Obama on Tax Credits: Not a Handout, but ‘Targeted Relief’

President Obama dedicated his weekly address to reminding folks rushing to file their tax returns that a long list of tax credits in last year’s Recovery Act was not a handout – but “targeted relief” that has already put nearly $100 billion “into the pockets of working Americans.” So far, Americans who have filed their taxes have averaged a refund that is up nearly ten percent this year – to an all-time high of about $3,000, Obama said.

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Obama: Lobby ‘Army’ Aims to Thwart Financial Reform

President Obama lashed out at bank lobbyists and their political allies for last-minute, well-financed attempts to thwart financial system oversight reform. A primary target of that opposition is a consumer protection bureau that would serve as central overseer of credit cards, mortgages, payday loans and other lending products. “… I won’t accept any attempts to undermine the independence of this agency,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “And I won’t accept efforts to create loopholes for the most egregious abusers of consumers, from payday lenders to auto finance companies to credit card companies.”

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Obama: Tax Breaks Eye Small-Biz Owners ‘on the Fence’

President Obama today signed into law a jobs bill offering tax breaks that he said would particularly help struggling small business owners who are “on the fence” about hiring an additional worker or “anyone at all.” With a ceremony in the Rose Garden, the jobs incentive bill became law after the Senate passed the measure with a 68 to 29 vote yesterday. The legislation provides about $18 billion in tax breaks and pumps $20 billion into highway and transit programs.

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Repubs Blast Obama’s Foreclosure Fix as ‘Spin Over Substance’

The two most vocal Republican critics of President Obama’s foreclosure prevention program told U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a letter that its mortgage modification reports were overstating results, shifting its initially stated goal and applying “spin over substance.” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ranking member of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, wrote the letter to Geithner, dated March 16, 2010.

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Obama Short Sale Plan Avoids Foreclosure with Less Debt

A new initiative by the Obama Administration in its slow-moving and often-criticized foreclosure rescue effort will now offer a short-sale alternative that includes some principal forbearance and $1,500 in “relocation” assistance to borrowers. The plan kicking off April 5 — Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives, or HAFA – is for homeowners who have already qualified for the government’s primary foreclosure-prevention campaign, the $75 billion Home Affordable Modification Program, HAMP, and have failed to complete its reduced-mortgage payments trial.

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Obama Mulls Foreclosure Ban, Forcing HAMP Review

Under growing pressure to improve its much-criticized mortgage relief efforts, the Obama Administration is considering a ban on all foreclosures – unless lenders have screened borrowers for inclusion in the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, according to media reports. Bloomberg first reported the proposal based on a U.S. Treasury document. The plan “prohibits referral to foreclosure until borrower is evaluated and found ineligible for HAMP or reasonable contact efforts have failed.”

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Obama: Credit Card Laws ‘Turning Point’ for Consumers

President Barack Obama said today marks a “significant turning point” for U.S. consumers with the start of compliance with credit card reform laws he enacted last May to combat “deceptive and unfair tactics.” In the nine-month “grace period” since he signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, major credit card issuers have fortified their positions by raising rates, re-introducing annual fees and cutting credit limits.

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New Foreclosure Fix: Obama to Move $1.5B into Hard-Hit States

The Obama Administration will allocate $1.5 billion to state housing agencies to help “underwater” borrowers and those unemployed facing foreclosures in the hardest-hit states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Michigan. The funds are to be re-directed from the government’s primary bailout program, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP. And the state agencies can use the additional aid to help troubled homeowners move into the government’s mortgage reduction program.

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Volcker Rule Aside, JPMorgan Makes Move on Commodities

This nation’s second-largest bank and top credit card issuer made a bold move into commodities today with the announced acquisition of RBS Sempra Commodities’ global oil and metals division, and it’s European power and gas assets. The investment arm of JPMorgan Chase is expected to pay $1.7 billion pending regulatory approval in a deal that will virtually double JPMorgan’s corporate clients served in the commodities business to about 3,000.

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New Oversight of Credit Cards, Mortgages Hangs in Balance

It is a proposal that has sparked one of the most contentious debates within financial reform: An independent watchdog agency mandated to protect consumers from unfair practices by the providers of credit cards, mortgages and other financial products. The agency’s decisions on new laws would undoubtedly affect just about every American’s pocketbooks.
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency, CFPA, is a keystone of President Obama’s financial reform initiatives. And it is fighting for its life in the Senate.

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Will Chase, Goldman Sachs Exec-Pay Deals Soften Critics?

Surprising to many, Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon led Wall Street’s big financial firms in 2009 compensation packages for top executives with a deal worth about $16 million in mostly restricted stock and options – no cash. But the biggest stunner Friday was the announced $9 million bonus – also consisting of stocks – for Goldman Sachs Chairman and Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, who was anticipated to receive a package in the $40-$50 million ballpark. Blankfein got a $68.5 million payout in 2007 – one of the last sky-high payouts before the financial crisis fully erupted.

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