- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2010


Key Republican pans mortgage program

The incoming head of a key House panel overseeing the Obama White House called Thursday for pulling the plug on a widely criticized program to help struggling borrowers stay in their homes.

“This program seems to have outlived its usefulness,” said Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He was referring to the administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP.

At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Issa said the program, which has helped almost 500,000 homeowners get permanent loan modifications, has managed only to provide payments to financial institutions that would have modified those loans without the government’s money.

The Obama administration launched HAMP to try to find a way to reduce mortgage payments for struggling homeowners who wanted to keep their homes but who were at imminent risk of foreclosure.

But critical lawmakers say it is failing to ease the strain on households where incomes have been sapped by slow economic growth, high unemployment and red tape imposed by banks.


Congress approves more school meals

More children would eat lunches and dinners at school under legislation passed by the House and sent to the president Thursday, part of first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood hunger and combat childhood obesity.

The $4.5 billion bill, passed by the House on a 264-157 vote, would expand a program that provides full meals after school to all 50 states. It also would try to cut down on greasy foods and extra calories by giving the government power to decide what kinds of foods may be sold in vending machines and lunch lines.

Republicans said the bill is too expensive and an example of government overreach. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin weighed in, calling efforts to limit junk foods in schools a “nanny state run amok.”

Democrats said the legislation is needed to stem rising health care costs because of expanding American waistlines and to feed hungry children in tough economic times. The bill would increase eligibility for school lunches, expand summer feeding programs and provide money to serve the more than 20 million additional after-school meals annually.


New data show signs of growth

Signs that the U.S. economy has broken out of its summer soft patch emerged Thursday as data showed a that gauge of jobless benefits hit a two-year low last week and pending home sales unexpectedly rose in October.

The picture also brightened as retailers recorded their best sales gains in four years in November, with shoppers drawn in by deals throughout a month that culminated with a surge in “Black Friday” traffic.

Initial claims for state unemployment aid increased 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 436,000 last week, the Labor Department said. But a four-week moving average - a better gauge of underlying labor trends - fell to its lowest level since the week ending Aug. 2, 2008.

From wire reports and staff dispatches



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