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    The OB Media Rundown for 6/12/12

    Fed survey: ‘Young middle age families’ hardest hit by recession

    The fall came with the collapse in the housing market and massive layoffs that slashed people’s incomes, and the pain was felt by families across the board — young and old, well-educated and less so, with children or not.

    But the biggest impact was felt by young middle-age families, those headed by people ages 35 to 44. For this group, the median net worth — total assets minus debts — fell a whopping 54% in the three-year period to $42,100 in 2010. Such was their financial hardships that only 47.6% of these families said they had saved money in 2010; that was the lowest among all age groups, where an overall average of 52% of families saved some money that year.

    Recession crushed middle-class wealth: Fed survey
    The recession crushed the net worth of middle-class families as real estate values tumbled, according to a survey released by the Federal Reserve on Monday.

    The Fed’s survey of consumer finances between 2007 and 2010, which is adjusted for inflation, showed median income fell 7.7% from $49,600 in 2007 to $45,800 in 2010 and that median net worth fell 38.8% from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010, approximately the level recorded in 1992.

    The drop was concentrated in middle-class families. Those in the 60th to 79.9th percentile of income saw the biggest drop in wealth, of 40.4%. The second-steepest drop came from those in the 20th to 39.9th percentile of income, of 35%. The top 10% actually saw an increase of 1.8%. Read four ways to avoid retirement crisis.

    Banks still ‘nickel-and-dime’ consumers

    Despite the best efforts of Occupy Wall Street, banks still have a long way to go toward transparency.

    According to CNNMoney, a study conducted by Pew Safe Checking in the Electronic Age Project revealed that consumers need to shuffle through long, winding documents and face high, heretofore unknown fees to access their own checking accounts.

    This may be unsurprising for anyone who has signed up for a credit card bill in recent years. In 2010, the Federal Reserve updated President Jimmy Carter’s 1978 Electronic Fund Transfer Act to forbid any bank from automatically signing up customers for overdraft protection. Overdraft protection would mean that, instead of declining a credit card if the account was overdrawn, consumers would pay a fee for transactions made after their account reached its limit. Customers presently are given a choice to opt out of the service when they sign up for an account.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/12/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/11/12

    Our Top 400: A Little Historical Perspective

    What if 2009’s top 400 had paid taxes at the same real rate as 1955’s top 400? What sort of difference would that have made? Our 2009 top 400, if they had paid taxes at actual 1955 rates, would have together ended up with $25.4 billion dollars less in their pockets.

    This over $25 billion in tax savings – for just 400 taxpayers – amounts to a plutocracy tax credit, a giveaway to the super rich that gives our financially favored far more capacity to dominate the American political process than America’s richest enjoyed back in the 1950s. We can end that domination. But first we need to end that giveaway.

    As ‘Fraudclosure’ Continues, County Clerks Take Up Cudgel

    Visit the office of John O’Brien, register of deeds in South Essex County, Massachusetts, and he’ll eagerly show you stacks and stacks of documents. He calls it a crime scene.

    Why? These documents, a plethora of mortgage-related assignments, were used as legal justification for evicting millions of families from their homes through a deeply flawed foreclosure process, enabled by the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems industry consortium. There’s nothing that gets O’Brien’s Irish up more than a discussion of the rampant fraud he sees perpetrated on the court.

    “In America we don’t taken someone’s home away with fraud,” he says with a South Boston swagger and no-nonsense boom to his voice. “There was a Profiles in Courage moment for the administration when the five banks were brought to the table to answer for the robo-signing scandal, and they let it pass.”

    Did Republicans deliberately crash the US economy?

    When teachers are laid off, for example (and nearly 200,000 have lost their jobs), it means larger class sizes, other teachers being overworked and after-school classes being cancelled. So, ironically, a policy that is intended to save “our children and grandchildren” from “crushing debt” is leaving them worse-prepared for the actual economic and social challenges they will face in the future. In addition, with states operating under tighter fiscal budgets – and getting no hope relief from Washington – it means less money for essential government services, like help for the elderly, the poor and the disabled.

    This is the most obvious example of how austerity policies are not only harming America’s present, but also imperilling its future. And these spending cuts on the state and local level are matched by a complete lack of fiscal expansion on the federal level. In fact, fiscal policy is now a drag on the recovery, which is the exact opposite of how it should work, given a sluggish economy.

    This collection of more-harm-than-good policies must also include last summer’s debt limit debacle, which House speaker John Boehner has threatened to renew this year. This was yet another GOP initiative that undermined the economic recovery. According to economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, “over the entire episode, confidence declined more than it did following the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in 2008.” Only after the crisis did the consumer confidence stabilize, but employers “held back on hiring, sapping momentum from a recovery that remains far too fragile.” In addition, the debt limit deal also forced more unhelpful spending cuts on the country.
    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/11/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/10/12

    UN: Austerity measures threaten global economy

    Austerity measures implemented by European countries to contain a roiling debt crisis will likely drag them deeper into recession, unsettling global financial markets and presenting the biggest current threat to the world economy, according to UN report issued yesterday. The UN World Economic Situation and Prospects 2012 midyear update said most developed countries have yet to recover from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and the fiscal austerity measures deployed in response have been backfiring. “The severe fiscal austerity programmes implemented in many European countries, combined with mildly contractionary policies in others, such as Germany and France, carry the risk of creating a vicious downward spiral with enormous economic and social costs,” the report states.

    Obama Foreclosure Program Blasted For Protecting Banks Over People

    Former Wall Street bailout watchdog Neil Barofsky blasted the banking industry on Friday for inflicting a litany of abuses on American homeowners, and issued a withering critique of the Obama administration for protecting those same banks at the expense of homeowners.

    “Our entire housing system is built on a foundation of fraud,” said Barofsky, who served as special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program from 2008 into 2011.

    Barofsky’s comments came at a special panel on foreclosure fraud at this year’s Netroots Nation conference — an annual gathering of progressive bloggers and activists. Barofsky and white-collar crime investigator Lynn Szymoniak, Massachusetts foreclosure activist Malcolm Chu, and moderator David Dayen recounted foreclosure horror stories in which bank documentation is in such disarray that homeowners who have not even missed mortgage payments find themselves facing foreclosure. In thousands of other cases, the panelists emphasized, homeowners who do find themselves in financial trouble are unable to obtain any kind of relief from banks, even when aid would be less costly for investors than evictions. Meanwhile, in other cases, the banks rely on an entire cottage industry of forged signatures and fabricated documents to push through evictions.

    Letter to the editor: Democracy depends on learning the facts

    It is hard to believe, but some people still do not understand why we ‘occupy the boardwalk” every Wednesday from 5-6 p.m. While I want to thank those who honk in support as they pass by, this letter is for those who angrily shake their fists instead.

    We stand in all weather to remind people that democracy depends on learning the facts of why the American middle class is suffering while the wealthy take the lion’s share of the wealth produced by our labor. We are speaking out and getting involved in the effort to ensure justice for the 99 percent of us who do not benefit from this system.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/10/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/9/12

    U.S. cities struggle with blighted bank-owned homes

    Across America, bank-owned, blighted houses sit untouched, sometimes for years, disfiguring what in many cases are already troubled neighborhoods. Activists say the problem is particularly acute in minority areas. And many cities do not have the resources, the will or the power to force banks to maintain their properties.

    Overdraft fees cost Americans $29.5 billion in 2011

    Mop-Up Operations Resume As Voters Reject Public Pensions, Worker Rights, Liberalism

    The states and localities suffering from budget crises are having problems because Wall Street blew up the economy, and in many cases, ensnared these municipalities in extremely bad deals.  The wealth of taxpayers was and is being transferred to banks.  In 2008, the choice before Bush, and then Obama, was clear.  They could hand taxpayer resources to Wall Street and oversee a series of budget crises in states and localities, with the opportunity for later privatization of public assets and the breaking of public sector unions.  Or Bush, and then Obama, could crack down on Wall Street, and make sure that bailout monies went to states and localities, and, with record low interest rates, spur tremendous investment in new energy, infrastructure, and education initiatives.  It was a choice.  Bush picked Wall Street.  Obama also picked Wall Street, with public sector unions supporting Obama like turkeys cheering on Thanksgiving.

    Now voters are making their own choice.  Once again, this is a direct consequence of how Barack Obama has led the Democratic Party and redefined liberalism, into a party and an ideology that is defined by wage cuts, foreclosures, debt, and acceptance of dramatic political and economic inequality.  Voters don’t want to pay for a government and for government workers who they perceive as out of step with their interests.

    U.S.: Second-highest child poverty level

    A UNICEF study of 35 developed countries found the United States had the second-highest rate of child poverty after Romania.

    The study – -titled Report Card 10 — found the child poverty rate in Romania was 26.5 percent. The U.S. rate was 23.1 percent, followed by Latvia and Bulgaria at 18.8 percent, Spain at 17.1 percent and Greece at 16 percent.

    Iceland had the lowest child poverty rate, 4.7 percent, followed by Finland at 5.3 percent, Cyprus and the Netherlands at 6.1 percent and Norway at 6.3 percent.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/9/12” »

    The OB Media Rundown for 6/8/12

    Feed the Hood delivers to JP’s needy

    An activist who distributes food to needy Jamaica Plain residents is planning a “legendary” fund-raiser in Roxbury to continue his efforts to feed JP’s hungry.

    Organizer Jamarhl Crawford is bringing the Last Poets, a group of poets and musicians originally organized during the 1960s, to Roxbury to raise funds to continue his work with the Feed The Hood and Fill Your Fridge programs.

    In Feed the Hood, Crawford and his helpers buy good-quality, healthy food and cook it either at home or at a near-by church. Then they drive around, handing the food to those who need it, mostly the city’s homeless population.

    Wall Street CEO pay rises 20 percent in 2011, despite losses in corporate value

    In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the subsequent Occupy movement and the protests against the 1 percent, you might think that financial corporations would rein in the multi-million dollar salaries paid to their CEOs.

    Instead, compensation to the best-paid CEOs at the largest U.S.-based financial companies collectively rose by an average of 20.4 percent in 2011, according to a new report from Bloomberg Markets magazine. This rise is even more surprising in light of the fact that 33 of the 50 biggest financial companies had negative share returns in their 2011 fiscal years. High-level investment managers maintain that many of the CEOs of companies with underwhelming stock performance are overpaid and warn that the controversy over executive pay in the financial industry will not be resolved until shareholders hold executives fully accountable for their under-performance.

    Judge Upholds Ban on NDAA Detentions – Rejects Obama Call to ‘Reconsider’ Decision

    Judge Katherine Forest has upheld her previous ban on the use of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provisions that allowed the president to summarily detain “terror suspects” in military custody for indefinite periods of time with no legal oversight.

    In her initial ruling, Forest had accepted the arguments from a number of political dissidents, including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, that they had a reasonable fear that they could be disappeared off the street and held in military custody for constitutionally protected political speech. The Administration did not argue that they wouldn’t be detained, but insisted that since they hadn’t been detained yet they had no standing to contest the law.

    Continue reading “The OB Media Rundown for 6/8/12” »

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