Finance (September 2009)

A reasonable, responsible approach to reforming U.S. healthcare system

Soaring healthcare costs are putting a squeeze on family budgets and small businesses all across our nation. In many corners of America, the cost of health insurance is increasing as much as three times faster than wages. In my home state of North Dakota, for example, it’s projected that by 2016 families will spend $20,000 a year on healthcare — or 41 percent of their income. 

Democracy is a two-way street

During a regular August in Iowa, people are heading toward the swimming pools, school practices and the famous Iowa State Fair. But, this year was no regular August. Iowans were invigorated and were called to action I saw record turnouts at my town meetings. I’ve crisscrossed Iowa holding meetings in each of our 99 counties since I was elected to the Senate and in some counties I saw as many as five times the number of constituents than I would in other years.

One agency, two goals

President Barack Obama went to Wall Street earlier this month to talk about the need to reform the regulation of the nation’s financial system to prevent a future crisis. I was happy that he emphasized the importance of protecting American consumers from risky, deceptive and costly financial “products” — loans with unpredictable, soaring interest rates; unsound investment schemes; credit cards with high fees, and the like.

TARP has left smaller lenders behind, and Americans are paying heavy price

It has now been just over one year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers caused a stock market crash that pushed a global recession into a full-blown economic calamity. In the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, some institutions were deemed too big to fail and the government acted quickly to save them. Economists now believe that the economy is showing signs of recovery, and many of these large financial institutions are repaying the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds that kept them solvent during the crisis.

‘Too big to fail’ means ‘too small to matter’

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of Washington’s unprecedented intervention in our financial markets. Since then, the federal government has spent $180 billion bailing out insurance giant AIG, followed by government-imposed takeovers and mergers of some of our country’s largest banks and financial institutions, the controversial $700 billion bank bailout plan, and the $81 billion bailout of Detroit automakers. This means, within the last year, the federal government has spent almost $1 trillion of American taxpayers’ money bailing out those large financial institutions on Wall Street who made irresponsible choices, claiming these companies pose a systemic risk and are “too big to fail.”

Geithner rejects $1 trillion limit on bailout power

In my questioning of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner before the Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, I focused on the new bailout authority included in the 618-page legislative proposal submitted by the Treasury Department.