Economy & Budget

Overdue: Tipped Workers Deserve a Fair Wage (Rep. Donna Edwards)

On May 21, 2009, I introduced the Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services (WAGES) Act, H.R. 2570, which increases the minimum wage for tipped workers.

This important legislation rolls back an ill-advised policy that has resulted in 18 years of frozen wages for tipped employees.  While the minimum wage for most workers was increased in 2007, tipped employees were left behind at rates that have not been increased since 1991.  In fact, in 1996 Congress took the unprecedented step to freeze the wages of tipped employees.  As a result, by July 2009, the wages for tipped workers will be less than half what they would have been had Congress not taken this unnecessary action.
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Home Sales Up, Fed Should Act Quickly to Buy Jumbo Mortgages

Existing home sales rose in April, showing that first-time buyers continue to be drawn to affordable prices.

Although much has been made of reported declines in the average home price, it is important to look closely at the cause. Of the 75 million owner-occupied homes, only about 5 million will actually be sold, and many are distressed properties.  This skews the average price downward and does not necessarily reflect the value of other homes in a community, or across the nation.

The fact is conditions are optimal for buyers with good jobs who are looking at lower and mid-priced homes and plan to live there for several years.  Mortgage interest rates are low, there is a wide selection of homes and prices are affordable in most areas, and let’s not forget the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit.
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Over 1 million consumers are victims of fake check scams

In tough economic times like these, no one can afford to lose money to fraud. But more than a million people in the U.S. have been lured into accepting phony checks and money orders and wiring money to crooks. That’s why Consumer Federation of America has launched a campaign aimed at preventing people from becoming victims. There are many variations of these scams: they may claim that you’ve won a sweepstakes or been selected to receive a cash grant, or offer you a job processing payments for a foreign company or being a “mystery shopper,” or they may say they want to buy something you advertised for sale online. They send you a genuine looking check or money order and ask you to wire a portion of the money somewhere in return. But while the pitch sounds convincing, it’s as phony as the check. And when the check bounces, you are on the hook to repay your credit union or bank, not the crook. At CFA, we’re working with other consumer organizations, government agencies, financial service companies, and others to raise public awareness about these scams – not only consumers but people who work at banks, credit unions, and check cashing services and in consumer protection and law enforcement agencies. We want to encourage proactive approaches that prevent people from getting as far as the money transfer service, because once they’ve sent the money, it’s gone. There is more information at www.consumerfed.org/fakecheckscams and at www.fakechecks.org. This is a preventable crime once people understand that there is no legitimate reason why anyone who wants to send them a check or money order would ever ask them to send money anywhere in return!
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Stimulus spending for fish and wildlife projects lacks detail (Rep. Doc Hastings)

Yesterday marked the 100th day since President Obama signed the $787 billion “stimulus” bill -- but the Administration still hasn’t delivered transparency or proven how  these taxpayer dollars will create new jobs.

For example, the Department of Interior recently posted a list on its website of the specific Fish and Wildlife Service projects that were funded under the act. According to the Department, the projects were chosen because each “addresses the Department’s highest priority mission needs; generates the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time; and creates lasting value for the American public.”

However, the list provides nothing more than the location of the project and the price. Instead, it simply says that $1,762,000 in tax payer money will be spent for the Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge in Florida.

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Pay off your mortgage early for a fee (Rep. Marcia Fudge)

Pay your mortgage early to avoid high interest costs and you may still owe more money. While all of your records may indicate you have paid the principal balance in full, your mortgage company may still charge you a penalty fee. Deep within the mortgage loan document is a clause which differentiates mortgages from other types of loans— a pre-payment penalty. Many homeowners never know of its existence until it is too late. We must abolish this penalty for owner-occupied homes because of its inherent unfairness.

Pre-payment penalties are common with risky or sub-prime mortgages, also known as “Pre-payment Penalty Mortgages” (PPMs).  A PPM requires borrowers to pay a fee if the borrower pays all or a part of the loan ahead of schedule. Generally, this requirement exists if borrowers repay in full within the first three years. This discourages many borrowers from refinancing at a lower rate.  Moreover, many homeowners are unaware they have signed a PPM.  While the lack of disclosure is troubling, the basic idea behind PPMs is even more disconcerting.  An industry practice that penalizes good behavior is absurd. Congress must end PPMs on a homeowner occupied property and I will fight for that result.
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Making Sure Government Contracts Go To Small Businesses (Rep. Hank Johnson)

Designed to ensure that small business government contracts go to small businesses instead of subsidiaries of large companies, H.R. 2568 is a direct result of more than 15 investigations that exposed widespread abuses in the federal small business contracting programs.

The Small Business Administration Inspector General found in 2002 that at least 4.4 percent of 1,000 contractors awarded federal funds designated for small businesses did not meet basic requirements to receive those contracts.
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New Funds Approved for IMF Would Worsen Global Economic Downturn

On Friday, the Senate passed a $108 billion blank check for IMF expansion, as part of the military supplemental, in response to a request from the administration in fulfillment of the U.S. commitment to global stimulus pledged at the G-20 meeting in April. Since this appropriation was not included in the House version of the bill, it is possible that the funding might be stripped, as Rep. Obey has stated is his preference, and Republicans have threatened to do. More likely, it provides an opportunity to include various key reforms, without which the funding will likely not achieve its intended impact of global stimulus and may actually do more harm than good.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research reviewed the IMF loans given to countries since the onset of the crisis in September 2008, and found that the IMF has been mandating contractionary economic conditions on recipient countries, including fiscal deficit reductions, monetary tightening, and inflation-targeting measures that are actually exacerbating the recessions in recipient countries. This is shocking news, confirmed by press reports from Latvia (hospital and school closures, wage cuts), Hungary (wage and pension reductions, tax increases, cuts in social spending), Ukraine (tax hikes, pension cuts), Serbia (mandated layoffs, tax increases), and other recipient countries, particularly given that the point of IMF funding is to provide countries with resources to stimulate their economies during the global recession.
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Attention to airline safety and investment is long overdue (Rep. Russ Carnahan)

As a Representative from St. Louis – a major transportation hub – and a member of the Aviation Subcommittee, a long-term reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is long overdue.

While we work to get our economy back on track it is time the U.S. modernize an aging air traffic control system and strengthen airport infrastructure to reduce delays and improve safety.  It is essential to our economy that passengers are able to board a plane to travel on business or leisure without second-guessing themselves.
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Transportation Job Corps Act Would Help Economy Recover (Rep. Jerrold Nadler)

This week I reintroduced the Transportation Job Corps Act, a bill that would, among other things, establish a career-ladder grant program within the Federal Transit Administration. This would enable existing workers to advance their careers and remain in the transit industry. In addition to retaining workers already on the job, my bill would also recruit and prepare young adults from across the nation for jobs in the transit sector.

In the depths of this recession, it is essential that we invest in our transit workforce. Since the time of the New Deal, federal investment in public works has been a proven method of boosting a troubled economy, stimulating mass job-creation and, of course, developing and improving transportation and infrastructure projects. The Transportation Job Corps Act will serve a vital economic function while also securing stable and meaningful work for traditionally underrepresented segments of the population.

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Hang Up on the Telephone Tax (Rep. Gerry Connolly)

Buried in the telephone bills of many Americans is a federal excise tax that was implemented in 1898 to help fund the Spanish-American War. That war ended on December 10, 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, but this 3 percent telephone tax still lives on 111 years later.

Republican Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania has joined with me in sponsoring legislation -- H.R. 2203 -- to repeal this tax on local telephone service, toll telephone service, and teletype exchange service for the disabled. Ironically, the tax was enacted as a tax on the wealthy because in the late 1800s having a telephone was considered a “luxury,” but actually it is particularly regressive and unfair because it targets those citizens who can least afford it.

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