Economy & Budget

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


Making Treasury Accountable (Rep. John Boozman)

I recently signed a discharge petition, which is a process to force a bill out of committee and be brought to the House floor for a vote. H.Res. 251 directs the Secretary of the Treasury to transmit to the House of Representatives, no later than 14 days after the date of the adoption of the resolution, copies of any portions of all Department of the Treasury documents, records, and communications referring or relating to any:

·  Negotiation concerning the controlled break-up of the American International Group, Inc. into at least 3 Government-controlled divisions;

The Economy is a Reason to Enact Immigration Reform Now, Not an Excuse for Delay

Although the economy is rightly the top issue presently for voters and policymakers, critical issues such as immigration reform are being negatively impacted by tunnel vision and lack of initiative in Washington. While the White House and Congressional leaders seek to mollify the Latino voters who played such a key role in recent Democratic electoral victories with promises that they will tackle the issue after they “save” the economy, such rhetoric smacks of patronization and belies the essential role that fixing our broken immigration system will have in supporting long-term U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.

In dealing with the economy Washington has focused solely on the current crisis while turning a blind eye to the much larger challenge just around the corner -- the aging of American society. Immigration will be vital to mitigating the effects of this profound demographic shift if our leaders can muster the courage to tackle the thorny issue, and put aside partisan politics and work together to address it.


Build More Autos Overseas: Marginalize More U.S. Families

The economic structure of Jim Henson’s cartoon realm called Fraggle Rock reflects our own. In one HBO episode, the industrious, hard-hatted Doozers prepare to leave the rock, which would have quickly left the Fraggles starving. Somehow, politicians and powerbrokers in this country don’t see the simple parallel. If the U.S. continues to send its manufacturing overseas -- with the latest proposal General Motors plants -- the result will be hungry U.S. families.

I saw this up close and personal as I toured the U.S. last week on the 11-state, 32-city “Keep it Made in America” bus tour. I talked to unemployed manufacturing workers who are desperate. Through no fault of their own, they’ve lost their jobs, their homes, their health care. These are the people who are the strength of America, who in better times volunteered in New York City after 9-11 and in New Orleans after Katrina. Now, they’re forced to get groceries at their union hall’s food bank. They’re humiliated. This economic crisis was inflicted on them by recklessness on Wall Street and in Washington.


Fight Brewing Over IMF Funding

The Senate Appropriations Committee, in response to a request from the Obama Administration, attached a $108 billion increase in funding for the International Monetary Fund to a supplemental wartime spending bill.

This is a surprising and controversial move, and may succeed in avoiding the hearings and debate that would normally accompany such an important appropriation. In order to make this politically feasible, the administration has argued that the true cost of this $108 billion contribution to the IMF is actually zero. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) did not accept this argument, but presented a figure that is very low; as this goes to press it is reportedly at $5 billion.