Passing Bankruptcy Reform In The Stimulus

Earlier today, David discussed an attempt in Congress to "include a provision to allow judicial modification of mortgages on primary residences," as part of the stimulus package. His post included a "Dear Colleague" letter to members of the U.S. House on the matter. This legislation is key because it would serve as a partial reversal of the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, which remains one of the most odious pieces of legislation passed during the Bush era. Now, I can provide you with some more details on this development.

The current legislation is H.R. 225, the Emergency HOME Protection Act, introduced by Brad Miller. You can read the text of the legislation here.  Its corresponding Senate bill is S 61, introduced by Senator Durbin. Importantly, back in October when he was whipping votes to pass the bailout, then candidate Obama promised to help pass legislation of this nature in order to secure more progressive votes. For example, consider the statement Donna Edwards made on her "yes" vote for the bailout (emphasis mine):

"After speaking with Senator Barack Obama yesterday and with many of our retirees, workers, homeowners and small business owners, I am convinced today that even left with this imperfect product, the choice is this or nothing. For me, doing nothing was never an option. I appreciate the personal commitment that Senator Obama made to me that we will work to provide direct relief to homeowners facing foreclosure by enabling home mortgages to be dealt with in the context of personal bankruptcy and looking at a program such as one that existed in the 1930's to 1950's to work directly with homeowners to mitigate foreclosure.

The bill might already be in the stimulus. Here is a statement from Miller's office that I just received:

We are optimistic that 225 is in stimulus package- we have heard Obama has included, but haven't seen it.

The Citigroup endorsement of the language in the bill is a big boost, optimistic that other major financial institutions will endorse as well.

In the short term, I will now attempt o verify if 225 has already been included in the stimulus. If so, it makes the stimulus significantly more attractive.

If H.R .225 has not already been included in the stimulus, I will look into the strategy to make sure it is included. Once I have it, I think we should develop a strategy to start applying pressure for it. This is a piece of legislation that can make a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of Americans over the next two years. As such, along with the proposed commission to investigate Bush era crimes by John Conyers, this bill makes for a perfect addition to the first edition of the legislative monitoring project we have been discussing on Open Left.

If, like me, you are tired of just opposing legislation in Congress, and you would like to start acting on behalf of good, progressive legislation, then this should be an excellent first opening. It is possible that we won't need to do anything, as it might already be included in the stimulus package, but it strikes me as a nice opening. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.


[Source: RETROGRESSING - Posted by FreeAutoBlogger]

Britain's economy: Combating the recession

The Bank of England cuts interest rates to 1.5%, an all-time low

THE decision made history. On Thursday January 8th the Bank of England cut the base rate from 2% to 1.5%, the lowest since the central bank was founded in 1694. The Bank of England’s mission then was to provide war finance. Its task now is to fight a recession that looks increasingly likely to be the worst since the second world war.

The bank’s latest move means that the base rate has now fallen by an extraordinary 3.5 percentage points since the start of October (see chart). It followed a clutch of closely watched business surveys of purchasing managers that painted a dismal picture of the economy in December. Manufacturing was mired in the deepest downturn since the survey started in 1992. Construction activity plumbed new depths. And activity in private services stayed close to its record low in November. ...


[Source: The Economist: News analysis - Posted by FreeAutoBlogger]

10 Smart Books of 2008: Our Staff Picks

Amid the warp-speed rush of information these days, there’s nothing like a relaxing read to distract from the gloomy headlines — or at least put them into perspective. To help you unwind over the holidays or fill your last-minute gift list, we asked our editors and writers for their favorite books of 2008. Some selections, like the popular “Discover Your Inner Economist,” speak directly to investing and personal finance. But we’ve also rounded out the list with choices that are useful in other ways — or just plain make for good reading.

We’d like to hear about your favorites from 2008, too. Please tell us what you enjoyed reading this year by writing in the comments section below.

Here are our staff picks for 2008:

Finance and Investing

Panic! The Story of Modern Financial Insanity

Editor: Michael Lewis

Picked by: Diana Ransom / Reporter,

If you haven’t quite understood the latest financial crisis that’s been confounding investors for the past 16 months -- and we don’t blame you -- then get this book. Michael Lewis, author of the 1989 memoir “Liar’s Poker,” which self-deprecatingly chronicled his unlikely rise and fall as a bond trader at the height of the 1980s frenzy on Wall Street, compiles about 50 stories of modern financial upheaval. The collection starts with an account -- co-authored by SmartMoney’s Executive Editor, Bob Rose -- of the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash and moves along to the roots of the subprime mortgage crisis. While “Panic” provides little insight on how to get out of this current financial fiasco, readers will surely walk away with a better understanding of Wall Street’s rational irrationality and how it affects investors.

Finance and Investing

Discover Your Inner Economist

Author: Tyler Cowen

Picked by: Kelli B. Grant / Senior Consumer Reporter,

Basic economic principles will help you do more than navigate the stock market. Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, teaches readers to recognize the incentives (financial and otherwise) underlying everyday situations, from a first date to a crucial work meeting, and how to work the particular carrots and sticks to your advantage. Once you understand that appealing to your teenager’s sense of familial obligation to help around the house is a more effective approach than upping his allowance, you’ll have cleaner dishes and a fatter wallet. Now that’s getting the most for your money.

Finance and Investing

The Truth About Avoiding Scams

Author: Steve Weisman

Picked by: Neil Parmar / Staff Writer, SmartMoney magazine

As the latest allegations about Bernard Madoff and his Ponzi Scheme hedge fund remind us, no matter what the state of the economy, get-rich schemers and scam artists will prey on consumers who don’t know how to keep themselves from becoming victims. Fortunately, Weisman’s reporting reveals some of the most common conmen’s gambits and suggestions to avoid them. The book helps readers of all ages, from college students considering getting a new credit card to retirees worried about medical identity theft. Each of the 12 sections are sprinkled with tips for readers who might want to jot down a few points, then pass the book onto a friend. (I’d give you mine, but I’ve already taken a highlighter to it.)

Finance and Investing

The Art of the Trade: What I Learned Trading the Chicago Futures Markets

Author: Jason Alan Jankovsky

Picked by: Jonathan Hoenig, columnist and managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC

In the investment game, you don’t battle the market as much as your own psychology. And nestled in between the “7 Steps to Financial Success” and guides to “Sure-Fire Trading” comes this thoughtful and brutally-honest read chronicling the invaluable experience gained in the world’s most competitive marketplace. As a former Chicago floor trader myself, I was impressed with his ability to nail the emotional rollercoaster unique to the futures game. Most people lose money in the markets because they treat them as a game. Jankovsky’s book is one of the few that moves beyond investment tips and equips readers with the psychological foundation necessary to survive most market environments…even one like 2008.

In the Office

Beyond Bullsh*t: Straight-Talk at Work

Author: Samuel Culbert

Picked by: Matt Heimer / Deputy Editor, SmartMoney magazine

Bullsh*tting, as the philosopher Harry Frankfurt recently pointed out, isn’t the same thing as lying. Unlike a liar, who knows the truth but says its opposite, a bullsh*tter merely says whatever’s expedient, whether true or false, to suit his purpose in the moment. That’s why bullsh*t is so prevalent in the workplace, where appeasing your boss or rebuffing a persistent colleague often takes precedence over telling the truth. In this short, slightly self-helpish but admirably clear book, Culbert, a UCLA management professor, succinctly diagnoses why bullsh*tting can become such a drag on the effectiveness of a business, a relationship and even a society. And, as we watch Wall Street executives tie themselves in knots trying to explain why record losses should be rewarded with “retention payments,” it feels particularly relevant right now.

In the Office

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day

Author: Studs Terkel

Picked by: Matt Heimer / Deputy Editor, SmartMoney magazine

As America struggles to extricate itself from a costly, unpopular war, the political classes fret over environmental catastrophe and dependence on foreign oil. Meanwhile, the economy is going into the tank, thanks to the woes of the manufacturing sector and a brutal downturn in the stock market. Last Thursday? No, 1974, when Studs Terkel’s oral-history compilation "Working" was originally published. Terkel interviewed hundreds of people about their work – tape recording tennis pros and CEOs, bartenders and housewives – then stitched their transcribed remarks into an account of the joys and absurdities of making a living in an uncertain world. Sure, some elements feel dated: cheap shots at Nixon, obsolete professions like elevator operator and the paucity of women in major professional roles. But the economic anxieties of an earlier generation remain timely, which is why we’ve grandfathered in this doorstop classic on our 2008 list.

In the Oval Office

Dreams From My Father

Author: Barack Obama

Picked by: Brad Reagan / Staff writer, SmartMoney magazine

Before the election, there was understandable curiosity among readers about where the charismatic junior senator from Illinois actually came from. And this book, first published in 2004, retains real relevance as a rare unvarnished look into the formative years of a national political figure. Now that he’s charged with guiding the country out of its economic funk, it’s equally instructive about where he might be taking us. For all his beautiful language – and he truly is a gifted writer – Obama reveals himself to be more of a pragmatist than an idealist.

In the Oval Office

Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861

Author: Harold Holzer

Picked by: Jonathan Dahl / Editor in Chief, SmartMoney magazine

This fall release is a great companion read to current events with President-elect Obama — though obviously a bad economy isn’t quite the same thing as a brewing civil war. Still, the parallels are interesting: A lame-duck, unpopular president (then: James Buchanan) whose hands were more or less tied when it came to solving the great national crisis. There’s an interesting contrast, too. Lincoln generally kept out of the fray until he actually took office, compared with Obama’s proactive steps.

In the Kitchen

How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition)

Author: Mark Bittman

Picked by: Tom Weber / Editor,

Trying to eat more meals at home these days? Penny-pinching isn’t the best reason to have Bittman’s masterpiece in your kitchen. But if that helps motivate you to discover — or rediscover — the simple and healthy pleasure of cooking, so be it. Bittman, who writes a recipe column called “The Minimalist” for The New York Times, stresses a building-from-basics method: Master the key technique for a recipe, then vary it according to your own likes and whims. In this revised edition, that approach is more evident than ever. After you’ve spent some time with this book, you’ll find yourself scanning your kitchen and envisioning what you could prepare from what’s around. That sense of mastery is rewarding in itself. But hey, it’s thrifty too.

In the Streets

Lush Life

Author: Richard Price

Picked by: Will Swarts / Reporter,

Worlds collide on the Lower East Side of New York, which gave Price a ripped-from-the-headlines plot when a young actress was shot and killed there in a 2005 mugging gone wrong. Price has a matchless ear for the dialogue heard among the urban tribes of precinct cops, artistically aspiring hipsters and residents of the housing projects on the edges of the gentrifying neighborhood. He weaves them together in the murky account of the shooting of a young bartender during a late-night robbery, crafting a novel that’s as much keenly observed reportage as narrative, focusing on the detectives, the muggers, the bereaved family and Eric Cash, who was at the shooting scene and finds himself in the glare of police suspicion. If it drags a little in sections, "Lush Life" also evokes of the ceaseless pulse of New York, seen through a few sharply-etched fictional inhabitants.

SMARTMONEY ® Layout and look and feel of are trademarks of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and Hearst SM Partnership. © 1995 - 2009 SmartMoney. All Rights Reserved.


[Source: - Consumer Action - Posted by FreeAutoBlogger]