Remember the old Grey Poupon TV commercials form the 70s and 80s? Where two stuffy guys in Rolls Royces share Grey Poupon mustard? If you look closely at this updated version you can spot Mitt Romney acting “in character.”
The Susan G Koman Foundation committed institutional suicide this week after cutting off funding for breast cancer exams at Planned Parenthood clinics. Known for its pink ribbons and fundraising events Walk For the Cure and Race For the Cure the non-profit bowed to pressure politics and left poor women with fewer resources for mammograms. In one fell swoop they destroyed a valuable brand which took years to establish. Not only are officials at Komen resigning but contributions to Planned Parenthood have totaled $650,000 so far. The Komen grants were about $700,000/year.
The Foundation is supposed to be about funding breast cancer research, exams, treatment and education. Instead it is now about a Vice President who took office a month before the new policy was instituted and who ran for Governor in Georgia on a platform to defund Planned Parenthood.
As far as disclosure allow me to remind readers of my close affinity with Planned Parenthood. I am a Member of the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, and Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC. I am not without strong opinions on Komen’s decision.
The vast publicity surrounding Komen this week is quickly destroying what was a valuable and effective organization. A niece routinely participated in their three day Walk For A Cure and their pink ribbons were seen everywhere. Now they are being condemned for caving int to an extremist political ideology which hurts women, especially women with breast cancer. Because this goes counter to their stated mission many are left wondering why they elected to make this policy.
Congressman Cliff Hearns (R-FL) is conducting a witch hunt against Planned Parenthood trying to prove federal dollars were used for abortion services. They aren’t. Komen instituted a new policy wherein they refuse grants to any entity under investigation and that is what drove this decision. Curiously they gave Penn State $7.5 million in grants for breast cancer research through the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, part of PSU. Penn State is under federal investigation for not reporting sex crimes on campus in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Funding breast cancer research, education and screening should never be politicized. This is really the fault of conservative extremists bent on destroying Planned Parenthood and attempting to defund us in any way possible. Unfortunately every time they try it backfires and the resulting publicity reminds people how much good we do at Planned Parenthood and how minor a role abortion plays in what we do. Nationally about 3% of all Planned Parenthood care is about abortion services. Here in Pennsylvania it is 5%. The vast majority of what we do are gynecological examinations, cancer screening, family planning, education and other medical services. We test for STD’s, including HIV, have programs for at risk LGBT youth, and educate young people about the actual facts of life in age appropriate ways. Many of our patients are poor women, college students and minorities. We are often their only source for health care.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation would cut off many of these poor women from breast cancer screenings. This is completely against their stated mission as it would actually increase the number of women dying from breast cancer. All of this to satisfy a Congressman’s witch hunt and a Foundation VP’s political agenda.
As such millions of people have expressed their outrage. This is all over television, social media and newspapers. It is crippling what was a useful and powerful organization which accomplished much good. Komen will never recover from this debacle and women will be the worse for that. Some folks are even boycotting Energizer batteries because of their contributions to Komen. I think that’s foolish. Energizer had nothing to do with this decision.
This is all part of the Republican war on women and the fact Komen would capitulate is shameful. I was on a conference call with senior White House officials yesterday discussing the controversial decision to force all health insurers to cover contraception. Every question presented was about the archaic Catholic Church and their outrage over the rule. Perhaps if the church entered the seventeenth century it might wake up and realize women aren’t slaves any longer. In the 21st century they have the right to control their own bodies.
If insurance plans cover Viagra why shouldn’t they cover contraception? Perhaps if Catholic priests and bishops stopped molesting children and protecting the child predators in their organization they’d have some moral authority to lord it over parishioners. As such the Church lost all credibility on these issues when they blocked legislation mandating reporting and extending the statute of limitations for child molestation. They moved abusive priests from parish to parish to facilitate the molestations and protect their predator priests. What makes them think they have the moral standing to dictate to women whether or not they can use contraception?
It is a major election year and time women stood up against those engaging in this war against their rights. Remember this when you go to vote in November. Elections do have consequences but only bad ones unless you vote.
Update: Komen reversed their policy late this morning.
You can support what we do at Planned Parenthood and help us elect pro choice legislators at our Pennsylvania website.
by WALTER BRASCH
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, Thursday.
That means there will be an additional six weeks of winter.
Or, it means there will be an early Spring.
It doesn’t make much difference. Phil has an accuracy rate of about 39 percent, according to the StormFax Weather Almanac. That’s probably about the same as TV weather forecasters.
StormFax has tracked Phil’s predictions since 1897, the year he (with the help of the Punxsatawney Spirit) made his first trip to Gobbler’s Knob, about two miles from the town in the northwest part of Pennsylvania.
The name, Punxsutawney, is probably derived from an Algonquin or Delaware Indian name which loosely translates as “village of sand fleas.” The name, Phil, is a tribute to Philip Freas, a staff writer for the Spirit, who wrote dozens of stories about what would become one of the most enduring tourism attractions in the country.
The festival is based upon a German superstition and a Celtic celebration. The superstition relates to hibernating animals; when they leave their den, if they see their shadow, it’s six more weeks of winter; if they don’t, it’s an early spring. The Celtic festival (known as Imbolc) was midway between the winter solstice (usually about Dec. 21-22), and the Spring Equinox (usually March 20). The date set for Phil’s annual prediction is always Feb. 2, midway between the beginning of Winter and the beginning of Spring. This, of course, means that among the millions who now watch the ceremony in person, by webcam, or on the TV news, none are groundhogs. Except for Phil, they hibernate in well-constructed underground burrows from October to early Spring.
The name, woodchuck, an alternate for groundhog, is probably from “wojak,” a Native American word.
The second most famous ground hog is Gus. Unlike the furry Phil, who lives with his wife, Phyllis, in a library for most of the year, Gus is a cute little animatronic animal whose primary mission is to lure Pennsylvanians to spend money on the state lottery. Television commercials have assured Gus of his own celebrity. However, unlike Phil, he doesn’t make personal appearances.
Groundhogs in captivity have life spans that average 10-14 years. However, faced by several predators-including wolves, coyotes, foxes, owls, hawks, eagles and man-groundhogs usually live only two or three years in the wild.
Phil and Gus are just about the only two groundhogs that people feel any warmth for. The Pennsylvania Game Commission treats groundhogs as nuisance animals. Every day but Sunday is open season on the animals that weigh only about five to nine pounds. Even a cursory look at Google shows that several hundred thousand posts about groundhogs focus upon ways to kill them, with thousands of people bragging about how many they killed, and with what kind of trap, gas, or gun. There is no fur or meat value to humans.
Hunters and trappers kill groundhogs near roads and fields, and go from farm to farm. However, hunters and trappers often believe that in their own enjoyment of killing a gentle species that poses no threat to humans they may be doing some kind of a service to mankind. Many believe that killing groundhogs will keep them from overpopulating the environment. However, such is not the case. “Studies show that even when all the woodchucks are trapped out of an area, others from surrounding areas quickly move into the vacated niche,” says Laura J. Simon, field director for the Urban Wildlife Program of the Humane Society of the United States. But there is also another problem. In Spring and Summer, baby groundhogs live in the underground tunnels. Killing their mother will lead them to starve to death.
Natural predators keep the balance of nature to reduce overpopulation. Like most animals, groundhogs have a sense that allows them to breed to keep the species alive in areas of extreme danger; as the danger is removed, instead of breeding, groundhogs will actually stabilize population growth. Hunters and farmers claim groundhogs leave holes that can damage tractors or cause injuries to horses and livestock. However, the perceived reality of that happening may be far greater than the actual risk, according to Simon.
The second major reason people kill groundhogs is because of fear. “At least half the calls we get,” says Simon, “is because people are afraid that groundhogs will attack them.” But, groundhogs, says Simon, “are benign shy animals that will retreat to their burrows when they see humans, even small children, coming close.”
The third major reason people want to kill groundhogs is because the animals, in search for food, will destroy gardens. Ironically, the deforestation of America has allowed groundhogs to flourish. They prefer to build their complex multi-level burrows on open ground at the edge of forests. This open view gives them protection from predators, while providing sources for their appetite for grub, grasshoppers, earthworms, berries, and various fruits and some vegetables; for water, they eat grasses and leaves. But as agricultural land is also destroyed to allow the construction of everything from parking lots to condos to supermarkets, groundhogs, like most species, are shoved from their own homes. That’s when homeowners see the holes in their lawns and some garden crops chewed up. Animal-friendly gardeners will plant extra so animals and humans can share the food.
Some of the methods to get rid of groundhogs cause more injuries to humans than to groundhogs. People have also used broken glass or poured concrete into the entrance and exit holes of the burrows. But, these methods, says Simon, don’t work.
There are several non-lethal humane ways to effectively discourage the animals. One of the best is to enclose the garden in a three foot high mesh fence, “with the top part left wobbly to discourage the animals from climbing,” says Simon. To discourage groundhogs from burrowing under the garden and then coming up to munch, the Humane Society advises homeowners to purchase a four-foot tall roll of green garden fencing. The lower 12 inches of mesh should be bent at a 90 degree angle and run parallel to the ground, away from the garden, to create a “false bottom,” and secured to the ground by landscaping staples. Homeowners can also discourage groundhogs by placing objects that reflect sunlight and continually move in the breeze, such as tethered Mylar party balloons. Simon says ones with big eyes “seem to work best because they create a predator image.”
Groundhogs and people can co-exist, with neither harming the other. Killing groundhogs just because we can is never a good reason.
[For further information about humane methods to deal with groundhogs, contact the Humane Society at www.hsus.org or by phone at 203-393-1050. Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist. His latest book is the critically acclaimed mystery thriller, Before the First Snow.]
Legislative inaction on a natural gas drilling tax has cost Pennsylvania $300 million in lost revenue, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
Our Drilling Tax Ticker tracks the revenue Pennsylvania has lost since October 1, 2009 by not having a tax in place. It shot past $300 million Monday morning.
State cuts announced in January to services ranging from help for victims of domestic violence to hospital trauma centers to prekindergarten could have been avoided if the Legislature had enacted a drilling tax.
Plus, the $300 million in lost revenue may be just the beginning. Reuters reported last week that a Marcellus Shale “impact fee” bill now before the state Legislature could cost $24 billion to $48 billion in lost revenue over the next 20 years.
$24 billion? Yes. Reuters calculated that at current gas prices a Pennsylvania shale well would generate $2.4 million over 20 years under a tax comparable to West Virginia’s. By comparison, an impact fee approved by the state Senate would generate only $360,000 over that 20-year period.
Based on an industry estimate that Pennsylvania will have 11,500 wells operating by 2020, Reuters determined that Pennsylvania will lose at least $24 billion in gas revenues over 20 years – and much more if natural gas prices rise.
Keep in mind that across the country, 98% of natural gas is produced in states that have drilling taxes or fees. In many energy-producing states, that revenue supports services like education and health care, funds environmental conservation and protection, and mitigates the impact of drilling on local communities.
As Reuters put it:
Given the fiscal challenges of Pennsylvania, it would seem important to earn as much revenue as possible for the state’s natural resources. Maybe it’s time for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to revisit the issue and really determine how much impact this fee will have.
Seeking to calm voters still angry over bank bailouts, unprosecuted felons on Wall Street and little to no effective relief for individual homeowners Barack Obama is attempting to kick start programs for them. Much of the rebellion we saw in the 2010 elections was due to this pent up anger. People watched as trillions of dollars went to bail out bankers who caused all the economic misery an dlittle to none to them. Programs that were announced were little more than window dressing as banks gave lip service to aiding those facing foreclosure at the same time they were engaging in yet more widespread fraud against them.
President Obama is aware he must, at the minimum, be seen as confronting these issues before November. In the past, flush with campaign coffers filled with contributions from Goldman Sachs, he gave a good speech but didn’t do much. Now he must be seen as going after the crooks and doing something substantial for homeowners. If not he’ll have additional Tea Party members in Congress.
People are angry and justifiably so. They see both major Parties beholden to the bankers and the 1% while no one is watching out for them save OWS. If it takes an election to frighten the President into doing something then let’s have at it. Today the White House announced initiatives designed to quell this anger and frustration. One additional solution would be the refinancing of our HEMAP program here in Pennsylvania. Federal money specifically directed to such successful operations would be a help. This has to be cash Gov. Gasbag cannot touch, cut or reallocate. The program outlined today, courtesy of the White House:
Key Aspects of the President’s Plan
· Broad Based Refinancing to Help Responsible Borrowers Save an Average of $3,000 per Year: The President’s plan will provide borrowers who are current on their payments with an opportunity to refinance and take advantage of historically low interest rates, cutting through the red tape that prevents these borrowers from saving hundreds of dollars a month and thousands of dollars a year. This plan, which is paid for by a financial fee so that it does not add a dime to the deficit, will:
o Provide access to refinancing for all non-GSE borrowers who are current on their payments and meet a set of simple criteria.
o Streamline the refinancing process for all GSE borrowers who are current on their loans.
o Give borrowers the chance to rebuild equity through refinancing.
· Homeowner Bill of Rights: The President is putting forward a single set of standards to make sure borrowers and lenders play by the same rules, including:
o Access to a simple mortgage disclosure form, so borrowers understand the loans they are taking out.
o Full disclosure of fees and penalties.
o Guidelines to prevent conflicts of interest that end up hurting homeowners.
o Support to keep responsible families in their homes and out of foreclosure.
o Protection for families against inappropriate foreclosure, including right of appeal.
· First Pilot Sale to Transition Foreclosed Property into Rental Housing to Help Stabilize Neighborhoods and Improve Home Prices: The FHFA, in conjunction with Treasury and HUD, is announcing a pilot sale of foreclosed properties to be transitioned into rental housing.
· Moving the Market to Provide a Full Year of Forbearance for Borrowers Looking for Work: Following the Administration’s lead, major banks and the GSEs are now providing up to 12 months of forbearance to unemployed borrowers.
· Pursuing a Joint Investigation into Mortgage Origination and Servicing Abuses: This effort marshals new resources to investigate misconduct that contributed to the financial crisis under the leadership of federal and state co-chairs.
· Rehabilitating Neighborhoods and Reducing Foreclosures: In addition to the steps outlined above, the Administration is expanding eligibility for HAMP to reduce additional foreclosures, increasing incentives for modifications that help borrowers rebuild equity, and is proposing to put people back to work rehabilitating neighborhoods through Project Rebuild.
1. Broad Based Refinancing Plan
Millions of homeowners who are current on their mortgages and could benefit from today’s low interest rates face substantial barriers to refinancing through no fault of their own. Sometimes homeowners with good credit and clean payment histories are rejected because their mortgages are underwater. In other cases, they are rejected because the banks are worried that they will be left taking losses, even where Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac insure these new mortgages. In the end, these responsible homeowners are stuck paying higher interest rates, costing them thousands of dollars a year.
To address this challenge, the President worked with housing regulators this fall to take action without Congress to make millions of Americans eligible for lower interest rates. However, there are still millions of responsible Americans who continue to face steep barriers to low-cost, streamlined refinancing. So the President is now calling on Congress to open up opportunities to refinancing for responsible borrowers who are current on their payments.
Under the proposal, borrowers with loans insured by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (i.e. GSE-insured loans) will have access to streamlined refinancing through the GSEs. Borrowers with standard non-GSE loans will have access to refinancing through a new program run through the FHA. For responsible borrowers, there will be no more barriers and no more excuses.
Key components of the President’s plan include:
· Providing Non-GSE Borrowers Access to Simple, Low-Cost Refinancing: President Obama is calling on Congress to pass legislation to establish a streamlined refinancing program. The refinancing program will be open to all non-GSE borrowers with standard (non-jumbo) loans who have been keeping up with their mortgage payments. The program will be operated through the FHA.
Simple and straightforward eligibility criteria: Any borrower with a loan that is not currently guaranteed by the GSEs can qualify if they meet the following criteria:
· They are current on their mortgage: Borrowers will need to have been current on their loan for the past 6 months and have missed no more than one payment in the 6 months prior.
· They meet a minimum credit score. Borrowers must have a current FICO score of 580 to be eligible. Approximately 9 in 10 borrowers have a credit score adequate to meet that requirement.
· They have a loan that is no larger than the current FHA conforming loan limits in their area: Currently, FHA limits vary geographically with the median area home price – set at $271,050 in lowest cost areas and as high as $729,750 in the highest cost areas
· The loan they are refinancing is for a single family, owner-occupied principal residence. This will ensure that the program is focused on responsible homeowners trying to stay in their homes.
Streamlined application process: Borrowers will apply through a streamlined process designed to make it simpler and less expensive for borrowers and lenders to refinance. Borrowers will not be required to submit a new appraisal or tax return. To determine a borrower’s eligibility, a lender need only confirm that the borrower is employed. (Those who are not employed may still be eligible if they meet the other requirements and present limited credit risk. However, a lender will need to perform a full underwriting of these borrowers to determine whether they are a good fit for the program.)
Program parameters to reduce program cost: The President’s plan includes additional steps to reduce program costs, including:
· Establishing loan-to-value limits for these loans. The Administration will work with Congress to establish risk-mitigation measures which could include requiring lenders interested in refinancing deeply underwater loans (e.g. greater than 140 LTV) to write down the balance of these loans before they qualify. This would reduce the risk associated with the program and relieve the strain of negative equity on the borrower.
· Creating a separate fund for new streamlined refinancing program. This will help the FHA better track and manage the risk involved and ensure that it has no effect on the operation of the existing Mutual Mortgage Insurance (MMI) fund.
EXAMPLE: How Refinancing Can Benefit a Borrower With a Non-GSE Loan
Ø A borrower has a non-GSE mortgage originated in 2005 with a 6 percent rate and an initial balance of $300,000 – resulting in monthly payments of about $1,800.
Ø The outstanding balance is now about $272,000 and the borrower’s home is now worth $225,000, leaving the borrower underwater (with a loan-to-value ratio of about 120%).
Ø Though the borrower has been paying his mortgage on time, he cannot refinance at today’s historically low rates.
Ø Under the President’s legislative plan, the borrower would be eligible to refinance into a 4.25% percent 30-year loan, which would reduce monthly payments by about $460 a month.
· Refinancing Plan Will Be Fully Paid For By a Portion of Fee on Largest Financial Institutions: The Administration estimates the cost of its refinancing plan will be in the range of $5 to $10 billion, depending on exact parameters and take-up. This cost will be fully offset by using a portion of the President’s proposed Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee, which imposes a fee on the largest financial institutions based on their size and the riskiness of their activities – ensuring that the program does not add a dime to the deficit.
· Fully Streamlining Refinancing for All GSE Borrowers: The Administration has worked with the FHFA to streamline the GSEs’ refinancing program for all responsible, current GSE borrowers. The FHFA has made important progress to-date, including eliminating the restriction on allowing deeply underwater borrowers to access refinancing, lowering fees associated with refinancing, and making it easier to access refinancing with lower closing costs.
To build on this progress, the Administration is calling on Congress to enact additional changes that will benefit homeowners and save taxpayers money by reducing the number of defaults on GSE loans. We believe these steps are within the existing authority of the FHFA. However, to date, the GSEs have not acted, so the Administration is calling on Congress to do what is in the taxpayer’s interest, by:
a. Eliminating appraisal costs for all borrowers: Borrowers who happen to live in communities without a significant number of recent home sales often have to get a manual appraisal to determine whether they are eligible for refinancing into a GSE guaranteed loan, even under the HARP program. Under the Administration’s proposal, the GSEs would be directed to use mark-to-market accounting or other alternatives to manual appraisals for any loans for which the loan-to-value cannot be determined with the GSE’s Automated Valuation Model. This will eliminate a significant barrier that will reduce cost and time for borrowers and lenders alike.
b. Increasing competition so borrowers get the best possible deal: Today, lenders looking to compete with the current servicer of a borrower’s loan for that borrower’s refinancing business continue to face barriers to participating in HARP. This lack of competition means higher prices and less favorable terms for the borrower. The President’s legislative plan would direct the GSEs to require the same streamlined underwriting for new servicers as they do for current servicers, leveling the playing field and unlocking competition between banks for borrowers’ business.
c. Extending streamlined refinancing for all GSE borrowers: The President’s plan would extend these steps to streamline refinancing for homeowners to all GSE borrowers. Those who have significant equity in their home – and thus present less credit risk – should benefit fully from all streamlining, including lower fees and fewer barriers. This will allow more borrowers to take advantage of a program that provides streamlined, low-cost access to today’s low interest rates – and make it easier and more automatic for servicers to market and promote this program for all GSE borrowers.
· Giving Borrowers the Chance to Rebuild Equity in their Homes Through Refinancing: All underwater borrowers who decide to participate in either HARP or the refinancing program through the FHA outlined above will have a choice: they can take the benefit of the reduced interest rate in the form of lower monthly payments, or they can apply that savings to rebuilding equity in their homes. The latter course, when combined with a shorter loan term of 20 years, will give the majority of underwater borrowers the chance to get back above water within five years, or less.
To encourage borrowers to make the decision to rebuild equity in their homes, we are proposing that the legislation provide for the GSEs and FHA to cover the closing costs of borrowers who chose this option – a benefit averaging about $3,000 per homeowner. To be eligible, a participant in either program must agree to refinance into a loan with a no more than 20 year term with monthly payments roughly equal to those they make under their current loan. For those who agree to these terms, the lender will receive payment for all closing costs directly from the GSEs or the FHA, depending on the entity involved.
EXAMPLE: How Rebuilding Equity Can Benefit a Borrower
Ø A borrower has a 6.5 percent $214,000 30-year mortgage originated in 2006. It now has an outstanding balance of $200,000, but the house is worth $160,000 (a loan-to-value ratio of 125). The monthly payment on this mortgage is $1,350.
Ø While this borrower is responsibly paying her monthly mortgage, she is locked out of refinancing.
Ø By refinancing into a 4.25 percent 30-year mortgage loan, this borrower will reduce her monthly payment by $370. However, after five years her mortgage balance will remain at $182,000.
Ø Under the rebuilding equity program, the borrower would refinance into a 20-year mortgage at 3.75 percent and commit her monthly savings to paying down principal. After five years, her mortgage balance would decline to $152,000, bringing the borrower above water.
Ø If the borrower took this option, the GSEs or FHA would also cover her closing costs – potentially saving her about $3,000.
· Streamlined Refinancing for Rural America: The Agriculture Department, which supports mortgage financing for thousands of rural families a year, is taking steps to further streamline its USDA-to-USDA refinancing program. This program is designed to provide those who currently have loans insured by the Department of Agriculture with a low-cost, streamlined process for refinancing into today’s low rates. The Administration is announcing that the Agriculture Department will further streamline this program by eliminating the requirement for a new appraisal, a new credit report and other documentation normally required in a refinancing. To be eligible, a borrower need only demonstrate that he or she has been current on their loan.
· Streamlined Refinancing for FHA Borrowers: Like the Agriculture Department, the Federal Housing Authority is taking steps to make it easier for borrowers with loans insured by their agency to obtain access to low-cost, streamlined refinancing. The current FHA-to-FHA streamlined refinance program allows FHA borrowers who are current on their mortgage to refinance into a new FHA-insured loan at today’s lower interest rates without requiring a full re-underwrite of the loan, thereby providing a simple way for borrowers to reduce their mortgage payments.
However, some borrowers who would be eligible for low-cost refinancing through this program are being denied by lenders reticent to make loans that may compromise their status as FHA-approved lenders. To resolve this issue, the FHA is removing these loans from their “Compare Ratio”, the process by which the performance of these lenders is reviewed. This will open the program up to many more families with FHA-insured loans.
2. Homeowner Bill of Rights
EXAMPLE: How Rebuilding Equity Can Benefit a Borrower:
The Administration believes that the mortgage servicing system is badly broken and would benefit from a single set of strong federal standards As we have learned over the past few years, the nation is not well served by the inconsistent patchwork of standards in place today, which fails to provide the needed support for both homeowners and investors. The Administration believes that there should be one set of rules that borrowers and lenders alike can follow. A fair set of rules will allow lenders to be transparent about options and allow borrowers to meet their responsibilities to understand the terms of their commitments.
The Administration will therefore work closely with regulators, Congress and stakeholders to create a more robust and comprehensive set of rules that better serves borrowers, investors, and the overall housing market. These rules will be driven by the following set of core principles:
· Simple, Easy to Understand Mortgage Forms: Every prospective homeowner should have access to clear, straightforward forms that help inform rather than confuse them when making what is for most families their most consequential financial purchase. To help fulfill this objective, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is in the process of developing a simple mortgage disclosure form to be used in all home loans, replacing overlapping and complex forms that include hidden clauses and opaque terms that families cannot understand.
· No Hidden Fees and Penalties: Servicers must disclose to homeowners all known fees and penalties in a timely manner and in understandable language, with any changes disclosed before they go into effect.
· No Conflicts of Interest: Servicers and investors must implement standards that minimize conflicts of interest and facilitate coordination and communication, including those between multiple investors and junior lien holders, such that loss mitigation efforts are not hindered for borrowers.
· Assistance For At-Risk Homeowners:
o Early Intervention: Servicers must make reasonable efforts to contact every homeowner who has either demonstrated hardship or fallen delinquent and provide them with a comprehensive set of options to help them avoid foreclosure. Every such homeowner must be given a reasonable time to apply for a modification.
o Continuity of Contact: Servicers must provide all homeowners who have requested assistance or fallen delinquent on their mortgage with access to a customer service employee with 1) a complete record of previous communications with that homeowner; 2) access to all documentation and payments submitted by the homeowner; and 3) access to personnel with decision-making authority on loss mitigation options.
o Time and Options to Avoid Foreclosure: Servicers must not initiate a foreclosure action unless they are unable to establish contact with the homeowner after reasonable efforts, or the homeowner has shown a clear inability or lack of interest in pursuing alternatives to foreclosure. Any foreclosure action already under way must stop prior to sale once the servicer has received the required documentation and cannot be restarted unless and until the homeowner fails to complete an application for a modification within a reasonable period, their application for a modification has been denied or the homeowner fails to comply with the terms of the modification received.
· Safeguards Against Inappropriate Foreclosure
o Right of Appeal: Servicers must explain to all homeowners any decision to take action based on a failure by the homeowner to meet their payment obligations and provide a reasonable opportunity to appeal that decision in a formal review process.
o Certification of Proper Process: Prior to a foreclosure sale, servicers must certify in writing to the foreclosure attorney or trustee that appropriate loss mitigation alternatives have been considered and that proceeding to foreclosure sale is consistent with applicable law. A copy of this certification must be provided to the borrower.
The agencies of the executive branch with oversight or other authority over servicing practices
the FHA, the USDA, the VA, and Treasury, through the HAMP program will each take the steps needed in the coming months to implement rules for their programs that are consistent with these standards.
3. Announcement of Initial Pilot Sale in Initiative to Transition Real Estate Owned (REO) Property to Rental Housing to Stabilize Neighborhoods and Improve Housing Prices
When there are vacant and foreclosed homes in neighborhoods, it undermines home prices and stalls the housing recovery. As part of the Administration’s effort to help lay the foundation for a stronger housing recovery, the Department of Treasury and HUD have been working with the FHFA on a strategy to transition REO properties into rental housing. Repurposing foreclosed and vacant homes will reduce the inventory of unsold homes, help stabilize housing prices, support neighborhoods, and provide sustainable rental housing for American families.
Today, the FHFA is announcing the first major pilot sale of foreclosed properties into rental housing. This marks the first of a series of steps that the FHFA and the Administration will take to develop a smart national program to help manage REO properties, easing the pressure of these distressed properties on communities and the housing market.
4. Moving the Market to Provide a Full Year of Forbearance for Borrowers Looking for Work
Last summer, the Administration announced that it was extending the minimum forbearance period that unemployed borrowers in FHA and HAMP would receive on their mortgages to a full year, up from four months in FHA and three months in HAMP. This forbearance period allows borrowers to stay in their homes while they look for jobs, which gives these families a better chance of avoiding default and helps the housing market by reducing the number of foreclosures. Extending this period makes good economic sense as the time it takes the average unemployed American to find work has grown through the course of the housing crisis: nearly 60 percent of unemployed Americans are now out of work for more than four months.
These extensions went into effect for HAMP and the FHA in October. Today the Administration is announcing that the market has followed our lead, finally giving millions of families the time needed to find work before going into default.
· 12-Month Forbearance for Mortgages Owned by the GSEs: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have both announced that lenders servicing their loans can provide up to a year of forbearance for unemployed borrowers, up from 3 months. Between them, Fannie and Freddie cover nearly half of the market, so this alone will extend the relief available for a considerable portion of the nation’s unemployed homeowners.
· Move by Major Servicers to Use 12-Month Forbearance as Default Approach: Key servicers have also followed the Administration’s lead in extending forbearance for the unemployed to a year.
( – promoted by John Morgan)
Mitt Romney is to be commended for his honesty. This ranks right up there with “I like being able to fire people,” and “corporations are people, my friend.” Romney has shown that while he may have the golden touch for all of his personal investment choices, he has a tin ear for politics. Romney doesn’t even bother trying to mask his contempt for non-rich Americans. Once again, Mitt Romney shows he has the same compassion level for the non-rich that the Mel Brooks’ character King Louis did when he was using live peasants for skeet shooting practice.
Here is a new ad that we are in the process of buying national cable TV news for now.
Mitt Romney snagged the few delegates remaining from Florida yesterday but his road to the GOP presidential nomination is not yet clear. Newt Gingrich and his angry white man routine has garnered enough support from racists in South Carolina and elsewhere to be a potential problem. Republicans have been searching for the anti-Mitt with no success thus far. The candidate’s flip flopping on social issues combined with his Mormonism give pause to the Party base. Newt challenged him successfully in SC by running an overtly racist campaign pandering to the South’s blatant racism.
Florida is a different animal however because of all the snowbirds and senior citizens. Interestingly no one in any of the debates there mentioned either Social Security or medicare, both key programs the GOP has sworn to abolish should they win in November. Why the media refused to ask questions about such important programs in such an important state like Florida has many wondering about collusion with the conservative campaigns. Given the number of senior citizens in the Sunshine State it does give me cause to wonder…
Rick Santorum gained but 13.4% of the vote compared with Mitt’s 46.4%, Newt’s 31.9% and Ron Paul’s miniscule 7%. The former Pennsylvanian suffered from early withdrawal after pulling out early to deal with his youngest daughter’s medical issues. Interestingly he lied to the media claiming she was at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) when in reality she was being treated in Virginia. Is there nothing we can trust this man on?
Paul’s campaign is dead in the water though he has enough money to remain in the race and force his Party even further to the abyss of extremism at the convention. His supporters are avid enough to contribute relentlessly.
Newt’s history of being the meanest, nastiest man in Washington is what keeps this contest interesting. His campaign is reflecting th eman himself and his attacks on Romney are fueled with millions poured into the coffers of his super PAC by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The Zionist has pumped $10 million in so far and the effects of huge money is corrupting everything already. Newt always was a pig but now he’s a whore. When someone gives you $10 million they own you. Mitt isn’t much better by taking huge sums himself funneled through his own PAC. If anyone thinks there is no communication between the PAC’s and campaigns you’re fools. The corruption ahead from the effect of these gigantic contributions will be mind boggling. No one gives that much money without the expectation of something in return.