Friday, May 31, 2013

Voted Off the Island: Michele Bachmann

I didn't expect an early Christmas gift in May, but I got one when MN Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced her retirement from politics.

Bachmann won an open House seat in the 2006 Congressional race and has served for the past eight years, representing the 6th Congressional District of Minnesota. She was reelected in 2008. Previously, she served in the Minnesota State Senate. Prior to that, she spent five years as a federal tax litigation attorney. Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, who have five children and have opened their home to 23 foster children, live in Stillwater, Minn., and own a mental health care practice.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fighting for Freedom: A History of Service

Dorrie Miller

African-Americans have every reason to celebrate Memorial Day. Blacks held their first Memorial Day parade in 1865 and recognize the services of our men and women in uniform throughout our country's history. Craving freedom, just as every other American, we have demonstrated our willingness to fight and die for it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

African Americans: 2013 Financial Progress and Challenges

According to Prudential’s 2013 "African American Financial Experience" study, the African American community is continuing to make financial progress and to feel confident about the future, with a confidence score significantly higher than the general population. But this community is still facing significant challenges, including debt, competing financial priorities, and greater support of family.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The 27th Amendment Impacts Money Issues

Okay, here's your question: What is the 27th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution? Is that a blank stare I see on your face?  It was ratified on May 7, 1992 and probably isn't as well known as some other amendments.

It reads:
“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

In short, a sitting Congress can’t change its pay while it is in session for two years. But it can give the next Congress a raise. The amendment was proposed back in 1789 by James Madison along with other amendments that became the Bill of Rights, but it took 203 years for it to become the law of the land.

Members of the House and Senate are immune to pay cuts and furloughs, unlike many other government workers, because such cuts would change their pay while Congress is in session—in violation of the 27th Amendment.

Congress hasn’t seen a pay hike since 2009. Its members are now paid $174,000 per year on average.
If Congress had accepted a cost-of-living raise for the past four years, its average compensation would be $183,000 a year based on COLA estimates, or an 8 percent raise from 2008.

In March, some House representatives introduced bills that would cut the pay of the next Congress by at least 8 percent, an amount equivalent to the cuts to other workers’ pay triggered by the sequester. In April, Don Barber, a U.S. House representative from Arizona, pushed for a 20 percent pay cut for Congress in its next term.

Despite Congress’ low approval ratings, not everyone thinks Congress deserves a pay freeze or pay cut. One person who endorsed a small pay raise for Congress was President Obama, who signed an executive order late last year that gave House and Senate members a 1 percent raise as part of hike for federal workers. Just as they do for everything the President proposes, Congress rejected the offer.

Time will tell whether the sequester, budget battles and other congressional issues impact views on compensation for legislators.

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Hampshire's Big Mistake: Kelly Ayotte

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) strolled into the national spotlight when she was mentioned as a dark horse Republican VP candidate to run with Mitt Romney and then again when she joined with Senator John McCain and Lindsay Graham in the "rape and assassination" of United  Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. Now, Ayotte makes news again with her vote against the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey bill to expand gun background checks. What I've seen and heard from this Senator makes me think that New Hampshire voters made a big mistake in sending Kelly Ayotte to Washington.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

New Obama Nominees: Melvin Watt and Tom Wheeler

President Barack Obama intends to nominate Rep. Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator that oversees lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

If confirmed by the Senate for the FHFA post, Watt, D-N.C., a 20-year veteran of the House, would replace Edward DeMarco, an appointee of President George W. Bush who has been a target of housing advocates, liberal groups and Democratic lawmakers.

Watt represents the Charlotte area, home base of behemoth Bank of America Corp. He becomes yet another high-profile African-American and the second North Carolinian nominated by Obama in three days to a top government post. On Monday, Obama nominated Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, to head the Transportation Department.

Watt, who has a consistently liberal voting record, is expected to face Republican opposition to his confirmation. The White House was already lining up supporters who might hold some sway with GOP senators.

Watt’s nomination comes at a crucial time for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government sponsored mortgage-finance enterprises that the government rescued at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008 as they teetered neared collapse from losses on soured mortgage loans.
Taxpayers have spent about $170 billion to rescue the companies. So far, they have repaid a combined $55.2 billion.

Fannie and Freddie together own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, or nearly 31 million home loans. Those loans are worth more than $5 trillion. Along with other federal agencies, they back roughly 90 percent of new mortgages.

The nomination also comes as the housing industry is making a comeback. Home prices are up, foreclosures are down and housing construction is on the rise. Moreover, Fannie Mae had its biggest yearly profit last year, earning $17.2 billion.

This nomination comes nearly a year after DeMarco, who has been acting director, stood by a decision to bar Fannie and Freddie from reducing principal for borrowers at risk of foreclosure, resisting pressure from the administration. DeMarco long has opposed allowing the mortgage giants to offer principal reduction.

In March, attorneys general from nine states, led by Democrats Eric Schneiderman of New York and Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, sent Obama a letter saying that under DeMarco, Fannie and Freddie have been a “direct impediment to our economic recovery.”

White House Officials say that President Obama plans to nominate Tom Wheeler as the country’s top telecommunications regulator. He is expected to name FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn to serve as acting chairwoman while Wheeler awaits Senate confirmation.

Wheeler is former head of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association and the National Cable Television Association. Since 2005, he has been a venture capitalist at Core Capital Partners. Wheeler would replace outgoing chairman Julius Genachowski, who announced in March he would be stepping down.