Economy & Budget

Fixing the mortgage industry without sinking the economy

A regulatory response to problems in mortgage servicing must fix problems in the industry but avoid poorly conceived actions that would crimp American families’ access to mortgage financing and threaten the still-weak housing recovery and the broader economy.

The problems in mortgage servicing are genuinely infuriating, including robo-signing of foreclosure documents, spotty communications with delinquent borrowers, and especially the foreclosure proceedings on some active duty service members.

These problems are being fixed by tough new regulations from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Mortgage servicers will be required to establish clear lines of communication with borrowers facing foreclosure, improve their systems for handling documents, and stop foreclosure proceedings when discussing a loan modification. Companies will compensate borrowers who lost money as the result of servicing problems including any inappropriate foreclosures, and will be required to hire outside consultants to make sure the problems are fixed. Servicers have already announced plans for massive hiring to comply.

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Traditional vs. restrictionist conservatism

This week the President elevated the issue of our broken immigration system back to the front burner of our political discourse. Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform believes that this murky issue gains clarity when eyed through the matrix of the traditional “three legged stool” of conservatism. 

When this issue is examined within the framework of our nation’s fiscal conservative, social conservative and national security conservative value structure, a common sense pathway forward emerges as straightforward and exceptional.

When the conservative solution is measured against the “restrictionist” approach, the traditional conservative argument demonstrates that our nation is responsible for forging solution’s that adhere to American values. Neither the fiscal, social, or national security conservative value system is served through the Restrictionist’s “attrition through enforcement” agenda.

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Prevention: Saving seniors, Medicare — and a trillion dollars

Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) 2012 budget plan is selling out the next generation of seniors. His proposal would cap what each state is allocated to spend on Medicare and asks our elderly to figure out how to pay for their treatment with private insurance companies and a voucher with ever-shrinking value.

We can reduce the amount of money we need to spend on healthcare for seniors, and for everyone else, but penalizing our aging adults and raiding Medicare is not the way to do it. The fiscally responsible approach must include policies that keep people healthier now, in order to reduce the demand for medical care throughout their lives.

That approach is prevention.

The Ryan plan doesn’t focus on any of the drivers of health costs, and it doesn’t make anyone less sick. Its magical thinking simply reduces the flow of money available for treatment and care, while failing to address the healthcare costs that will get passed along to families and businesses. This is detrimental to our nation and the deficit. If, instead, we reduce the number of people injured and ill in the first place, we won’t just save money. We will save lives.

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It's the economy (and the four R's)

Regulations require regular review. When I talk with business owners in Maine and elsewhere, the single most cited barrier to job growth is the uncertainty about federal regulations. The cost of ensuring compliance with the evermore complex web of mandates and regulations is choking employers’ ability to innovate and create jobs. Regulators owe it to all Americans to ensure the rules and regulations they enforce are efficient, effective, and meeting their goals in the best way possible. That is why all federal regulations need thoughtful and regular review. Unfortunately, too few regulations receive such attention.
 
That is why I joined with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to introduce the Small Business Regulatory Freedom Act. This would require common-sense regulatory reform to help ensure that small business concerns are taken into consideration when Federal agencies promulgate or review regulations.

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A path to poverty: Happy Mother's Day

Every woman regardless of age, ethnicity, race or marital status should ask themselves one question this Mother’s Day: Why is the Republican plan to solve the nation’s debt and deficit crisis going to push me closer to poverty in my older years?

Women, as the nation’s caregivers, ought to turn the tables to collect on the economic value of their unpaid contributions – estimated at approximately $375 billion in 2007. Instead, the “Path to Prosperity” designed by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and endorsed by House Republicans, will place an immense and disproportionate load on the already overburdened shoulders of millions of older women, providing instead “a path to poverty.” 

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Default isn't an option - for debt or Democrats

Last week, the sound of Wisconsin town hall attendees booing House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was music to progressives’ ears.

The booing wasn’t undeserved - Chairman Ryan’s proposed budget would have disastrous consequences, and caters to the ideological purists on the right by ending Medicare as we know it and asking nothing from the wealthiest on taxes. However, progressives should pause before they consider opposition to the Ryan budget to be enough to carry the deficit debate. A quick look at some key insights from last year’s election shows that default isn’t an option – on U.S. debt or for Democratic political victory.

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Waking up to economic realities

Last week the financial markets were roiled by Standard & Poor’s announcement that they will change their outlook on the fiscal health of the United States over the next two years from “stable” to “negative”.

The administration decried this decision as political. However, it seems the only political thing about this decision is the fact that it took so long. The Washington Post recently reported that the White House and the Treasury Department put tremendous pressure on S&P not to do this. 

However, if S&P made its ratings based on political pressures rather than economic reality, it would cease to have any relevance to the business community. Even if S&P delayed its announcement that U.S. government bond market would be downgraded, at some point it would become obvious that the finances of this country are out of control and our leadership is out of touch. All credibility would be lost if S&P simply continued to assign U.S. debt a AAA rating.

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President Obama's economic deviancy

Obama is primarily responsible for the Tea Party movement, despite the fact that it is the nemesis of the President and the political establishment.

The movement is predominantly composed of a small number of Libertarians and a large number of Conservatives. The Tea Party Conservatives are formerly Conservative Republicans who have given up the notion of having a moral government and are tired of funding an immoral government. They are disconnecting from the Republican establishment, which today seems more comfortable managing big government than ultimately reducing it. Herein lies their commonality with Libertarians. The Tea Party is thus at the vertex of this confluence that emphasizes as its central theme the notion that the U.S. must return to a Constitutionally limited federal government.

The catalyst of this political migration is Obama’s stated goal of a “fundamental transformation of America.” Indeed, the Tea Party can most accurately be described as a popular revolt and instinctive response to such statements from this administration. Obama’s speech on the national debt reinforced the logic behind the movement; the President’s extremist economic goals further imperil our nation’s already dire fiscal situation.

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Debt elimination is a national priority

Seeking to put our economy on the path to prosperity and fiscal responsibility, the House passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget, which aims to cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next ten years. The Senate must still approve a budget, and we must demand one that is fiscally responsible because what’s at stake is the future of our economy.

Our nation’s current debt level is a risk to our national security. Just this week, Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook on U.S. debt to “negative,” reflecting uncertainty about how Congress and the Administration will address long-term debt. Something drastic must be done to ensure our nation does not default on our debt.

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Missing details in Obama's Medicare plan

Dear Mr. President,

We are encouraged that you agree with us that reforming the Medicare program is a critical component of tackling America’s debt crisis.

Medicare, if left on its current path, will see its Hospital Insurance Trust Fund go bankrupt in 2020 and will be unable to provide benefits for future generations of Americans – and outcome we will not accept. As such, we appreciate your willingness to put forth Medicare reform concepts in your speech earlier this week.

However, as our Committees seek to reform the Medicare program, we require much more information before we can properly consider the savings tarets you have proposed. You referenced $340 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings by 2021, $480 billion by 2023, and “at least an additional $1 trillions in the subsequent decare” but it is unclear from where or how those rductions in spending are achieved.

With regard to the following policy areas, we have several questions for which we respectfully request you provide answers.

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