By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer Thu Sep 29, 5:13 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Charge it! That familiar refrain is producing an unwanted response for more Americans: Your bill is overdue! Surging energy prices, low personal savings and the higher cost of borrowing have combined to produce a record level of overdue credit card bills.
The American Bankers Association reported Wednesday that the percentage of credit card accounts 30 or more days past due climbed to an all-time high of 4.81 percent in the April-to-June period. It could grow in the months ahead, experts said.Click here for complete article.
First we hear that the economy is just fine and then something like this comes out. Logically, it says to me, the middle and poor classes are being driven further away from the monied class. Add to this the fear they have promulgated via the new Bankruptcy laws and you have a disintegration of the financial patterns built over the last 200 years that brought the classes financially closer with a smoother curve between bottom and top.
All I can say is "Don't buy it." Don't get taken in by credit card "rewards." Ask a merchant for a discount for cash in any purchase large enough have to use a credit card--but save the money first.
It isn't going to get better as long as the Republicans are in power. Wages are going to stagnate while energy commodities and the stock market stay up at astronomincal levels. More jobs, with relatively less pay, are going to be created. Health care is already going with the money--expect it to get wose as long as it is a "for profit" industry rather than a public service.
There is a fair chance that a majority of the "middle" class will become monetary credit card slaves. Forced by the self-serving rules and protocols of the credit card companies into a position where the majority of their discretionary spending money is given over to paying the interest and fines of the credit card companies.
Terry D. Barhorst Sr.
Latest post to DemLog.
CONCERNS OVER HURRICANE COSTS MAY FURTHER SQUEEZE EPA'S FY06 FUNDS
Date: September 30, 2005 -
As congressional concerns mount over federal spending to rebuild
hurricane damage in the Gulf Coast, EPA may face additional cuts to its
fiscal year 2006 budget, which already reduced agency spending by $200
million from FY05 levels, Capitol Hill sources say.
While no decisions have been made, the sources say EPA may face another
across-the-board rescission, a mandate to redirect funds from the clean
and drinking water state revolving loan funds (SRF) to pay for water
system repairs in the devastated areas, and cuts to programs the
Republican leadership and the Bush administration consider low
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) and other Republican leaders
have directed all committee chairmen to "review carefully those programs and
policies within their jurisdiction that must be considered low priority
and that could be included as offsets to the emergency funding
increases we have already enacted and will enact in the coming weeks," according
a Sept. 27 letter they sent to President Bush. The letter also says that
if the president requests further rescissions to "previously
appropriated" budget authority, Congress will give the request
"expedited consideration." Relevant documents are available on
The call responds to growing concerns over how the government should
fund the disaster relief efforts, with lawmakers seeking to cut corners
on federal spending as the cost of reconstruction after hurricanes Rita
and Katrina is projected to total over $200 billion.
EPA is already facing severe budget constraints, having seen its budget
shrink by about $200 million in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Of
that cut, $190 million has come out of the clean water SRF, which is
appropriated at $900 million this fiscal year.
Congressional aides say EPA may now face another across-the-board cut,
after Congress imposed an additional $80-million rescission on EPA
programs in the agency's FY06 appropriations bill that President Bush
signed into law in August. That mandate is forcing EPA to cut money
from grants, interagency agreements and congressional earmarks, but one
agency source says EPA is still finalizing how to implement the
Another rescission is "very possible," one House source says. "Given
the funding concerns, there may be a mandate for another cut if there is an
omnibus bill or through another appropriations bill."
Senate aides say they are still working through the details, but a
group of House conservatives last week issued a proposal to eliminate a host
of programs, including the clean water SRF, Energy Star program and the
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program. The blueprint says doing so
would save over $25 billion in the next 10 years. While the plan
already is meeting resistance from committee chairmen and Republican
leadership, critics worry that some of the proposals may get attention from
congressional appropriators looking for ways to offset the massive
For the emergency response efforts thus far, EPA has been paid by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has been granted
about $60 billion since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in late
August. EPA has received $138.1 million from FEMA and the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, but $67.3 million is a direct pass-through to the
Coast Guard, according to Sept. 28 testimony by EPA Inspector General
Nikki Tinsley at a House hearing.
Despite the funding from FEMA, EPA sources say there may be other areas
where that money may not cover the agency's efforts. For instance,
federal budget officers and congressional appropriators are trying to
determine whether billions of dollars in damages to wastewater and
drinking water systems may need to be funded through EPA's clean and
drinking water SRF -- rather than through the emergency funds Congress
provided to FEMA, a Senate Appropriations Committee source says.
"There is no precedent for this," the Senate source says. "There's a
bit of an open question of whether EPA is directly involved with funding
the repairs of [drinking and wastewater] systems through the SRF or if it
should be more directly dealt with through FEMA."
Funding the replacements and repairs could significantly undermine the
SRF program, which environmentalists and water utilities say is already
underfunded. The SRF program is intended to provide loans to states and
localities to repair and replace aging water infrastructure. EPA also
has the authority to provide emergency loans to water systems under
section 1442(b) of the Safe Drinking Water Act, but Congress has not
appropriated that money since the agency has never invoked that
But House aides say the money for infrastructure upgrades will likely
come from FEMA. One source representing water systems says FEMA is now
telling public water systems in the region that "[FEMA] will help them
get restored to the status quo ante."
The American Water Works Association issued a report this week that
said a preliminary estimate for repairing and replacing the water supply
infrastructure would amount to $2.25 billion. The group says $1.6
billion would be needed to fix 47 water systems that serve 10,000
people and $650 million would repair 885 groundwater systems that serve
smaller communities. The report says an additional $40 million per year would
be needed to address the debt that public water systems in the region may
Meanwhile, the Senate on Sept. 27 unanimously approved a bill sponsored
by Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe
(R-OK) that would make technical changes to the wastewater and drinking
water SRFs for water systems in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The
bill, S. 1709, would give water systems in the region interest-free
loans under the clean water SRF, and make other procedural changes to
help hard-hit utilities obtain federal money. -- Manu Raju
John L. Ward, PREP Coordinator/OPP Field Liaison U.S.EPA,OPP,FEAD,GISB
77 W.Jackson Blvd. (D-8J)
Posted By Terry D. Barhorst
Latest post to DemLog.
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
2 hours, 21 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Shadowed by scandal, House Republicans face an uncertain new era after a day of upheaval that left Majority Leader Tom DeLay (right) under indictment and forced to surrender his powerful post.
"What we do here is more important than who we are," Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt (news, bio, voting record) said Wednesday after the rank and file named him as DeLay's replacement, at least for the time being. "We have an agenda to move forward here."
Democrats, 11 long years in the minority, said the GOP offered nothing of the sort.
DeLay's indictment marks "the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, below left, (news, bio, voting record) of California, the Democratic leader.
Even as DeLay professed his innocence and his lawyers said they hoped to avoid having him handcuffed, fingerprinted and photographed, potential for fresh controversy surfaced.
Records on file with the Federal Election Commission show that new Majority Leader Roy Blunt's (below right) political action committee has paid roughly $88,000 in fees since 2003 to a consultant facing indictment in Texas in the same case as DeLay.
Keri Ann Hayes, executive director of the Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, said officials of the organization have not discussed whether to end the relationship with the consultant, Jim Ellis, in light of his indictment.
"We haven't had that conversation," she said, adding that so far, Ellis' indictment had no impact on his work.
DeLay's indictment produced a public show of unity among Republicans and a scarcely concealed outbreak of power politics, at a time when polls show dwindling support for President Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress. Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Bill First, R-Tenn., faces federal investigations into the sale of stock.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Blunt and other senior GOP lawmakers said they expected DeLay to be exonerated. "This temporary arrangement will allow us to continue our work until (he) can resume his duties as majority leader," said Rep. Eric Cantor (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia, the deputy whip who will assume many of Blunt's old duties in the leadership shuffle.
Other expressions of support were more tempered.
"It is our sincere hope that justice will remain blind to politics. As Tom DeLay clearly stated today, House Republicans will continue to focus on the business of the American people," party chairman Ken Mehlman said in a statement that did not assert the Texan's innocence.
Some Republican lawmakers, who refused to be identified by name as a condition for disclosing their personal opinions, said they doubted DeLay would ever return to the leadership table. Others spoke of the possibility for political damage.
"Any time you have anything that smacks of scandal, it hurts all of us," said Rep. Joel Hefley (news, bio, voting record) of Colorado, who served as chairman of the House ethics committee at a time when the panel three times admonished DeLay for his actions.
Several officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an aide to Hastert contacted California Rep. David Dreier, below left, (news, bio, voting record) on Monday about assuming the majority leader's duties in the event DeLay was indicted. Several lawmakers said such a change would have made it easier for the Texan to eventually regain his post.
But by Tuesday, as the grand jury completed its work in Austin, Texas, Blunt forcefully asserted his claim to the job in conversations with the speaker, according to several GOP officials.
At the same time, conservative lawmakers quickly made known their unhappiness with Dreier as a potential stand-in for DeLay.
At a private midday meeting, several conservative lawmakers argued that Dreier's voting record was too moderate. According to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, some participants in the meeting said the Californian had voted in favor of expanded federal funding for stem cell research and against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, [and they expressed concerns about his sexual orientation]. There also was grumbling that the Californian favored a less restrictive policy on immigration than many conservatives.
"There was a lot of discussion in that room about will ... he advance the conservative agenda?" said Rep. Jack Kingston (news, bio, voting record), R-Ga., who attended the meeting and said he personally would have been comfortable with Dreier in the post.
Other officials said a show of hands near the end of the session showed support for a postponement in selecting a temporary majority leader if it were to be Dreier. A delegation was dispatched to inform Hastert, who in the meantime had decided to recommend Blunt instead.
The speaker presented his recommendation not long afterward at a closed-door meeting of the rank and file, saying it was designed as a stopgap solution.
But even then some lawmakers expressed concern about inadvertently making an open-ended commitment, and Hastert pledged that the issue could be reopened in three months' time.
That leaves DeLay little time to clear his name and reclaim his post before a potential round of elections in which Blunt, Cantor or others face challenges, with the winners emerging with clear mandates of their own.
DeLay flashed defiance during the day as he embarked on a round of post-indictment media interviews. Summoning reporters to his office in the Capitol the one he would soon vacate he denounced Texas prosecutor Ronald Earle (right) as "an unabashed partisan zealot."
"I am innocent. Mr. Earle and his staff know it. And I will prove it," he added.
"Our job is to prosecute abuses of power and to bring those abuses to the public," Earle responded in Texas. Rebutting charges of partisanship, he said he has investigated four times as many Democrats as Republicans.
DeLay, 58, was indicted on a single felony count of conspiring with two political associates Ellis and John Colyandro to violate state election law by using corporate donations illegally. Texas law prohibits use of corporate contributions to advocate the election or defeat of candidates.
DeLay is the highest-ranking member of Congress ever to be indicted, according to Don Ritchie, a Senate historian.
Source: AP-Yahoo News.
If you did not catch the NY Times September 27 article "Storm Victims May Face Curbs On Bankruptcy"
, follow this issue.
Storm victims, working poor and middle class alike, are about to go from one hell (nature's reaction to ocean absorption of heat) to another, where James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R. Wisconsin) reigns. Can you imagine spending one moment in his presence, no less eternity?
On October 17, a new bankruptcy laws take effect. This law, supported by all Republicans and some duplicitous Democrats makes it very difficult to live through bankruptcy. Fact: folks who lived in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina have little or no financial records left.
The new law requires Byzantine filings and documentation if you want relief from debts. And,forget getting in under the October 17 deadline to qualify for the old legal protections. If you lived in Louisiana, there is a small office in Baton Rouge where you can file; and if you want to file, you had better do it there. Of course, if you have been re-located to, say Utah, or the Astrodome, travel plans get complicated.
As the Times said:
"Among the hurdles in the new law that could most affect hurricane victims is the means test. It requires debtors to provide an estimate of their income by taking the average of their most recent six month's earnings before they can file under Chapter 7. Debtors with higher incomes are to be kept in bankruptcy status for seven years, to pay of their debts" And, " Someone who had a great job just before Katrina my have very different income today."
Add to this the requirement that every individual filing under the new law must go through credit counseling! So if you had a great business before the storm and now face bankruptcy, Mr. Sensenbrenner will personally lecture you on managing your finances. He said, "get over it" referring to Democrats and some Republicans who want to soften the draconian law going into effect.
Statistic from the Times: 467,333 American filed for bankruptcy from April to June, 2004 to beat the October 17 filing deadline.
Ultimately, relief will have to come for those being crushed by burden of medical bills and job loss. But first, this government
will give relief to the banks who will never be able to collect on the loses. You cannot squeeze blood from a stone and all that.
New housing and new infrastructure can be built; but broken hearts and minds are an altogether different thing. It seems that this storm leveled most social distinctions (rich excluded, of course). The pain will keep on coming.
Latest post to DemLog.
Outside of Nashville papers, the brain dead national press has largely given Senator Bill Frist (R. Tennessee) a pass on his insider stock dealings. Today, Jason Leopold posted a long and well-researched blog Will Frist Survive
on Frist’s insider stock sale of HCA, the company founded by his father. It seems that Frist has been self-dealing from the beginning of his senatorial career. So, let’s go to the video tape to diagnose this patient:
The video tape finds Frist’s people saying that he sold all of his HCA stock in June to avoid a conflict with senatorial duties to work on healthcare legislation. (Love that word healthcare; it’s sort of like blue skies). Given that Frist had hands-on control over his not so blind trusts, the flimsy statement by his press secretary is a an outright lie. I guess Senate blind trust requirements allow wiggle room for the shuck and jive coming from the Frist camp. Leopold says,
“Interestingly, Frist knew of these sales, or at least had access to information that these sales took place,” reported the Nashville Scene
, in an investigative story in July 2003 into Frist’s so-called blind trust. How? "The income from these sales of HCA stock was reported on Frist's annual financial disclosure statements that he filed with the Secretary of the Senate.”
"Given the annual reporting of capital gains, it's kind of a crock for Frist to say he doesn't know what he owns because it's in a blind trust," Charlie Gofen, a portfolio manager at Gofen and Glossberg, a Chicago-based investment-counseling firm, told the paper at the time.
HCA, which received $billions in Medicare and Medicaid payments, paid $1.7 billion to the government over a huge fraud (although criminal charges were never brought against Frist’s brother in the theft because Senator Frist was elected majority leader.) Frist was also an essential mover in the federal government’s cutting of Medicaid dollars—something that would impact on HCA’s bottom line. Before the Senator unloaded his stake in HCA in June, corporate insiders were very busy cashing out. I believe that the sale of insider stock must be reported within 90 days of the sale, so Frist had to know that there was real action on the table. Google a company and you will find the disclosures in many places.
Leopold brings up an Enron type deal involving the daddy Frist, bro and son-in-law in the sale of an HCA asset to the son-in-law that increased in value by more than 100% in a few years. Pretty dumb divestiture, n’est pas? They lied about the amount they had to put down to buy the asset. Andrew Fastow would salivate over this one.
It might be understandable that the media has largely ignored Frist’s violations of fair play in the securities market. What with the president acting like everyone’s weatherman, corpses floating down Market Street--not to mention the Tigris and Euphrates and the country facing bankruptcy--what’s a little corruption coming from congressional leaders? The SEC is all over this one. It's a 10(b)(5) violation sho' 'nuf.
Looking at this video tape, I diagnose this patient as suffering from the malodorous cupidity virus. It’s epidemic in the Senator's circles.
William Spier/NYC Sept.26.2005
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