Washington, DC - In light of recent revelations about Goldman Sachs' actions leading up to the financial collapse of 2008, Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) signed on to two letters urging the Securities and Exchange Commission and Attorney General Eric Holder to hold Goldman Sachs accountable for its role in creating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

"For too long, reckless speculators on Wall Street gambled away the savings of America's middle class families," Braley said. "To ensure this never happens again, I'm joining my colleagues in asking the SEC and Attorney General Eric Holder to hold all responsible parties accountable and make sure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. While we can't get every dime of every retirement, college or savings account back, we can certainly make sure that greedy Wall Street speculators understand the full consequence of their actions."

On Friday, Braley joined Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09) and 60 other Members of Congress in urging Holder to pursue all appropriate criminal charges against those involved in fraudulent activity at Goldman Sachs and other institutions. Today, Braley joined Reps. Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Elijah Cummings (MD-07), Dennis Cardoza (CA-18) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-AL), along with 56 other Members of Congress, in sending a letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro. The letter asks her to pursue investigations into the remaining 24 ABACUS transactions for securities fraud, evaluate the extent of any receipt, by Goldman Sachs, of fraudulently-generated AIG-issued credit default swap payments, and vigorously pursue the recovery of such payments on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer.

The full text of both letters are attached.

 

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State, Federal Plan Seeks to Create More Than 15,000 Jobs

CHICAGO - April 26, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today unveiled the Put Illinois to Work (PIW) program, an anti-poverty program aimed at building a healthy workforce by putting unemployed and underemployed Illinois residents back to work. The new program is expected to create more than 15,000 jobs.

"Put Illinois to Work will provide good-paying jobs that will help support families and strengthen communities," said Governor Pat Quinn. "The program will also assist in building a workforce that possesses the skills, abilities and experiences that Illinois employers need to remain competitive in the U.S. and global marketplace."

Put Illinois to Work is a collaborative effort of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and Heartland Human Care Services (HHCS). Funding is provided through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF), which was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

Through Put Illinois to Work, eligible Illinois residents will be placed in subsidized employment positions with participating worksites for up to six months, learning valuable skills and supporting their families. The program will help stimulate Illinois' ailing economy and develop a healthy workforce by providing meaningful work experience for participants.

"Put Illinois to Work is an exciting opportunity to employ thousands of Illinoisans during a time of economic downturn and high unemployment," said IDHS Secretary Michelle R. B. Saddler. "The program will draw down federal funds that will stimulate the Illinois economy and even more importantly, will help the citizens we serve to gain critical skills in the workforce."

Private, public and non-profit businesses are encouraged to sign on with Put Illinois to Work. Eligible participants will be matched to subsidized employment opportunities with these worksites in hopes that they might transition into an unsubsidized position at the program's conclusion.

Eligible worksites and participants must meet program criteria and agree to adhere to specific programmatic requirements. Participants must be age 18-21, or 18 and over and the parent (custodial or non-custodial) of a minor child. All participants must have a household income below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($2,428 per month for a family of two) and be legally present and authorized to work.

For eligibility criteria and additional information on Put Illinois to Work, visit www.PutIllinoistoWork.Illinois.gov.

 

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Housing Wage is $17.44 for Two-Bedroom Apartment in Illinois
According to a report released today, the Housing Wage for Illinois is $17.44 for a two-bedroom apartment. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage a family must earn?working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year?to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment renting for $907. The Housing Wage has increased 34.6% since 2000.
The report, Out of Reach 2010, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a Washington, DC-based housing advocacy group, and Housing Action Illinois.
Federal guidelines state that no one should spend more than 30% of their income on housing, including rent or mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes and insurance.
In Illinois, among metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, the lowest Housing Wage for a two-bedroom apartment is $10.83 in the metro-east Bond County metropolitan area. The highest housing wage for a two-bedroom apartment is $19.52 in the Chicago metropolitan area.
In 2010, the estimated average wage for renters in Illinois is only $15.05, a decline from $15.33 in 2009.  In Illinois, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $8.00. In order to afford market-rate rents for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 87 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. (On July 1, 2010 the minimum wage will increase to $8.25 per hour).
"The statistics in Out of Reach 2010 show that the rents low-income people pay continue to go up at the same time as the wages of renters are decreasing.  Therefore, it is increasingly difficult for low-wage workers to find decent, stable housing," said Bob Palmer, Policy Director for Housing Action Illinois.
Housing Action Illinois' mission is to increase and preserve the supply of decent, affordable, accessible housing in Illinois for low-and moderate-income households through advocacy, public education, and technical assistance to nonprofits.
Data for every state, metropolitan area and county in the country is available online, at www.nlihc.org/oor2010/.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grassley asks about GM repaying TARP loans with other TARP funds

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley is asking the Treasury Secretary to justify claims that General Motors has repaid its TARP loans when GM is using other TARP funds to repay the loans.

"It looks like the announcement is really just an elaborate TARP money shuffle," Grassley said.  "The repayment dollars haven't come from GM selling cars but, instead, from a TARP escrow account at the Treasury Department."

Grassley said his concern is based upon the most recently quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for TARP.  Mr. Neil Barofsky testified before the Finance Committee this week and stated that the funds GM is using to repay its TARP debt are not coming from GM earnings.

Grassley said it's a matter of the Treasury Department being straightforward with taxpayers about its management of the $700 billion taxpayer funded TARP program.  Click here to read Grassley's letter of inquiry to Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The Special Inspector General for TARP was created at the urging of Grassley and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, and when the Treasury Department changed the focus of the program less than a month after it began, Grassley worked with Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri to retool the Inspector General's authority and empower the office to adequately scrutinize TARP spending and management.

Grassley has gone to bat for the Inspector General throughout the year, when the White House and Treasury Department put up barriers to the Inspector General asking questions and collecting information about where the money has gone.  Grassley has been an outspoken critic about the lack of transparency with how TARP funds have been used.  Last fall, he cosponsored legislation to end the program.

Opening Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley

Hearing, "The President's Proposed Fee on Financial Institutions Regarding TARP"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mr. Barofsky, I want to welcome you here today.  You and I are both big believers in oversight, accountability and transparency. Today we're discussing what the President calls a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee.  However, the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy told the dozens of people in attendance at a briefing for Senate staff on the President's fiscal year 2011 budget earlier this year that the President's proposed fee is actually an excise tax.

This is similar to the name game that the Administration and Congressional Majority played with the excise taxes in their health care bill.  Although they referred to the excise taxes as fees, the legislative text clearly states that they are actually excise taxes.  I will refer to it as the TARP tax, and not the bank tax as some call it, because the proposal applies not only to banks, but also to insurance companies, securities brokers, and thrifts, among others.

The statute that created TARP required the President to submit a plan by 2013 to recover any losses under TARP so that the taxpayers are fully repaid for any TARP losses.  However, three years before it was required, the President proposed this excise tax?the TARP tax.  One problem that surfaced recently is that Congressional Democrats are already reportedly planning ways to spend the money raised by the proposed TARP tax.

One proposal gaining steam among many on the other side lately is to add the TARP tax to the financial regulatory reform bill.  The Congressional Majority is so strapped for money to pay for out of control spending that members are looking to the banks and other financial institutions for money.  This reminds me of the story about a reporter asking Willie Sutton, a notorious bank robber, why he robbed banks.  Sutton allegedly said, "because that's where the money is."  I cannot emphasize this next point enough, if Congress decides to pass a TARP tax, that money should only go toward paying down the deficit.  Otherwise, the TARP tax wouldn't even pay for losses from TARP, it would just enable more taxing and spending by those who want to spend more.

All economists state that corporate entities don't actually bear the burden of taxes -- people do.  I wanted to know which people would bear the burden of the proposed TARP tax.  So I wrote a letter asking the nonpartisan experts at the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation a series of questions.

The CBO responded to my letter by saying that customers would probably pay higher borrowing rates and other charges, employees might bear some of the cost, and investors could bear some of the cost.  The CBO also said that the TARP tax "would also probably slightly decrease the availability of credit for small businesses." In addition, the CBO said that, "for the most part, the firms paying the fee would not be those that are directly responsible for loss realized by the TARP."

One other item from the CBO letter worth noting is that the TARP tax would not apply to firms in the automotive industry.  That is really odd, since CBO's March 2010 TARP report states that the automotive industry accounts for $34 billion of the program's estimated total cost of $109 billion.  Chairman Baucus and I invited GM to testify before our Committee at one of the later hearings, but GM representatives said they didn't want to testify.  I believe GM's silence is deafening.

On another TAR-related matter, I want to thank you for investigating the multi-million dollar severance payments that Treasury is allowing TARP recipients like AIG to pay their departing executives.  As you know, I have communicated on several occasions with Treasury and the TARP Special Master for Executive Compensation about this troubling issue, and I have run into a stone wall.  I am also pleased that you are going to investigate the possible conflicts of interest on the part of key people at Treasury who worked on the TARP executive compensation regulations.

Since those regulations helped executives walk away with huge severance payments, we need to find out if they were drafted by people who used to represent the very executives affected by the regulations.  Treasury claims that all the proper recusals were made, but it has provided none of the documentation necessary to verify that claim.  I trust that you will be able to get to the bottom of these important questions and report back to the Committee in the near future.

Washington, DC - Members of the House Populist Caucus, the House Trade Working Group, and the Progressive Caucus introduced today the American Jobs First Platform, four pieces of legislation designed to put struggling Americans back to work and on a level playing field with workers in other countries.  Caucus Chairs Bruce Braley (IA-01), Mike Michaud (ME-02), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) and Lynn Woolsey (CA-06) announced the platform in a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

"As you know, the recession has been devastating to American workers," the letter states. "Despite some recent improvements, the unemployment rate remains high and hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their jobs last year.  We commend and thank you for your strong leadership during these tough economic times, but we believe that we can do more to put Americans back to work and to put them on a level playing field with workers in other countries.

"Unfortunately, free trade agreements (FTAs) like NAFTA and CAFTA have decimated the American manufacturing sector, caused the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs, and contributed to our current economic and unemployment problems.  However, despite the detrimental effects of our current trade policy, both the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration have attempted to push forward with more of the same, including Bush-negotiated FTAs with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea."

The following Members signed on as supporters of the American Jobs First Platform: Bruce Braley (IA-01), Mike Michaud (ME-02), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Lynn Woolsey (CA-06), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Keith Ellison (MN-05), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Bob Filner (CA-51), Gene Green (TX-29), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL-02), Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI-13), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Tim Ryan (OH-17), Dan Lipinski (IL-03), Phil Hare (IL-17), Steve Kagen (WI-08), David Loebsack (IA-01), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Betty Sutton (OH-13), Larry Kissell, (NC-08), Tom Perriello (VA-05), Chellie Pingree (ME-02).

The American Jobs First Platform consists of the following four bills introduced in the 111th Congress that would require the United States to make an honest and comprehensive assessment of our current trade policies and set us on a path towards a new, improved model for trade agreements, reducing the trade deficit, and reinvigorating American manufacturing:

· H.R. 3012, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment (TRADE) Act, would require a comprehensive GAO review of existing major trade pacts and spell out what must be included in trade agreements, including core standards on labor, the environment, food and product safety, agriculture, human rights, currency anti-manipulation, national security, procurement, and investment, and also what must not be included in FTAs, including Buy American bans, anti-sweatshop rule bans, and new rights for foreign investors to promote offshoring.  The bill also ensures strong enforcement of these standards, and would require the President to submit renegotiation plans for current trade agreements so that they include these core provisions before Congressional consideration of additional agreements.  We believe this bill would help reverse the negative effects of job-killing trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA and would ensure that both our current and future trade agreements are fair and put American workers on a level playing field.

· H.R. 1875, the End the Trade Deficit Act, would establish the Emergency Commission to End the Trade Deficit to document the causes and consequences of the trade deficit and to develop a plan to eliminate the trade deficit within the next 10 years.  This bill would also place a moratorium on new FTAs until the Commission has issued a final report and Congress has conducted hearings on the Commission recommendations to end the trade deficit.  The elimination of the trade deficit by 2019 would support millions of additional U.S. manufacturing jobs.

· H.R. 4692, the National Manufacturing Strategy Act would require the Administration to convene an interagency Manufacturing Strategy Task Force to examine the current domestic and international environment for U.S. manufacturing and to develop a National Manufacturing Strategy that includes recommendations to sustain and increase employment, increase global competitiveness, and increase resilience to global economic trends in the U.S. manufacturing sector.  This bill seeks to proactively create and sustain good American manufacturing jobs.

· H.R. 4678, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act would require foreign manufacturers doing business in the U.S. to identify a registered agent authorized to accept service of process on behalf of the manufacturer.  Registering an agent would constitute an acceptance of jurisdiction of the state in which the agent is located.

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Trinity Regional Health System's Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Richard (Rick) A. Seidler as Trinity's new President and Chief Executive Officer, effective June 1.  Seidler will replace interim President and CEO Tom Tibbitts who will remain as a Trinity system development consultant through the end of the year.

Seidler has been President and CEO of Allen Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, for the past 12 years. Prior to joining Allen in 1998, Seidler served as CEO of Davenport Medical Center, a 150-bed hospital which was later acquired and relocated by Trinity Regional Health System, and is now known as Trinity Bettendorf.  He was a resident of the Quad-Cities for five years during that leadership tenure.

Both Allen and Trinity are senior affiliate hospitals of Iowa Health System, based in Des Moines.

With more than 30 years of executive health-care experience, Seidler has held senior leadership positions in both nonprofit and investor-owned health care organizations in California and Iowa.

"Rick's experience and credentials make him an outstanding choice for Trinity," Trinity's Chairman of the Board Linda Newborn said.  "We welcome Rick back to the region where his experiences at Allen and Iowa Health System have prepared him well to lead Trinity into the future."

Trinity's former President and CEO and currently the President and CEO of Iowa Health System, Bill Leaver said of Seidler:  "Rick has been a dedicated and talented leader at Allen for 12 years. Rick's leadership skills and commitment are evident to all who meet him."

During Seidler's tenure, Allen established itself as the health care leader in heart, vascular and emergency care for the Cedar Valley region.  Seidler oversaw a $47 million expansion project for a new emergency department, heart and vascular center in 2009, a new birthing center in 2004 and a 135,000-square-foot ambulatory medical-service mall in 2000, which recently completed a $10 million expansion.

"I am very enthusiastic about this opportunity to lead Trinity," Seidler said. "I am encouraged by what is happening in the community. I'm also excited by what I know is happening at Trinity, with its outstanding patient outcomes. Trinity has a culture of committed employees, outstanding physicians and high-quality care."

Rick also has served in several senior executive positions, including Summit Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., and St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton, Calif. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees with a concentration in health care administration from the University of Miami in Florida.

A member of many civic and professional associations, Seidler is past chair of the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and helped create the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance. Seidler is a Fellow and Regent of the American College of Healthcare Executives and is a board member and past chair of the Iowa Hospital Association, representing all 117 hospitals across Iowa.

Seidler and his wife, Nancy, have two grown children. They will relocate to the Quad-Cities this summer.

About Trinity Regional Health System

Trinity operates four full-service hospitals in Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, and Bettendorf and Muscatine, Iowa, with a total of 595 licensed inpatient beds and 11 hospice beds, as well as 27 primary care and specialty clinics with 70 employed physicians.  Trinity also operates Trinity Visiting Nurse and Homecare Association, Trinity Home Care Products, the Robert Young Center for Community Mental Health, Trinity College of Nursing and Health Sciences and Trinity Osteopathic Family Practice Medical Residency Program. Trinity is a senior affiliate of Iowa Health System, the state's first and largest integrated health system that serves the health-care needs of one in three Iowans. 

Trinity's leadership in quality and service excellence has helped earn Trinity top industry awards for patient safety, excellent outcomes and cost control. Trinity's Five-Star-rated heart program is ranked in the top ten percent of heart programs in the United States. Trinity also recently became the first bi-state hospital to earn MagnetTM status from the American Nursing Credentialing Center, placing Trinity in the top five percent of all U.S. hospitals as a center for nursing excellence. 

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WASHINGTON, April 15, 2010 - USDA announced today that it will accept applications for the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) for losses that took place in calendar years 2008 and 2009. ELAP sign-up ended on Dec.10, 2009, for 2008 losses and on Feb. 1, 2010, for 2009 losses. However, because of changes to program eligibility provisions, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting late-filed applications for 2008 and 2009 livestock, honeybees, and/or farm-raised fish losses through May 5, 2010.

ELAP, authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have losses due to disease, adverse weather or other conditions, including losses due to blizzards and wildfires. ELAP assistance is for losses not covered under other Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance programs established by the 2008 Farm Bill, specifically the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program. ELAP is being implemented to fill in the gap and provide assistance under other conditions determined to be appropriate.

ELAP eligibility provisions have been amended for both honeybee and farm-raised fish producers. The modifications include allowing honeybee and farm-raised fish producers who did not replace their honeybees or fish that were lost due to a natural disaster to be eligible for ELAP payments based on the fair market value of the honeybees or fish that were lost. In addition, the requirements to document losses for honeybee producers who suffered losses due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) were modified to allow documentation by an independent third party for losses in 2010 through Sept. 31, 2011. Producers can self certify losses due to CCD for 2008 and 2009.

For more information or to apply for ELAP and other USDA Farm Service Agency disaster assistance programs, please visit your FSA county office or www.fsa.usda.gov.

Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley 

Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Finance 

Using Unemployment Insurance to Help Americans Get Back to Work: Creating Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges 

April 14, 2010

We've lost nearly 8.5 million private sector jobs during the current recession.  Despite a massive $800 billion stimulus bill, a financial bailout, an auto bailout, cash-for-clunkers, and a so-called jobs bill, private sector job creation remains virtually non-existent. While the most recent monthly jobs data suggest a turn-around may be at hand, it's still too early to know for sure whether we are entirely out of the woods. 

 

The economic outlook remains tenuous, with rising foreclosures and continued weakness in the housing market.  The prospect of higher interest rates weighs heavily on future home values and bank balance sheets.  When jobs are hard to find, unemployed workers seek assistance from the unemployment insurance system. 

Unfortunately, this recession has hit the unemployment system hard.  We've seen a dramatic deterioration in the solvency of the system.  An analysis of state trust fund ratios since 1972 suggest the system is in its worst financial condition in decades.  As of last week, the states had borrowed nearly $40 billion from the federal government to cover their shortfalls. The latest projections suggest federal loans will exceed $90 billion within a few years.  That's almost three times the annual amount of unemployment taxes collected by the states prior to the current recession.

The growing insolvency of the unemployment system represents a major economic and fiscal challenge.  We face the prospect of a dramatic increase in payroll taxes at a time when businesses are still struggling to meet their payroll and retain their workforce. Under current law, repaying federal loans and rebuilding state trust fund balances, before the next inevitable recession, would require an unprecedented and untenable payroll tax increase.

The challenge we face today is how to restore solvency to the unemployment system without undermining private sector job creation.  Today's hearing is the first step in that process.

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American Airlines takes on GDS charges with a new distribution model - and intermediaries fight back
9 April 2010

American Airlines wants to deal directly with corporate travel managers and is attempting to cut out the middleman by putting up pay wall for Global Distribution Systems (GDSs), Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and Travel Management Companies (TMCs) to access the content on AA.com. Predictably there is a chorus of opposition from intermediaries; but Wall Street likes it. Meanwhile, airlines around the world will be watching avidly.

"At the airline firm level, this probably seems very rational to (American)," said Business Travel Coalition (BTC) Chair Kevin Mitchell, who is leading a fight to stop Direct Connect. "It generates more revenue while lowering and shifting costs. But it also throws so much complexity and burdens the industry with so many new costs, it is irrational at the industry level. The airlines just don't get it. They want to eliminate the middle man but corporations have a very efficient and time-tested way of doing business and this will undermine that."

FULL STORY HERE: http://centreforaviation.twi.bz/b

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