Last Build Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600Copyright: Copyright 2009
Wed, 25 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600The House passed the "Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act" -- or the GIVE Act -- last week. The Senate took up the companion SERVE Act Tuesday afternoon. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate bill (S.277), it would cost "$418 million in 2010 and about $5.7 billion over the 2010-2014 period." Like most federal programs, these would be sure to grow over time. The bills reauthorize the Clinton-era AmeriCorps boondoggle program and the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973. The programs have already been allocated $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2009, including $200 million from the porkulus package signed into law last month. In addition to recruiting up to 250,000 enrollees in AmeriCorps, the GIVE/SERVE bills would create new little armies of government volunteers, including a Clean Energy Corps, Education Corps, Healthy Futures Corps, Veterans Service Corps, and an expanded National Civilian Community Corps for disaster relief and energy conservation. But that's not all. Spending would include new funds for: -- Foster Grandparent Program ($115 million); -- Learn and Serve America ($97 million); -- Retired and Senior Volunteer Program ($70 million); -- Senior Companion Program ($55 million); -- $12 million for each of fiscal years 2010 through 2014 for "the Silver Scholarships and Encore Fellowships programs"; -- $10 million a year from 2010 through 2014 for a new "Volunteers for Prosperity" program at USAID to "award grants to fund opportunities for volunteering internationally in coordination with eligible organizations"; and -- Social Innovation Fund and Volunteer Generation Fund -- $50 million in 2010; $60 million in 2011; $70 million in 2012; $80 million in 2013; and $100 million in 2014. Social Innovation Fund? If that sounds familiar, it should. I reported last fall on the Democratic Party platform's push to fund a "Social Investment Fund Network" that would reward "social entrepreneurs and leading nonprofit organizations" and "support results-oriented innovators." It is essentially a special taxpayer-funded pipeline for radical liberal groups backed by billionaire George Soros that masquerade as public-interest do-gooders. Especially troublesome to parents' groups concerned about compulsory volunteerism requirements is a provision in the House version directing Congress to explore "whether a workable, fair and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic and educational backgrounds." Those who have watched AmeriCorps from its inception are all too familiar with how government volunteerism programs have been used for propaganda and political purposes. AmeriCorps "volunteers" have been put to work lobbying against the voter-approved three-strikes anti-crime initiative in California and protesting Republican political events while working for the already heavily tax-subsidized liberal advocacy group ACORN. D.C. watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste also documented national service volunteers lobbying for rent control, expanded federal housing subsidies and enrollment of more women in the Women, Infants and Children welfare program. AmeriCorps volunteers have also been paid to shuffle paper at the Department of Justice, the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Legal Services Corporation and the National Endowment for the Arts. (Now, imagine Obama's troops being sent overseas -- out of sight and unaccountable -- as part of that $10 million a year USAID/Volunteers for Prosperity program. Egad.) One vigilant House member, GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx, successfully attached an amendment t[...]
Fri, 20 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600
Taxpayers might be less skeptical of the born-again guardians of fiscal responsibility if these evangelists were actually practicing what they preached. While the Obama administration now issues impassioned calls to stop rewarding failure, they moved Thursday to dump another $5 billion into the failing auto industry. That's on top of Thursday's announcement by the Federal Reserve to print $1 trillion to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage securities sold by the government -- which no one else wants to buy.
Financial blogger Barry Ritholtz tallied up $8.5 trillion in bailout costs by December 2008 between Federal Reserve, FDIC, Treasury and Federal Housing Administration rescues (not including the $5.2 trillion in Fannie and Freddie portfolios that the U.S. taxpayer is now explicitly responsible for). Then there's the (at least) $50 billion proposed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in February to bail out home owners and lenders who made bad home loan decisions, which would be just a small sliver of the $2.5 trillion he wants to spend on the next big banking bailout, which would draw on the second $350 billion of the TARP package over which an increasing number of Chicken Little lawmakers are having buyer's remorse.
Phew. We're not done yet: As AIG-bashing lawmakers inveighed against wasted taxpayer funds and lamented the lack of accountability and rush to judgment that led to passage of the porkulus bill that mysteriously protected the bonuses, the Senate quietly passed a $10 billion lands bill stuffed with earmarks and immunized from amendments. GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, fiscal conservative loner, pointed out that none of the provisions for special-interest pork projects -- including $3.5 million in spending for a birthday bash celebrating the city of St. Augustine, Fla. -- was subject to public hearings. That's on top of the pork-stuffed $410 billion spending bill passed two weeks ago.
Oh, and did I mention that the House passed a $6 billion volunteerism bill (the "GIVE Act") on Wednesday to provide yet another pipeline to left-wing advocacy groups under the guise of encouraging national service?
Also coming down the pike: the Obama administration's "cap-and-trade" global warming plan, which Hill staffers learned this week could cost close to $2 trillion (nearly three times the White House's initial estimate) and the administration's universal health care scheme, which health policy experts reported this week could cost about $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
It is no wonder that when earlier this week Vice President Joe Biden told local officials in Washington that he was "serious, absolutely serious" about policing wasteful spending in Washington, he was met with the only rational response his audience could muster: laughter.
Wed, 18 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600
The checks were mailed Friday, but the March 15 bonus deadline had been on the Capitol Hill radar screen since December -- when Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings released a letter to AIG CEO Edward Liddy that noted: "Without taxpayer intervention, AIG would have ceased to exist and, to be blunt, all of its employees would have lost their jobs. Against this background -- and given the massive layoffs occurring at other major financial entities, such as Citibank -- the American taxpayers have a right to know why senior executives at AIG, who are frankly lucky to still have jobs, need to receive additional bonus payments of any kind to retain them at AIG."
But it wasn't until last week that the hapless court jester of the Obama administration, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, scrambled to rein in the payments. Liddy basically told him to buzz off. Geithner, the primary architect of the original $85 billion AIG bailout last fall, "reluctantly" approved the bonuses anyway. And now his outraged boss has ordered him to scour every legal nook and cranny possible to get the money back.
Spare me President Obama's finger wag. He's "outraged"? Meh. Two weeks ago, Team Obama forked over another $30 billion for the basket-case company after it reported $61.7 billion in fourth-quarter losses. That's on top of the first $85 billion round and the second $38 billion round under Bush -- both of which Obama supported. (Obama, by the way, collected more than $101,000 in AIG campaign contributions.) Don't talk to me about how the Obama administration opposes rewarding failure.
And don't talk to me about all the politicians stampeding to tax AIG's bonuses. Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, the corporate crony who is the largest recipient of AIG donations, is now leading the charge to tax the retention payments in order to recoup the $450 million the company is paying to employees in its financial products unit.
But Dodd, it turns out, was for protecting AIG's bonuses before he was against them.
Fox Business reporter Rich Edson pointed out that during the Senate porkulus negotiations last month, Dodd successfully inserted a teeny-tiny amendment that provided for an "'exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009,' which exempts the very AIG bonuses Dodd and others are seeking to tax." Pay no attention to what his left hand was doing. Dodd's right fist is pounding mightily, mightily for the sake of the taxpayers.
The hypocritical indignation on the Hill is bipartisan. On his Twitter page last night, GOP Sen. John McCain huffed: "If we hadn't bailed out AIG = no bonuses for greedy execs." Well, if the GOP presidential candidate had held fast to his opposition to such doomed corporate bailouts in the first place, maybe bailout-palooza wouldn't have spiraled into the gazillion-dollar mess it inevitably became. McCain asserted in a Twitter interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos Tuesday morning that he "would have never bailed out AIG."
But on Sept. 18, 2008, McCain performed a 24-hour flip-flop and abandoned his principled opposition to the $85 billion AIG bailout, lamenting that the "government was forced" to do it. Soon after, McCain joined Obama in supporting the $25 billion auto bailout, the first $350 billion banking bailout (TARP I) and his own massive $300 billion mortgage bailout.
If Washington's newfound opponents of rewarding failure want to do taxpayers a favor, how about giving back their automatic pay raises? How about returning all their AIG donations? How about taking back all the bailout money to all the failed enterprises, from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to AIG, the automakers and the big banks? Barry? Harry? Nancy? John? Chris? Bueller? Bueller?
Exit stage left. The curtain falls.
Fri, 13 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600
The bank CEOs sat meekly during Waters' verbal flogging. But as she frothed at the mouth, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank covered the microphone and briefly chastised her. To no avail. Waters' motor mouth kept on running.
Did the banks raise interest rates on credit card customers after they took Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money, she thundered. Thumping her fists on the table, she then railed about their loan modification policies. "How many require that you have to be behind by two months?" Blustering about underwriting fees they paid themselves on government-backed bond sales, she yelled, "You made money off the TARP money!" One of her fellow Democrats finally ended the diatribe: "I'm going to have to calm you down because when the chairman gets back he's going to have to penalize me."
Fast-forward a month later. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the high-and-mighty Waters had a personal and financial stake in Boston-based OneUnited, a minority bank that received $12 million in TARP money under smelly circumstances. The banks' executives donated $12,500 to her congressional campaigns. Her husband, Sidney Williams, was an investor in one of the banks that merged into OneUnited. They've profited handsomely from their relationship with the bank:
"Congressional financial-disclosure forms show Ms. Waters acquired OneUnited stock worth between $250,000 and $500,000 in March 2004, as did Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams joined the board of OneUnited that year.
"Each sold shares in September 2004 -- including Ms. Waters' entire stake -- but Mr. Williams continued to hold varying amount of the company's stock. In the lawmaker's most recent financial-disclosure form, dated May 2008 and covering the prior year, Ms. Waters reported that her husband held between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of the bank's stock.
"Mr. Williams also received interest payments from a separate holding at the bank, also worth between $250,000 and $500,000. The 2008 form doesn't specify what that is. Mr. Williams stepped down from the bank's board last spring. It couldn't be learned whether he still owns stock in the bank. Mr. Williams didn't return calls seeking comment."
Waters (along with Frank) participated directly in pressuring the feds for OneUnited's piece of the bailout pie. She personally contacted the Treasury Department last December requesting $50 million for the company -- and failed to disclose her ties to the bank to them. The government ended up coughing up $12 million in TARP funding for OneUnited -- despite another government agency rapping the bank in October 2008 for "operating without effective underwriting standards and practices," "operating without an effective loan documentation program" and "engaging in speculative investment practices."
Oh, and get this: The favored bank of Maxine Waters was also penalized for alleged excessive executive compensation. The FDIC ordered the bank to "sell all bank-owned automobiles," require reimbursement for executives' car purchases (according to the Boston Business Journal, OneUnited CEO Kevin Cohee was cruising around in a 2008 Porsche SUV), and cease payments on a $6 million Santa Monica beachfront home purchased by Cohee, his wife, Teri Williams, who served as bank president, and others.
Responding to scrutiny of the bank's special treatment, Cohee is now accusing critics of -- yep, you guessed it -- racism.
Now, who is sick of Democratic shakedown artists sanctimoniously lecturing others about the culture of corruption? Raise your hand! Raise your hand!
Wed, 11 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600And, of course, it's the double-barreled hypocrisy. There's the eco-hypocrisy of the Democratic leader who wags her finger at the rest of us for our too-big carbon footprints, and crusades for massive taxes and regulation to reduce global warming. Then there's the Bay Area hypocrisy of the woman who represents one of the most anti-military areas of the country soaking up military resources to shuttle her (and her many family members) across the country almost every weekend. Remember: Pelosi's San Francisco is notorious for banning the Marines' Silent Drill Platoon from filming a recruitment commercial on its streets; killing the JROTC program in the public schools; blocking the retired battleship U.S.S. Iowa from docking in its waters; and attacking the Navy's Blue Angels -- which left-wing activists have tried to banish from northern California skies for the past two years. Apparently, those anti-war protesters have no problem with evil military jets currying Pelosi and her massive entourages to the funerals of the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Charlie Norwood; foreign junkets to Rome; and politicized stops to Iowa flood sites to bash the Bush administration. One exasperated Department of Defense official, besieged with itinerary changes and shuttle requests back and forth between San Francisco International Airport and Andrews Air Force Base for Pelosi, her daughter, son-in-law and grandchild, wrote in an e-mail: "They have a history of canceling many of their past requests. Any chance of politely querying (Pelosi's team) if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend? ... (T)here's no need to block every weekend 'just in case.'" Another official pointed out the "hidden costs" associated with the speaker's last-minute changes and cancellations. "We have ... folks prepping the jets and crews driving in (not a short drive for some), cooking meals and preflighting the jets etc." Upset that a specific type of aircraft was not available to her boss, a Pelosi staffer carped to the DoD coordinators: "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset speaker." Three months ago, turmoil erupted over Queen Nancy's demand for the military to reposition her plane to fly out of Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, Calif., closer to where she had "business," instead of San Francisco Airport/SFO (1.5 hours away). A special air missions official wrote: "We have never done this in the past. The deal is ... that the Speaker shuttle is from D.C. to SFO and back. We will not reposition. We do not reposition for convenience even for the SECDEF. It is not (too) far of a drive from Travis to SFO. Did the escort suggest to the speaker that this is OK? If so, I hope you guys correct them immediately. If you agree with me that I am correct, then you need to stay strong and present the facts to the speaker's office." Another official stated bluntly: "We can't reposition the airplane such a short distance. It is not a judicial use of the asset. It is too expensive to operate the jet when there is truly no need to do so." A beleaguered colleague responded: "(Y)ou know I understand and feel with you ... but this is a battle we are bound to lose if we tell the speaker office. In the end, this is what will happen. ... I wish that I could say this is a one-time request, but we know it will probably happen again in the future." In the end, the military won that battle. But a few days later, Pelosi was back with a new demand: that her military plane taking her from D.C. to San Francisco make a stop in New Jersey to bring her and three Democrats to an "innovation forum" at Princeton University involving 21 participants and no audience. A Gulfstream jet was secured for the important "official business." No word on whether Pelosi required vanilla-scented candles, Evi[...]
Fri, 06 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600
Pollster John Zogby called the results "depressing." I beg to differ. Out of necessity, a consumption-based society is learning to live within its means. For decades, government policies fueled that insatiable appetite -- and new government programs are desperately trying to preserve it. But the Obama administration's frantic efforts to encourage more brainless home buying, car buying and consumer borrowing aren't producing their desired results. Generational theft, it seems, has a silver lining.
The phenomenon is spreading beyond America's borders. London-based economic journalist Hamish McRae recently observed: "We may be on the cusp of a big socioeconomic shift. We have had half a century when the developed world has gradually moved away from regarding thrift as a virtue. It has moved at different speeds in different countries, faster in the U.S. and UK than in Germany or China. ... We have created the institutional structure that has supported this shift: from credit cards to collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). The world has clearly reached a point where it can go no further down that road. ... The pendulum will swing back. How far and how fast we cannot tell, but we can be sure that debt will be regarded differently a generation from now."
President Obama, celebrated by his liberal media admirers for a miraculous ability to groove with the common man, hasn't yet caught on to the new age of individual austerity. As always, he talks a good game of "personal responsibility" and "sacrifice." But while penny-pinching Americans head to Sonic Drive-Ins for $1 everyday value meals or stay at home for cheap cube-steak dinners (sales of the inexpensive meat are up 10 percent), the White House serves up high-grade Wagyu beef to congressional revelers. The luxury item was on the menu for the bipartisan stimulus dinner in January, and was also served at the governors' dinner hosted at the White House two weeks ago.
Team Obama's image experts, perhaps hung over from all the Camelot-re-creating Wednesday cocktail parties that are now a signature of the new administration, have fallen down on the job. The man who scolded Americans for wasting energy and turning their thermostats too high still hasn't lowered his own. "He's from Hawaii, OK?" senior adviser David Axelrod snickered to The New York Times in January. "He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there."
In flyover country, the mood could not be more different. Party time is over. I heard from a reader in northwest Arkansas, now upside down on her house with two college-age kids, who is preparing to tighten the family belt. President Obama, meet personal responsibility:
"We are ultimately responsible for the mess we are in. If my husband and I have to live in his pickup and get ready for work at the community gym, so be it. If we lose our jobs, we will move in with (my husband's) mother, and he will hunt and I will garden. We have never been on unemployment, welfare or other assistance. We are Americans. Our ancestors fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and his brother fought in Vietnam. Our family has faced tougher foes than this economy and Barack Obama. We will do as true Americans do; we will not whine, we will persevere."
Waste not, want not: Outside of Washington, it's the renewed American way.
Wed, 04 Mar 2009 00:00:00 -0600
Enough. These "Tea Party" protests spanned the sunny Santa Monica pier to the icy streets of Chicago and Cleveland to rain-drenched Atlanta, overflowing the grounds of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, with massive turnouts in Greenville, S.C., and crowds of several hundred each in New York City and Washington, D.C., and all points in between. Like those who demonstrated before them in Seattle, Denver, Mesa, Ariz., and Overland Park, Kan., two weeks ago, the Tea Party participants held homemade signs that said it all: "Your mortgage is not my problem"; "Liberty: All the stimulus we need"; "No taxation without deliberation."
The speed and scope with which they mobilized were due not to nefarious outside conspiracists, but to social networking websites Facebook and Twitter, where a burgeoning network on Twitter called Top Conservatives became the central clearinghouse for information. Planning for a new wave of demonstrations on April 15 has begun at www.taxdayteaparty.com.
Enough. While they take to the streets politically, untold numbers of America's wealth producers are going on strike financially. Dr. Helen Smith, a Tennessee forensic psychologist and political blogger, dubbed the phenomenon "Going Galt" last fall. It's a reference to the famed Ayn Rand novel "Atlas Shrugged," in which protagonist John Galt leads the entrepreneurial class to cease productive activities in order to starve the government of revenue. (Not coincidentally, Rand's novel sales are up and John Galt references punctuated many of the Tea Party demonstrations.) Dr. Smith was inundated with stories like these:
"I have frozen hiring in my firm. ... No investments will be made in taxable accounts -- only 401k/IRAs. I am buying silver and gold instead of CDs or stocks with non-qualified money and savings. I have stopped taking new clients, thus freezing my income. I barter more and more. Spend less. I stopped leveraging assets (don't borrow)."
"I have cut WAY back -- I'm no longer buying retail, driving out of a 10-mile radius, spending money on eating out or putting my money in a savings account. I am using the money to pay off all of our debt. It has made our family closer, more appreciative."
Another blogger wrote: "Last year my family paid nearly $1,000 a month in federal taxes, and we are not by any stretch of the imagination rich. I'm going to make it my business to cut that amount in half, using every legal means possible and reducing my income so there is less to tax."
Enough. Those business owners are not alone. This week, ABC News spotlighted upper-income earners going Galt in response to Obama's proposed tax hikes on families with incomes of $250,000 or more. A Lafayette, La., attorney told the reporter she was cutting back on her business to avoid the tax threshold: "Why kill yourself working if you're going to give it all away to people who aren't working as hard?" Tax hikes have consequences. Incentives matter. Only self-deluded wealth redistributors living in la-la land believe otherwise.
Another business owner, Dr. Sharon Poczatek, explained: "The motivation for a lot of people like me -- dentists, entrepreneurs, lawyers -- is that the more you work the more money you make," said Poczatek. "But if I'm going to be working just to give it back to the government -- it's de-motivating and demoralizing."
The perpetual Borrow-Spend-Panic-Repeat machine in Washington depends on the capitulation of the wealth producers. There's only one monkey wrench that can stop the redistributionist thieves' engine. It's engraved with the word: Enough.
Fri, 27 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600The left-leaning Seattle Weekly newspaper notes that Locke presided over a $3.2 billion tax break for Boeing while "never disclosing he paid $715,000 to -- and relied on the advice of -- Boeing's own private consultant and outside auditor." Then there's the tainted matter of Locke's "favors for his brother-in-law (who lived in the governor's mansion), including a tax break for his relative's company, personal intervention in a company dispute, and Locke's signature on a federal loan application for the company." Locke's laces ain't so straight. The glowing profiles of Locke have largely glossed over his troubling ties to the Clinton-era Chinagate scandal. As the nation's first Chinese-American governor, Locke aggressively raised cash from ethnic constituencies around the country. Convicted campaign finance money-launderer John Huang helped grease the wheels and open doors. In the same time period that Huang was drumming up illegal cash for Clinton-Gore at the federal level, he also organized two 1996 galas for Locke in Washington, D.C. (where Locke hobnobbed with Clinton and other Chinagate principals); three fundraisers in Los Angeles; and an extravaganza at the Universal City, Calif., Hilton in October 1996 that raised upward of $30,000. Huang also made personal contributions to Locke -- as did another Clinton-Gore funny-money figure, Indonesian business mogul Ted Sioeng and his family and political operatives. Sioeng, whom Justice Department and intelligence officials suspected of acting on behalf of the Chinese government, illegally donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Democratic and Republican coffers. Bank records from congressional investigators indicated that one Sioeng associate's maximum individual contribution to Locke was illegally reimbursed by the businessman's daughter. Checks to Locke's campaign poured in from prominent Huang and Sioeng associates, many of whom were targets of federal investigations, including: Hoyt Zia, a Commerce Department counsel, who stated in a sworn deposition that Huang had access to virtually any classified document through him; Melinda Yee, another Clinton Commerce Department official who admitted to destroying Freedom of Information Act-protected notes on a China trade mission involving Huang's former employer, the Indonesia-based Lippo Group; Praitun Kanchanalak, mother of convicted Thai influence-peddler Pauline Kanchanalak; Kent La, exclusive distributor of Sioeng's Chinese cigarettes in the United States; and Sioeng's wife and son-in-law. Locke eventually returned a token amount of money from Huang and Kanchanalak, but not before bitterly playing the race card and accusing critics of his sloppy accounting and questionable schmoozing of stirring up anti-Asian-American sentiment. "It will make our efforts doubly hard to get Asian Americans appointed to top-level positions across the United States," Locke complained. "If they have any connection to John Huang, those individuals will face greater scrutiny and their lives will be completely opened up and examined -- perhaps more than usual." That scrutiny (such as it was) was more than justified. On top of his Chinagate entanglements, Locke's political committee was fined the maximum amount by Washington's campaign finance watchdog for failing to disclose out-of-state New York City Chinatown donors. One of those events was held at NYC's Harmony Palace restaurant, co-owned by Chinese street gang thugs. And then there were Locke's not-so-squeaky-clean fundraising trips to a Buddhist temple in Redmond, Wash., which netted nearly $14,000 from monks and nuns -- many of whom barely spoke English, couldn't recall donating to Locke, or were out of the country and could never be located. Of the known temple donors identified by the Locke campaig[...]
Wed, 25 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600But a closer look at ACORN's sob stories shows that the prototypical foreclosure "victims" don't deserve an ounce of sympathy -- or a cent of our money. Earlier this week, ACORN activists broke into a foreclosed home in Baltimore. With a mob cheering and camera crew taping, Baltimore ACORN leader Louis Beverly busted a padlock and jimmied the door open at 315 South Ellwood Ave. The home once belonged to restaurant worker Donna Hanks, who assailed her evil bank for raising her mortgage by $300 and leaving her on the street. "This is our house now," Beverly declared with Hanks by his side at the break-in. What ACORN didn't tell you: Hanks' house was sold in June 2008 for $192,000. She bought the two-story home in the summer of 2001 for $87,000. At some point during the next five years, she refinanced the original home loan for $270,000. Where did all that money go? (Hint: Think house-sized ATM.) The property initially went into foreclosure proceedings in the spring of 2006. Hanks soon filed for bankruptcy and agreed to a Chapter 13 plan to pay back her bank and other creditors. In September 2006, the bankruptcy court ordered Hanks' employer to deduct $340/month from her salary to pay down the debt. Hanks did not comply with the legally binding plan. In December 2007, the loan servicer issued a notice of default on nearly $7,000 past due. While she was reneging on her mortgage IOUs, she somehow managed to collect rent on her basement (for which she was taken to court) and rack up a criminal record on charges of theft and second-degree assault. The house was sold seven months ago after two years of court-negotiated attempts to allow Hanks to dig herself out of her debt hole. Beverly, who claims to be a foreclosure victim himself, was charged with burglary for the break-in and released. He is literally a housing thug -- having been separately charged with second-degree assault and property destruction earlier this year; battery, assault, handgun possession and possession of a deadly weapon with intent to injure in 1992; and slapped with a peace order issued against him in 2006. The Washington Post spotlighted Beverly's and Hanks' activism without following up on their criminal records and financial negligence. The paper also shilled for ubiquitous ACORN foreclosure "victim" Veronica Peterson of Columbia, Md., recycling uncritically her accusation that she had been tricked into buying a $545,000 home by a broker who inflated her income and misrepresented her assets. "These loans were weapons of mass destruction," the single mom of three and home day care provider who couldn't keep up with her mortgage bills told the Post reporter. "They destroyed our credit, our lives, and they blew up in our face." But a look at court and real estate records exposed the truth. Edward Ericson Jr., a reporter for the independent Baltimore City Paper, discovered that the "victim" -- who took out a full mortgage with no down payment on a house she couldn't afford -- looks more like a predatory borrower. And amazingly, Peterson lived in the home more than year without paying rent or mortgage. "The online court and land records show that Peterson closed on the house on Nov. 3, 2006, with two loans from Washington Mutual. The main mortgage, for $436,000, had a starting interest rate of 8.5 percent, adjusting in December. ... The second loan, often called a 'piggyback,' totaled $109,000 with an interest rate of 11.25 percent. ... Those two payments together would have totaled $3,386.17 per month. That's before property taxes, upkeep, utilities, etc. Peterson would have to earn at least $50,000 per year just to make her house payments." The foreclosure was filed in July 2007. "The balance on the main note the[...]
Fri, 20 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600Some wore pig noses. Others waved Old Glory and "Don't Tread on Me" flags. Their handmade signs read: "Say No to Generational Theft"; "Obama'$ Porkulu$ Wear$ Lip$tick"; and "I don't want to pay for the SwindleUs! I'm only 10 years old!" The event was peaceful, save for an unhinged city-dweller who showed his tolerance by barging onto the speakers' stage and giving a Nazi salute. Carender, a newcomer to political activism, shared advice for other first-timers: "Basically, everyone, you just have to do it. Call up your police station or parks department and ask how you can obtain a permit, and then just start advertising. The word will spread. I am only one person, but with a little hard work this protest has become the efforts of a lot of people." Why bother? It's for posterity's sake. For the historical record. And hopefully it will spur others to move from the phones and computers to the streets. For Carender, it's just the beginning. She gathered all the attendees' e-mail addresses and will keep up the pressure. "We need to show that we exist. Second, we need to show support for the Republicans and Democrats that voted against the porkulus. If they think, for one second, that they made a bad choice, we have no chance to fight. Third, it sends a message to Obama and Pelosi that we are awake and we know what's happening and we are not going to take it lying down. It is a message saying, 'Expect more opposition because we're out here.'" The anti-pork activists turned out in Denver, too. On Tuesday, while Obama cocooned himself at the city's Museum of Nature and Science for the stimulus signing, a crowd of nearly 300 gathered on the Capitol steps on their lunch hour to flame-broil the spending bill and feast on roasted pig (also donated by yours truly). Jim Pfaff of Colorado's fiscal conservative citizens group Americans for Prosperity condemned the "Ponzi scheme, Madoff style" stimulus and led the crowd in chants of "No more pork!" Free-market think-tank head Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute brought oversized checks representing the $30,000 stimulus debt load for American families. On Wednesday in Mesa, local conservative talk station KFYI spearheaded a third large protest to welcome Obama as he unveiled a $100 billion to $200 billion program to bail out banks and beleaguered borrowers having trouble paying their mortgages. The entitlement theme played well last week in Florida, where Obama played Santa Claus to enraptured supporters shamelessly seeking government presents. But nearly 500 protesters in Mesa came to reject the savior-based economy with signs mocking gimme-mania. Their posters jeered: "Give me Pelosi's Plane"; "Annual Passes to Disneyland"; "Fund Bikini Wax Now"; "Stimulate the Economy: Give Me a Tummy Tuck"; "Free Beer for My Horses." And my favorite: "Give me liberty or at least a big-screen TV." Plans are underway for anti-stimulus-palooza protests in Overland Park, Kan., Nashville and New York -- home of smug Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. Schumer's derisive comment on the Senate floor about the "chattering classes" who oppose reckless spending has not been forgotten or forgiven. The insult spurred central Kentucky talk show host Leland Conway to organize a pork rind drive. Angry taxpayers bombarded the senator's office with 1,500 bags of cracklins. Disgraced Democratic Sen. John Edwards was right about one thing: There are two Americas. One America is full of moochers, big and small, corporate and individual, trampling over themselves with their hands out demanding endless bailouts. The other America is full of disgusted, hardworking citizens getting sick of being played for chumps and punished for practicing personal re[...]
Wed, 18 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600
Trumpets ACORN: "On Feb. 19, ACORN members will launch a new tactic in fighting foreclosures: civil disobedience. Participants in the ACORN Home Savers campaign nationwide will simply refuse to move out of foreclosed homes, or in some cases, will move back in. ACORN homesteaders intend to squat in their homes until a comprehensive, federal solution for people facing foreclosure is put in place."
ACORN's foot soldiers, funded with your tax dollars, will scream, pound their fists, chain themselves to buildings, padlock the doors and engage in illegal behavior until they get what they want. It's a recipe for anarchy. Threatens Baltimore ACORN's Louis Beverly, who calls himself a "Foreclosure Fighter":
"After you've used all your legal options, your last resort is civil disobedience. We're talking about families who have been in their homes 20 or 30 years. People who are assets in the community, who look out for the elderly, who have community associations, and these are the people being kicked out of the community."
We can all sympathize with good folks who can't pay their bills. But as I've said repeatedly in my criticism of the mortgage entitlement mentality embraced by both parties in Washington, home ownership is not a civil right -- and neither is home retention. Artificially propping up the housing market will only result in more of the same costly borrow-spend-panic-repeat cycles that got us into this mess in the first place. Failing corporations need to fail. So do failing home borrowers. This is borrowing from frugal renter Peter to pay profligate Paul's home loan.
Now that's the kind of theft that should be the subject of civil disobedience.
Instead, ACORN offices, funded with your tax dollars, are training teams of "Home Savers" -- described as "people ready and willing to mobilize on short notice to defend the homesteaders against attempts to evict them." Ready, willing and able to mobilize on short notice because they are either unemployed or employed full time as ACORN shakedown artists.
Guess who's encouraging them to defy the law. Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, who told them: "Stay in your homes. If the American people, anybody out there is being foreclosed, don't leave." The housing bullies will be assisted by left-wing propaganda documentarians at the Brave New Foundation, headed up by Hollywood lib Robert Greenwald, who will disseminate sob stories to crank up pressure while Obama pushes his housing entitlement plan.
ACORN is targeting the following cities: Tucson, Ariz.; Oakland, Calif.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Contra Costa County, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Baltimore, Md.; New York, N.Y.; Houston, Texas; San Mateo County, Calif.; Denver, Colo.; Bridgeport, Conn.; Wilmington, Del.; Broward County, Fla.; Boston, Mass.; Flint, Mich.; Detroit, Mich.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Raleigh, N.C.; Durham, N.C.; Albany, N.Y.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Dallas, Texas.
ACORN has waited three decades for this moment in the sun. And as Obama promised ACORN members at a forum in December 2007, "We're going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We're gonna be having meetings all across the country ... so that you have input into the agenda." The moment is nigh. Prepare for lawlessness.
Fri, 13 Feb 2009 00:10:00 -0600If the stimulus plan were a Thanksgiving dinner entree, it would be a Turbaconducken -- the heart attack-inducing dish of roasted chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, all wrapped in endless slabs of bacon. But according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's fantasyland "fact sheet" released early Thursday afternoon, "there are no earmarks or pet projects" in the final package. Trust her no further than you could throw a pot-bellied pig. Despite the self-delusional declarations of Pelosi and President Obama that no pet projects exist, Hill staffers spilled the beans on several new set-asides tacked onto the bill. Thanks to Michigan's Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, General Motors will receive a special tax break worth an estimated $7 billion to cover liabilities incurred when it accepted its $13.4 billion bailout from the Bush administration. The failing automaker has lined up for an addition $4 billion in bailout funds -- at which time they'll no doubt ask for another mega-tax liability waiver. The moochers' cycle never ends. Then there's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Railway to Sin City. Appointing yourself a Senate conferee has its perks. Roughly $8 billion in perks. Reid, you see, needs to stimulate his re-election bid, so he haggled with President Obama to tuck in a teeny, tiny, yes, porky amendment for high-speed rail lines. Reid has his eyes -- and paws -- on a proposed Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas magnetic levitation train. He has already sunk $45 million in previous earmarks into his, yes, pet project. Wasn't it earlier this week that Obama was lecturing companies not to travel to Las Vegas on the taxpayers' dime? But I digress. Along with these not-earmarks, not-pet projects, there's $2 billion for impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pet FutureGen near-zero emissions power plant project, $300 million for souped-up "green" golf carts for government workers, $30 million for "smart appliances" and $65 million for digital TV coupons. According to Hill Republicans, money for basic highways and bridges was cut by $1 billion from the House-passed level, but: -- $9 billion for school construction was added back in (originally cut by the Nelson-Collins "compromise"); -- $5 billion was added to the state fiscal stabilization fund (originally cut by Nelson-Collins), making it a grand total of $53.6 billion; -- $1 billion was added back for Prevention & Wellness Programs, including STD education; and -- $2 billion for neighborhood stabilization programs. As I've reported previously, that "neighborhood stabilization" slush fund money will end up in the pockets of left-wing shakedown artists such as ACORN and the Massachusetts-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), led by self-proclaimed "bank terrorist" Bruce Marks. There's an additional $3.25 billion in HUD grants and Community Development Block Grants in the bill that will also inevitably find its way into the coffers of these housing-entitlement lobbying groups. Another egregious not-earmark earmark that survived untouched: $2 billion for the National Parks Service championed by House Democratic conferee and Appropriations Chairman Rep. David Obey. A report by the GOP minority on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed that Obey's son, Craig, lobbied the panel and advocated for the stimulus plan on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association. All told -- and safely assuming the major spending provisions become permanently enshrined -- the final price tag of this government hogzilla of all hogzillas over the next 10 year[...]
Wed, 11 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600The event turned into a full-blown revival meeting when Obama announced that the Senate had passed his massive stimulus plan. Audience members erupted into applause. Tongues of fire descended from the sky. Loaves and fishes (or rather, pork and Kool-Aid) multiplied miraculously into trillions for all. GOP Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina didn't know how right he was when he warned over the weekend: "We're moving precipitously close to what I would call a savior-based economy." Like Mighty Mouse, President Obama is here to save the day. The government is here to help -- and it is your patriotic duty to pay for it all without preconditions. Hughes didn't explain the cause of her financial turmoil. Obama didn't ask. And if we conservatives dare to question the circumstances -- and the underlying assumption that it is government's (that is, taxpayers') role to bail her out -- we'll be lambasted as cruel haters of the downtrodden. Woe unto ye unbelievers in Big Government who cling to what Obama derided as "ideological rigidity." Well, pardon my unbending belief in fairness and personal responsibility, but why should my tax dollars go to feed the housing entitlement beast? At his fear-mongering press conference Monday night, Obama lamented that homeowners "are seeing their property values decline." Countrywide crony Sen. Chris Dodd successfully stuffed $50 billion into the just-passed stimulus package for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to spend on "mandatory loan modifications" for homeowners deep underwater on their mortgages. That's in addition to the $20 billion already allocated by the House last month for the same purposes. Banks have been engaged in these "Mo Mod" programs over the past year. Democrats want to accelerate the pace and use the power of government to essentially provide a blanket amnesty for borrowers and lenders who made bad financial decisions. Yes, there are many responsible borrowers out there having trouble negotiating loan modifications. But this $50 billion giveaway to the banks -- on top of the upward of $2 trillion more from the Treasury department, on top of the $700 billion in original "TARP" funding -- is throwing more bad money after bad. This massive expansion of government meddling in the housing market -- yet another attempt to get federal bureaucrats in the business of rewriting loan contracts and reducing principal -- will just delay the inevitable. A report released by the Comptroller of the Currency in December showed that more than half of loans modified in the first quarter of 2008 fell 30 days delinquent within six months. And after six months, 35 percent of people were 60 or more days behind on their payments. Where's the fairness in forcing prudent homeowners and renters to subsidize people who bought overpriced houses and rescue the banks that lent to them? Tellingly, Obama chose Ft. Myers to drum up support for his wealth redistributionism. The area has been one of the hardest hit by foreclosures, as the president was quick to point out. But many of those homes are second or third homes and investment properties. And low housing prices are not a catastrophe for everyone. They've created opportunities for Americans who haven't been able to buy in an artificially inflated market. The median sales price of a home in the Ft. Myers area fell 50 percent to $106,900, from $215,200 in December 2007. Bargain-priced home sales are up 146 percent from a year ago. It's sacrilegious to say it in the Age of Obama, but it needs to be said: Home ownership is not an entitlement. Credit is not a civil right. Your property-value preservation is not my problem[...]
Fri, 06 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600
Casting herself as an environmental expert, Judd attacked Palin for "casting aside science and championing the slaughter of wildlife." The video shows a wolf being shot, writhing in pain, with an ominous soundtrack throbbing and menacing photos of Palin flashing across the screen. "Riddled with gunshots, biting at their backs in agony, they die (pause for quiver) a brutal death," Judd enunciates slowly as wolf squeals punctuate the video.
Defenders of Wildlife assails Gov. Palin for proposing a $150 bounty for every wolf killed by aerial hunters. She's cruel and bloodthirsty, and she must be stopped!
It's a compelling black-and-white storyline. But like the world Judd inhabits, this plot is make-believe.
Fact is, the policy is intended to protect other animals -- moose and caribou -- from overpopulation of wolves. Alaskans rely on caribou and moose for food. Not all Americans care to live on environmentally correct starlet diets of tofu salad and Pinkberry yogurt.
Neither Palin nor the aerial hunters in those scary low-flying planes that have Judd quivering promote the program out of malice and animal insensitivity. On the contrary, they are the true compassionate conservationists. The bounty helped state biologists collecting wolf age data and provided incentives to reduce the wolf population when wildlife management efforts had fallen behind. This is about predator control. But to liberal, gun-control zealots thousands of miles away, it's all heartless murder.
Federal law makes specific exceptions to aerial hunting for the protection of "land, water, wildlife, livestock, domesticated animals, human life or crops." Targets are not limited to wolves. And, as Alaska wildlife officials note, the process is tightly controlled and "designed to sustain wolf populations in the future."
No matter. As Judd proclaimed, "It is time to stop Sarah Palin."
That is the true aim of left-wing lobbying groups and their allies in Hollywood. Palin is a threat not to Alaska's wolves, but to the liberal establishment's wolves. Defenders of Wildlife isn't targeting the ads in states affected by these policies. They're running the Judd-fronted ads across battleground states. It's about electoral interests, not wildlife interests. The eco-Kabuki theater is just plain laughable.
On a deadly serious note, Judd's selective concern for savagery is not lost on longtime observers of the activist entertainer's political forays. A militant, pro-choice feminist, Judd lashed out at the Republican ticket during the campaign: "[A] woman voting for McCain and Palin is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders." Yet, not a peep has been heard from Judd about the serial predators of Planned Parenthood who have been caught on tape urging young girls to cover up statutory rape to facilitate abortion procedures. And she won't be starring in any YouTube ads decrying grisly late-term abortion procedures.
In a starlet's world, "senseless savagery" only applies to the poster pet of the month.
Wed, 04 Feb 2009 00:00:00 -0600Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Tom Daschle finally bowed out after aggressive rehabilitative efforts failed. His chummy Senate pals on both sides of the aisle may have been willing to forgive his failure to pay longstanding back taxes owed on limo services, undisclosed consulting fees and dubious charitable donations worth an estimated $146,000, including interest and penalties. But the American people were not. (And an interesting postscript: He may have apologized and dropped out of the administration, but Daschle still owes Medicare taxes equal to 2.9 percent of the personal value of the car service he received from Democratic donor and crony Leo Hindery Jr.) Just before the Daschle announcement came the withdrawal of Nancy Killefer. She was tapped to be President Obama's "Chief Performance Officer," overseeing compliance, organizational effectiveness and waste management across every federal agency. But the former Clinton Treasury official and head of the prestigious Washington office of the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Inc., couldn't be bothered to manage her own household help effectively. She failed for a year and a half to pay employment taxes and had an outstanding tax lien on her home. The lien was worth less than $1,000 -- far less than the tax liability Geithner owed. If I were a left-wing feminist, I'd be sorely tempted to whip out the gender card and give the Good Old Boys Club a few whacks. Killefer gets thrown under the bus, but Geithner gets to drive? No justice, no peace! Now, compare President Bush's transition track record in 2001. Remember that the traditional 100-day period was shortened as a result of the election lawsuit. Wrote Paul Light of the left-leaning Brookings Institution at the time: "Bush gets an A on the transition into office. He survived his truncated 40-day transition with only one major mistake -- Linda Chavez, who withdrew her nomination for Labor Secretary after the flap over allowing an illegal immigrant to stay in her house. ... Bush also deserves an A-plus for the timely assembly of his White House team. Building around Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush White House is an MBA's dream: efficient, predictable, well controlled, on time, under budget." During Tuesday's press briefing, glib White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did his best to bat down a rising chorus of questions about his boss's judgment -- not only on the nomination "glitches," but also on an ever-growing list of exemptions to Obama's no-lobbyists pledge. Echoing Bill Clinton's "most ethical administration ever" and Nancy Pelosi's "most ethical House ever" mantras, Gibbs defensively asserted: "The bar that we set is the highest that any administration in the country has ever set." Then how, pray tell, did all the president's tax cheats make it past the front door? And where is Vice President Joe Biden to wag his finger at their lack of patriotism? Team Obama embraced these damaged candidates despite advanced knowledge of their lapses. Killefer's tax lien was four years old. Questions about Daschle's judgment have lingered for years. Ask GOP Sen. John Thune, who defeated Daschle the Dodger in 2004 after news broke of his bogus property-tax homestead exemption claim on his $1.9 million D.C. mansion -- which he listed as his primary residence despite voting in South Dakota and claiming it as his primary residence in order to run for re-election. The buck stops at the desk of Barack Obama. A little of that humility and personal responsibility he spoke so much about during his inaugural address is now in order.[...]