Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Text of Obama’s speech in Mesa today

I had trouble finding the complete transcript from local news organizations so thought I’d post the whole speech here at Metblogs.

I’m here today to talk about a crisis unlike any we’ve ever known – but one that you know very well here in Mesa, and throughout the Valley.

In Phoenix and its surrounding suburbs, the American Dream is being tested by a home mortgage crisis that not only threatens the stability of our economy but also the stability of families and neighborhoods.It is a crisis that strikes at the heart of the middle class: the homes in which we invest our savings, build our lives, raise our families, and plant roots in our communities.

So many Americans have shared with me their personal experiences of this crisis. Many have written letters or emails or shared their stories with me at rallies and along rope lines. Their hardship and heartbreak are a reminder that while this crisis is vast, it begins just one house – and one family – at a time.It begins with a young family – maybe in Mesa, or Glendale, or Tempe – or just as likely in suburban Las Vegas, Cleveland, or Miami. They save up. They search. They choose a home that feels like the perfect place to start a life. They secure a fixed-rate mortgage at a reasonable rate, make a down payment, and make their mortgage payments each month. They are as responsible as anyone could ask them to be.But then they learn that acting responsibly often isn’t enough to escape this crisis. Perhaps someone loses a job in the latest round of layoffs, one of more than three and a half million jobs lost since this recession began – or maybe a child gets sick, or a spouse has his or her hours cut.In the past, if you found yourself in a situation like this, you could have sold your home and bought a smaller one with more affordable payments. Or you could have refinanced your home at a lower rate. But today, home values have fallen so sharply that even if you made a large down payment, the current value of your mortgage may still be higher than the current value of your house. So no bank will return your calls, and no sale will return your investment.You can’t afford to leave and you can’t afford to stay. So you cut back on luxuries. Then you cut back on necessities. You spend down your savings to keep up with your payments. Then you open the retirement fund. Then you use the credit cards. And when you’ve gone through everything you have, and done everything you can, you have no choice but to default on your loan. And so your home joins the nearly six million others in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure across the country, including roughly 150,000 right here in Arizona.But the foreclosures which are uprooting families and upending lives across America are only one part of this housing crisis. For while there are millions of families who face foreclosure, there are millions more who are in no danger of losing their homes, but who have still seen their dreams endangered.They are families who see “For Sale” signs lining the streets. Who see neighbors leave, and homes standing vacant, and lawns slowly turning brown. They see their own homes – their largest single assets – plummeting in value. One study in Chicago found that a foreclosed home reduces the price of nearby homes by as much as 9 percent. Home prices in cities across the country have fallen by more than 25 percent since 2006; in Phoenix, they’ve fallen by 43 percent.Even if your neighborhood hasn’t been hit by foreclosures, you’re likely feeling the effects of the crisis in other ways. Companies in your community that depend on the housing market – construction companies and home furnishing stores, painters and landscapers – they’re cutting back and laying people off.The number of residential construction jobs has fallen by more than a quarter million since mid-2006. As businesses lose revenue and people lose income, the tax base shrinks, which means less money for schools and police and fire departments. And on top of this, the costs to a local government associated with a single foreclosure can be as high as $20,000.The effects of this crisis have also reverberated across the financial markets. When the housing market collapsed, so did the availability of credit on which our economy depends.As that credit has dried up, it has been harder for families to find affordable loans to purchase a car or pay tuition and harder for businesses to secure the capital they need to expand and create jobs.In the end, all of us are paying a price for this home mortgage crisis. And all of us will pay an even steeper price if we allow this crisis to deepen – a crisis which is unraveling homeownership, the middle class, and the American Dream itself. But if we act boldly and swiftly to arrest this downward spiral, every American will benefit. And that’s what I want to talk about today.The plan I’m announcing focuses on rescuing families who have played by the rules and acted responsibly: by refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it; by modifying loans for families stuck in sub-prime mortgages they can’t afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune; and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments.At the same time, this plan must be viewed in a larger context. A lost home often begins with a lost job. Many businesses have laid off workers for a lack of revenue and available capital. Credit has become scarce as the markets have been overwhelmed by the collapse of securities backed by failing mortgages. In the end, the home mortgage crisis, the financial crisis, and this broader economic crisis are interconnected. We cannot successfully address any one of them without addressing them all.Yesterday, in Denver, I signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which will create or save three and a half million jobs over the next two years – including 70,000 in Arizona – doing the work America needs done. We will also work to stabilize, repair, and reform our financial system to get credit flowing again to families and businesses. And we will pursue the housing plan I am outlining today.Through this plan, we will help between seven and nine million families restructure or refinance their mortgages so they can avoid foreclosure. And we are not just helping homeowners at risk of falling over the edge, we are preventing their neighbors from being pulled over that edge too – as defaults and foreclosures contribute to sinking home values, failing local businesses, and lost jobs.But I also want to be very clear about what this plan will not do: It will not rescue the unscrupulous or irresponsible by throwing good taxpayer money after bad loans. It will not help speculators who took risky bets on a rising market and bought homes not to live in but to sell. It will not help dishonest lenders who acted irresponsibility, distorting the facts and dismissing the fine print at the expense of buyers who didn’t know better. And it will not reward folks who bought homes they knew from the beginning they would never be able to afford. In short, this plan will not save every home.But it will give millions of families resigned to financial ruin a chance to rebuild. It will prevent the worst consequences of this crisis from wreaking even greater havoc on the economy. And by bringing down the foreclosure rate, it will help to shore up housing prices for everyone.According to estimates by the Treasury Department, this plan could stop the slide in home prices due to neighboring foreclosures by up to $6,000 per home.Here is how my plan works:First, we will make it possible for an estimated four to five million currently ineligible homeowners who receive their mortgages through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance their mortgages at lower rates.Today, as a result of declining home values, millions of families are “underwater,” which means they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. These families are unable to sell their homes, and unable to refinance them. So in the event of a job loss or another emergency, their options are limited.Right now, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the institutions that guarantee home loans for millions of middle class families – are generally not permitted to guarantee refinancing for mortgages valued at more than 80 percent of the home’s worth. So families who are underwater – or close to being underwater – cannot turn to these lending institutions for help.My plan changes that by removing this restriction on Fannie and Freddie so that they can refinance mortgages they already own or guarantee. This will allow millions of families stuck with loans at a higher rate to refinance. And the estimated cost to taxpayers would be roughly zero; while Fannie and Freddie would receive less money in payments, this would be balanced out by a reduction in defaults and foreclosures.I also want to point out that millions of other households could benefit from historically low interest rates if they refinance, though many don’t know that this opportunity is available to them – an opportunity that could save families hundreds of dollars each month. And the efforts we are taking to stabilize mortgage markets will help these borrowers to secure more affordable terms, too.Second, we will create new incentives so that lenders work with borrowers to modify the terms of sub-prime loans at risk of default and foreclosure.Sub-prime loans – loans with high rates and complex terms that often conceal their costs – make up only 12 percent of all mortgages, but account for roughly half of all foreclosures.Right now, when families with these mortgages seek to modify a loan to avoid this fate, they often find themselves navigating a maze of rules and regulations but rarely finding answers. Some sub-prime lenders are willing to renegotiate; many aren’t. Your ability to restructure your loan depends on where you live, the company that owns or manages your loan, or even the agent who happens to answer the phone on the day you call.My plan establishes clear guidelines for the entire mortgage industry that will encourage lenders to modify mortgages on primary residences.Any institution that wishes to receive financial assistance from the government, and to modify home mortgages, will have to do so according to these guidelines – which will be in place two weeks from today.If lenders and homebuyers work together, and the lender agrees to offer rates that the borrower can afford, we’ll make up part of the gap between what the old payments were and what the new payments will be. And under this plan, lenders who participate will be required to reduce those payments to no more than 31 percent of a borrower’s income. This will enable as many as three to four million homeowners to modify the terms of their mortgages to avoid foreclosure.So this part of the plan will require both buyers and lenders to step up and do their part. Lenders will need to lower interest rates and share in the costs of reduced monthly payments in order to prevent another wave of foreclosures. Borrowers will be required to make payments on time in return for this opportunity to reduce those payments. I also want to be clear that there will be a cost associated with this plan.But by making these investments in foreclosure-prevention today, we will save ourselves the costs of foreclosure tomorrow – costs borne not just by families with troubled loans, but by their neighbors and communities and by our economy as a whole. Given the magnitude of these costs, it is a price well worth paying.Third, we will take major steps to keep mortgage rates low for millions of middle class families looking to secure new mortgages.Today, most new home loans are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which guarantee loans and set standards to keep mortgage rates low and to keep mortgage financing available and predictable for middle class families. This function is profoundly important, especially now as we grapple with a crisis that would only worsen if we were to allow further disruptions in our mortgage markets.Therefore, using the funds already approved by Congress for this purpose, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve will continue to purchase Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities so that there is stability and liquidity in the marketplace. Through its existing authority Treasury will provide up to $200 billion in capital to ensure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can continue to stabilize markets and hold mortgage rates down.We’re also going to work with Fannie and Freddie on other strategies to bolster the mortgage markets, like working with state housing finance agencies to increase their liquidity. And as we seek to ensure that these institutions continue to perform what is a vital function on behalf of middle class families, we also need to maintain transparency and strong oversight so that they do so in responsible and effective ways.Fourth, we will pursue a wide range of reforms designed to help families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.My administration will continue to support reforming our bankruptcy rules so that we allow judges to reduce home mortgages on primary residences to their fair market value – as long as borrowers pay their debts under a court-ordered plan. That’s the rule for investors who own two, three, and four homes. It should be the rule for ordinary homeowners too, as an alternative to foreclosure.In addition, as part of the recovery plan I signed into law yesterday, we are going to award $2 billion in competitive grants to communities that are bringing together stakeholders and testing new and innovative ways to limit the effects of foreclosures. Communities have shown a lot of initiative, taking responsibility for this crisis when many others have not. Supporting these neighborhood efforts is exactly what we should be doing.Taken together, the provisions of this plan will help us end this crisis and preserve for millions of families their stake in the American Dream. But we must also acknowledge the limits of this plan.Our housing crisis was born of eroding home values, but also of the erosion of our common values. It was brought about by big banks that traded in risky mortgages in return for profits that were literally too good to be true; by lenders who knowingly took advantage of homebuyers; by homebuyers who knowingly borrowed too much from lenders; by speculators who gambled on rising prices; and by leaders in our nation’s capital who failed to act amidst a deepening crisis.So solving this crisis will require more than resources — it will require all of us to take responsibility. Government must take responsibility for setting rules of the road that are fair and fairly enforced. Banks and lenders must be held accountable for ending the practices that got us into this crisis in the first place. Individuals must take responsibility for their own actions. And all of us must learn to live within our means again.These are the values that have defined this nation. These are values that have given substance to our faith in the American Dream. And these are the values that we must restore now at this defining moment.It will not be easy. But if we move forward with purpose and resolve – with a deepened appreciation for how fundamental the American Dream is and how fragile it can be when we fail in our collective responsibilities – then I am confident we will overcome this crisis and once again secure that dream for ourselves and for generations to come.Thank you, God Bless you, and God bless America.

McCain/Palin 08




McCain/Palin 08

Originally uploaded by katydaqueen

I am not about to use this forum to promote my politics, but this picture I snapped with my phone today goes beyond political boundaries. If you are going to show that kind of commitment to your party, spell your candidate’s name right.
(If you can’t see the note, it is spelled Macian. I tried three times and could not get a good non-glare shot. The bottom words are “Vote the Ticket”)

20%

AZCentral is reporting election turnout of 20% in Maricopa county. They chalk it up to several factors, but what stood out for me was this quote:

“We held an election, and nobody came,” said Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, who oversees the county’s Elections Department. “Whether it was because they weren’t interested or didn’t have time, I don’t know.”

My dear Helen Purcell, people didn’t come because they didn’t know. They didn’t come because they didn’t realize that the election was the day after a major holiday. They didn’t come because they didn’t feel they had any choices in their district. They didn’t come for many reasons that need to be examined and dealt with.

I have voted in every election since I was 18. It is something I am very proud of. What I didn’t realize was that everyday people can get involved in the political process instead of just bitch about it. Last major election cycle, I attended a town hall featuring Harry Mitchell and Wes Clark. It was put on by PACE, which is an arm of NASW-AZ. Meeting and speaking with the candidates was exciting, but much more exciting was meeting all the everyday people who put it together. Legislative days, spending time at the state capitol and working with PAFCO has made it easier to see the political process as something accessible.

I wonder if more people thought our system was accessible, would they participate? Does the average person even understand our process? Do they realize that you can make an appointment and meet with your councilman, legislator, governor and air your concerns and priorities?

“The World is run only by the people who take the time to show up”
– unknown

Get out the Vote

Today was primary day in Arizona. You could tell by the 75 feet warning signs around community centers, churches, and schools. I don’t know if everyone did early voting, or if people were confused by the 3 day weekend, but there was a polling place right next to my office and it was dead.

Polls close at 7 pm. Bring your ID.
Arizona has some political races to watch this year. I live in District 12 and it is the first time in a long time I am seeing some real competition to the incumbents.

Where do you get your information on local candidates?

AZCentral has a local elections guide. As a social worker, I get info from the National Association of Social Workers Arizona Chapter. I also get it from PAFCO. They have Health and Human Service Questionnaires. I already mentioned Project Vote Smart above, and there is also the Clean Elections Commission Site (.pdf warning).

I get a lot of politics and election info from blogs. I just found Arizona Politics, but I am not sure how good it is. I also read Politicker AZ, which provides some nice aggregation and quick hits.

Local politics can be quite the adventure, and it is a great way to get your feet wet in our governmental system. Use your voice, vote!

Uh, where do I vote again?

If you are like me and am not sure where to vote, ask Helen. Also if you need a ride to the polls give me a call. We have about 12 hours to get there.

http://recorder.maricopa.gov/pollingplace05/pollingplace.aspx

Going political

prop206.jpgThe attached picture (please click on it for a larger version) shows the front and back of a postcard that came in the mail the other day. An attempt to convince voters that Prop 201 wastes taxpayers dollars, it panders to the fear of sex offenders and shamelessly parades schoolchildren as victims of this waste. The sponsors of this ad want you to vote against Prop 201 and for Prop 206 so smoking in public places can continue. A careful look at the small print reveals that this ad is funded by (drumroll ……) the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company! Surprise, surprise.

Before you write me off as a Carrie Nation of Smoke, I used to smoke. I smoked almost two packs of cigarettes nearly every day for 19 years. The last five of those years I woke up each day, determined to quit smoking. Thanks to the generous chemical additions of the tobacco companies, I was addicted and fighting a much more serious battle than I imagined. Through constant attempts and, finally, hypnosis, I quit smoking on January 19, 1987 and have not had a cigarette since.

Quit almost 20 years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the desire, the want, the need for a cigarette. It is an addiction in every sense of the word and you better believe the bar owners and the cigarette companies want to make sure smokers stay addicted and new smokers join the club. They don’t care about tracking sex offenders and they certainly don’t care about school children’s supplies (much less their health) – they just want to sell more alcohol and cigarettes. The taxes to which they refer are taxes on cigarettes – taxes paid by the addicts. If you don’t smoke, it isn’t coming out of your pocket.

Smokers will tell you they don’t want to quit, they enjoy smoking, so get off their backs. But that’s a lie. They are addicted and every one of them, at some level, knows they are smoking because they have to, that it’s no longer a choice for them. There is absolutely nothing good about cigarette smoking except the bottom line on the ledger for the alcohol and tobacco sellers. Please don’t let them spin your vote against Prop 201- it is NOT ridiculous. Vote FOR Prop 201 and AGAINST Prop 206.

Gas Prices Decline, But Why?

Avast! Ye Olde Arizona Republic reports today that the price of gasoline is on the decline. This is a good thing, I think. The article says that prices are going down because of reduced demand, higher production and a lack of hurricanes taking down the refining industry.

But I’m a cynic, I think its because mid-term elections are this November. People usually don’t vote unless they’re pissed off, and nothing pisses people off like paying $40 for a 12-gallon fill up. What say ye, land lubbers??

(Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day Day maties! Arrrrrrrrrrr!)

Primary Elections

How did elections go today for those that went to the polls? I did a mail in ballot – but forgot to wear my ‘I voted by mail’ sticker today :(

Barack Obama coming to Phoenix

Just heard from a very reliable source that Sen. Barack Obama will be coming to Phoenix, guest of that great and favorite, Changing Hands Bookstore. For the curious, he delivered a strong and insightful keynote address at the 2004 Democrat National Convention. I look forward to the opportunity to hear him speak in person. Hope life in Washington hasn’t jaded his enthusiasm. He will be at the Orpheum Theater in October – date and time to be announced.

“Prison Privatization at its Best”

Was reading my old hometown paper’s online edition this morning. The headline read Arizona prisons may get Island inmates. I bounced from there to Corrections Corporation of America’s website where they boast “Prison Privatization at its Best”. It is a fascinating read. I did not know that Arizona prisons import inmates from other states. Are we not producing enough of our own?

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