlier, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., took on the issue and defended Fox and its audience. However, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, also took on the White House and questioned why it would be something Obama and his administration should be concerned with in comments from the floor of the House of Representatives on Oct. 20.
CNN political analyst Roland Martin ripped President Obama from the left on Wednesday’s Newsroom, after the White House announced that they were going to cut the pay of top executives at corporations which took taxpayer money from the federal government for bailouts: “It’s about damn time. The White House, frankly, has been slow in actually making this happen.”
Near the end of the 3 pm Eastern hour, anchor Rick Sanchez broke the news about the Obama administration’s decision to “put the kaputs on some of these big-timers with some of these Wall Street firms like AIG, and they are apparently going to ask them to take a cut in annual salaries of their 25 highest paid executives by an average...of 90% from last year.” Sanchez brought on Martin to comment on this breaking news, and the analyst’s reaction was unequivocally critical of the administration’s inaction in going after executive pay.
Want to make a big splash to bolster your chances in a political campaign? A tried and true strategy for some attorneys general has been to champion a populist position by exploiting the legal system for publicity. Just look at the lead up to the launch of former New York AG Eliot Spitzer gubernatorial campaign with his attacks on Wall Street.
And that appears to be the playbook California Attorney General Jerry Brown is using in a lawsuit accusing State Street (NYSE:STT) of cheating the state's two largest pension funds, the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, of at least $56.6 million.
However, CNBC's Michele Caruso-Cabrera wasn't afraid to ask Brown if that was indeed the case in an Oct. 20 interview on CNBC's "Power Lunch."