Property:Drum Major Institute 2008 House Scorecard description

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A

Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act +The automobile industry is a critical component of the American economy. Motor vehicle and parts industries employed over 700,000 people directly as of September and each job in the auto industry supports about 1.7 additional jobs in industries as diverse as textiles and retail. The Economic Policy Institute predicts that a worst-case-scenario shutdown of the entire U.S. auto industry would eliminate 3.3 million jobs—many of them solid middle-class positions. Most experts agree that bankruptcy in the current liquidity crisis would be devastating to the auto manufacturers: already weak sales would be exacerbated by consumers frightened to buy from a bankrupt manufacturer, and lending institutions normally accessible to bankrupt companies are now unavailable. As an alternative, this legislation imposes reasonable restructuring requirements, while ensuring that middle-class jobs are preserved in a period of deep economic crisis. The bill will prevent the short-term failure of the automobile industry in the United States and makes a leaner, more energy-efficient Detroit possible. An auto czar cannot make the Big Three automakers profitable. But the czar’s influence—backed up by the capacity to speed loan repayment and impose bankruptcy—and the thorough restructuring guidelines laid out by Congress can ensure that the American automakers do not once again fail to confront environmental concerns and recalcitrant management.
Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act of 2008 +The automobile industry is a critical component of the American economy. Motor vehicle and parts industries employed over 700,000 people directly as of September and each job in the auto industry supports about 1.7 additional jobs in industries as diverse as textiles and retail. The Economic Policy Institute predicts that a worst-case-scenario shutdown of the entire U.S. auto industry would eliminate 3.3 million jobs—many of them solid middle-class positions. Most experts agree that bankruptcy in the current liquidity crisis would be devastating to the auto manufacturers: already weak sales would be exacerbated by consumers frightened to buy from a bankrupt manufacturer, and lending institutions normally accessible to bankrupt companies are now unavailable. As an alternative, this legislation imposes reasonable restructuring requirements, while ensuring that middle-class jobs are preserved in a period of deep economic crisis. The bill will prevent the short-term failure of the automobile industry in the United States and makes a leaner, more energy-efficient Detroit possible. An auto czar cannot make the Big Three automakers profitable. But the czar’s influence—backed up by the capacity to speed loan repayment and impose bankruptcy—and the thorough restructuring guidelines laid out by Congress can ensure that the American automakers do not once again fail to confront environmental concerns and recalcitrant management.

C

College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 +Although a college education is increasingly a prerequisite for a middle-class standard of living, current and aspiring middle-class students and their families are struggling more than ever to afford college. Average tuition and fees at four-year public institutions have increased 51% over the last five years, while the maximum Pell Grant, designed to provide financially strapped students with an opportunity to attend college, has failed to keep pace. The Higher Education Opportunity Act’s increase of the maximum Pell grant will make college accessible to more aspiring middle-class Americans. Additionally, the expansion of the Pell Grant program to include year-round education supports the hardest-working students struggling to complete their educations quickly. The Act also addresses students’ increasing reliance on private lenders to finance their college education. It makes necessary improvements to a student loan system that has been characterized by favoritism and murky lending practices by putting an end to the most egregious conflicts of interest and expanding the information available to students and families deciding what colleges to attend and what loans to take out.
Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act +Although the CPSC is responsible for protecting consumers from more than 15,000 types of consumer products, an anemic budget and staff shortages have increasingly put Americans at risk, as demonstrated by a record-setting 448 recalls of unsafe products in 2007. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act responds vigorously to the dangers that middle-class consumers increasingly confront at stores and in their own homes. By providing the CPSC with additional funding through 2014, more staff, and easier rulemaking options, the legislation helps ensure that inspectors have the resources to safeguard consumers. Empowering state attorneys general to file suit when they believe that residents of a state have been adversely affected by a violation of a consumer product safety rule creates an additional layer of consumer protection. Independent third-party testing of children’s products ends the current insidious practice of manufacturers certifying the safety of their own goods. The ban on lead and phthalates in children’s products will benefit parents who would otherwise be unable to determine if a toy is safe. Whistleblower protections will encourage vigilant industry employees to report negligence
Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2008 +Many middle-class Americans rely on credit cards to meet daily expenses. 80% of U.S. households have at least one credit card and 55% of households carried an outstanding balance in 2006. At the same time, middle-class households are constantly bombarded with misleading credit card offers even when they cannot afford to take on additional debt. Consumers have been slapped with excessive and obscure fees and interest charges that, if they are explained at all, are described in small text and confusing language. It is now common practice for credit card companies to apply finance charges twice in a billing cycle (double-cycle billing); to charge multiple over-the-limit fees; and to apply payments on balances with multiple interest rates to the balance with the lowest rate, all practices banned or restricted under this bill. The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act ends the most insidious practices employed by credit card companies, protecting consumers from practices that can keep them mired in credit card debt despite their best efforts to dig themselves out.

E

Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 +Middle-class Americans, no matter how far removed from Wall Street, will be adversely affected by the crisis in finance and credit that now grips our economy. Government action is absolutely necessary to ensure that middle-class Americans’ standard of living does not suffer gravely from the credit crisis. Yet, EESA is not the legislation middle-class Americans need. Instead of a top-down bailout, credit markets should be stabilized from the bottom up. To the extent that a direct investment in the financial services industry is made, it should complement large-scale mortgage restructuring and foreclosure prevention efforts and the re-regulation of the financial services industry. This would not only benefit struggling homeowners, but is widely understood to be part of an effective strategy to aid financial markets through stabilized payment streams. Reshaping the mortgage landscape by creating an institution modeled on the New Deal’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, permitting modification of primary mortgages in bankruptcy, and a moratorium on foreclosures are all desirable steps. While last-minute additions to the bailout package—energy efficiency initiatives, protection of the middle class from the AMT, and a mental health parity bill—are positive for the middle class and should become law, they are not relevant to this bill and should be enacted separately.

M

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2008 +In the first four months of 2008, the American economy lost 260,000 jobs. Unemployment benefits provide direct assistance to the current and aspiring middle-class Americans thrown out of work through no fault of their own during the economic downturn. Moreover, the unemployed are most likely to spend their unemployment benefits immediately, stimulating the larger economy by as much as $1.64 for every dollar spent. The “New GI Bill” measures are also important. After World War II, the education and other benefits of the original GI Bill allowed unprecedented numbers of returning soldiers to access a middle-class standard of living, but today the GI Bill covers only 60-70% of the cost of a four-year public university. This amendment would change that, permitting the equivalent of full scholarships to public institutions of higher learning to any recent service member who completed three years of service. Veterans could also choose to use the money at private institutions. Our nation owes the young people who have volunteered to fight for the United States a fair opportunity to enter the middle class.

N

Neighborhood Stabilization Act of 2008 +The Neighborhood Stabilization Act addresses two important problems plaguing aspiring middle-class Americans: the community breakdown that can result from vacant foreclosed homes in neighborhoods across the country and the lack of affordable housing. Middle-class Americans who are current on their mortgages and face no personal risk of foreclosure are nevertheless harmed when a foreclosed home down the street brings down property values, erodes the local tax base, and threatens to become a magnet for crime. The Center for Responsible Lending has shown that approximately 40.6 million homes will experience devaluation because of nearby subprime foreclosures and that homeowners living near foreclosed properties will lose approximately $5,000 on the value of their homes. At the same time, two of the causes of the foreclosure crisis were a lack of affordable housing and the targeting of low-income neighborhoods by subprime lenders. By funneling federal money to local agencies to serve low-income individuals, the Neighborhood Stabilization Act will help neighborhoods recover from the harm done to their communities by foreclosures while helping to ensure that neighborhoods can accommodate aspiring middle-class Americans. Providing funds for rental properties recognizes that the foreclosure crisis affects aspiring middle-class and middle-class renters as well as homeowners.

R

Recovery Rebates and Economic Stimulus for the American People Act of 2008 +There is increasing evidence that the economy faces a high risk of recession which could throw millions of middle-class Americans out of work, reduce income and health insurance coverage, and increase poverty. A smart economic stimulus plan could prevent the downturn or soften its effects. To be effective, an economic stimulus package must direct money to those who will spend it quickly, boosting consumer demand and prompting increased production and economic growth. For this reason, the household tax rebates are likely to be effective, if the checks can be sent quickly. The rebates are targeted to cash-strapped middle-class and aspiring middle-class Americans who are more likely than wealthier people to spend the money they receive immediately, rather than saving it. It is also important that Americans relying on Social Security or disability benefits are included, both as an issue of basic fairness and because these groups are likely to spend their rebates quickly. The business tax cuts are less positive for the middle class because they provide little simulative effect but would deprive the public of significant revenue and increase deficits. Offering tax incentives for business investment frequently fails to generate substantial economic growth because many businesses use the tax cuts for investments they already planned to undertake anyway, costing the public lost revenue but creating no additional economic activity. Another drawback is that it takes considerable time for businesses to make new investments and for investments to result in increased employment or purchasing. Yet to be most effective economic stimulus should have a rapid impact on the economy. Finally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that business incentives harm state budgets, since state and federal tax codes are linked. Many states are already facing a revenue crunch due to the economic downturn and, unlike the federal government, they cannot run budget deficits. The result could be cuts in state and local services that middle-class Americans rely on, from education to road maintenance to public safety.

S

SCHIP Extension bill +Being able to take a child to the doctor for regular check-ups and immunizations is fundamental to a middle-class standard of living. Yet, steeply rising costs over the past several years have made health coverage unaffordable, not only for the poor, but also for a growing number of middle-class families. Since 2000, the premium that the average American employee pays for health coverage has risen more than 83%, increasing more than four times faster than wages. At the same time, more employers are dropping insurance plans entirely, and coverage is even more expensive for Americans who must purchase it themselves on the open market. SCHIP has been highly successful at reducing the number of uninsured children, but a lack of funding has limited its reach, leaving 9 million American children uninsured in 2006. The shortfall has consequences, not only for children’s individual health and well-being, but for society as a whole, which bears the cost of preventable emergency room visits from children who never got preventive care. By renewing SCHIP and expanding it to more low- and middle-income children, this bill offers children a healthy start in life.

U

U.S. House of Representatives record vote 22, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Being able to take a child to the doctor for regular check-ups and immunizations is fundamental to a middle-class standard of living. Yet, steeply rising costs over the past several years have made health coverage unaffordable, not only for the poor, but also for a growing number of middle-class families. Since 2000, the premium that the average American employee pays for health coverage has risen more than 83%, increasing more than four times faster than wages. At the same time, more employers are dropping insurance plans entirely, and coverage is even more expensive for Americans who must purchase it themselves on the open market. SCHIP has been highly successful at reducing the number of uninsured children, but a lack of funding has limited its reach, leaving 9 million American children uninsured in 2006. The shortfall has consequences, not only for children’s individual health and well-being, but for society as a whole, which bears the cost of preventable emergency room visits from children who never got preventive care. By renewing SCHIP and expanding it to more low- and middle-income children, this bill offers children a healthy start in life.
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 299, 110th Congress, Session 2 +The Neighborhood Stabilization Act addresses two important problems plaguing aspiring middle-class Americans: the community breakdown that can result from vacant foreclosed homes in neighborhoods across the country and the lack of affordable housing. Middle-class Americans who are current on their mortgages and face no personal risk of foreclosure are nevertheless harmed when a foreclosed home down the street brings down property values, erodes the local tax base, and threatens to become a magnet for crime. The Center for Responsible Lending has shown that approximately 40.6 million homes will experience devaluation because of nearby subprime foreclosures and that homeowners living near foreclosed properties will lose approximately $5,000 on the value of their homes. At the same time, two of the causes of the foreclosure crisis were a lack of affordable housing and the targeting of low-income neighborhoods by subprime lenders. By funneling federal money to local agencies to serve low-income individuals, the Neighborhood Stabilization Act will help neighborhoods recover from the harm done to their communities by foreclosures while helping to ensure that neighborhoods can accommodate aspiring middle-class Americans. Providing funds for rental properties recognizes that the foreclosure crisis affects aspiring middle-class and middle-class renters as well as homeowners.
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 330, 110th Congress, Session 2 +In the first four months of 2008, the American economy lost 260,000 jobs. Unemployment benefits provide direct assistance to the current and aspiring middle-class Americans thrown out of work through no fault of their own during the economic downturn. Moreover, the unemployed are most likely to spend their unemployment benefits immediately, stimulating the larger economy by as much as $1.64 for every dollar spent. The “New GI Bill” measures are also important. After World War II, the education and other benefits of the original GI Bill allowed unprecedented numbers of returning soldiers to access a middle-class standard of living, but today the GI Bill covers only 60-70% of the cost of a four-year public university. This amendment would change that, permitting the equivalent of full scholarships to public institutions of higher learning to any recent service member who completed three years of service. Veterans could also choose to use the money at private institutions. Our nation owes the young people who have volunteered to fight for the United States a fair opportunity to enter the middle class.
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 42, 110th Congress, Session 2 +There is increasing evidence that the economy faces a high risk of recession which could throw millions of middle-class Americans out of work, reduce income and health insurance coverage, and increase poverty. A smart economic stimulus plan could prevent the downturn or soften its effects. To be effective, an economic stimulus package must direct money to those who will spend it quickly, boosting consumer demand and prompting increased production and economic growth. For this reason, the household tax rebates are likely to be effective, if the checks can be sent quickly. The rebates are targeted to cash-strapped middle-class and aspiring middle-class Americans who are more likely than wealthier people to spend the money they receive immediately, rather than saving it. It is also important that Americans relying on Social Security or disability benefits are included, both as an issue of basic fairness and because these groups are likely to spend their rebates quickly. The business tax cuts are less positive for the middle class because they provide little simulative effect but would deprive the public of significant revenue and increase deficits. Offering tax incentives for business investment frequently fails to generate substantial economic growth because many businesses use the tax cuts for investments they already planned to undertake anyway, costing the public lost revenue but creating no additional economic activity. Another drawback is that it takes considerable time for businesses to make new investments and for investments to result in increased employment or purchasing. Yet to be most effective economic stimulus should have a rapid impact on the economy. Finally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that business incentives harm state budgets, since state and federal tax codes are linked. Many states are already facing a revenue crunch due to the economic downturn and, unlike the federal government, they cannot run budget deficits. The result could be cuts in state and local services that middle-class Americans rely on, from education to road maintenance to public safety.
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 543, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Although the CPSC is responsible for protecting consumers from more than 15,000 types of consumer products, an anemic budget and staff shortages have increasingly put Americans at risk, as demonstrated by a record-setting 448 recalls of unsafe products in 2007. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act responds vigorously to the dangers that middle-class consumers increasingly confront at stores and in their own homes. By providing the CPSC with additional funding through 2014, more staff, and easier rulemaking options, the legislation helps ensure that inspectors have the resources to safeguard consumers. Empowering state attorneys general to file suit when they believe that residents of a state have been adversely affected by a violation of a consumer product safety rule creates an additional layer of consumer protection. Independent third-party testing of children’s products ends the current insidious practice of manufacturers certifying the safety of their own goods. The ban on lead and phthalates in children’s products will benefit parents who would otherwise be unable to determine if a toy is safe. Whistleblower protections will encourage vigilant industry employees to report negligence
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 544, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Although a college education is increasingly a prerequisite for a middle-class standard of living, current and aspiring middle-class students and their families are struggling more than ever to afford college. Average tuition and fees at four-year public institutions have increased 51% over the last five years, while the maximum Pell Grant, designed to provide financially strapped students with an opportunity to attend college, has failed to keep pace. The Higher Education Opportunity Act’s increase of the maximum Pell grant will make college accessible to more aspiring middle-class Americans. Additionally, the expansion of the Pell Grant program to include year-round education supports the hardest-working students struggling to complete their educations quickly. The Act also addresses students’ increasing reliance on private lenders to finance their college education. It makes necessary improvements to a student loan system that has been characterized by favoritism and murky lending practices by putting an end to the most egregious conflicts of interest and expanding the information available to students and families deciding what colleges to attend and what loans to take out.
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 623, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Many middle-class Americans rely on credit cards to meet daily expenses. 80% of U.S. households have at least one credit card and 55% of households carried an outstanding balance in 2006. At the same time, middle-class households are constantly bombarded with misleading credit card offers even when they cannot afford to take on additional debt. Consumers have been slapped with excessive and obscure fees and interest charges that, if they are explained at all, are described in small text and confusing language. It is now common practice for credit card companies to apply finance charges twice in a billing cycle (double-cycle billing); to charge multiple over-the-limit fees; and to apply payments on balances with multiple interest rates to the balance with the lowest rate, all practices banned or restricted under this bill. The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act ends the most insidious practices employed by credit card companies, protecting consumers from practices that can keep them mired in credit card debt despite their best efforts to dig themselves out.
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 681, 110th Congress, Session 2 +Middle-class Americans, no matter how far removed from Wall Street, will be adversely affected by the crisis in finance and credit that now grips our economy. Government action is absolutely necessary to ensure that middle-class Americans’ standard of living does not suffer gravely from the credit crisis. Yet, EESA is not the legislation middle-class Americans need. Instead of a top-down bailout, credit markets should be stabilized from the bottom up. To the extent that a direct investment in the financial services industry is made, it should complement large-scale mortgage restructuring and foreclosure prevention efforts and the re-regulation of the financial services industry. This would not only benefit struggling homeowners, but is widely understood to be part of an effective strategy to aid financial markets through stabilized payment streams. Reshaping the mortgage landscape by creating an institution modeled on the New Deal’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, permitting modification of primary mortgages in bankruptcy, and a moratorium on foreclosures are all desirable steps. While last-minute additions to the bailout package—energy efficiency initiatives, protection of the middle class from the AMT, and a mental health parity bill—are positive for the middle class and should become law, they are not relevant to this bill and should be enacted separately.
U.S. House of Representatives record vote 690, 110th Congress, Session 2 +The automobile industry is a critical component of the American economy. Motor vehicle and parts industries employed over 700,000 people directly as of September and each job in the auto industry supports about 1.7 additional jobs in industries as diverse as textiles and retail. The Economic Policy Institute predicts that a worst-case-scenario shutdown of the entire U.S. auto industry would eliminate 3.3 million jobs—many of them solid middle-class positions. Most experts agree that bankruptcy in the current liquidity crisis would be devastating to the auto manufacturers: already weak sales would be exacerbated by consumers frightened to buy from a bankrupt manufacturer, and lending institutions normally accessible to bankrupt companies are now unavailable. As an alternative, this legislation imposes reasonable restructuring requirements, while ensuring that middle-class jobs are preserved in a period of deep economic crisis. The bill will prevent the short-term failure of the automobile industry in the United States and makes a leaner, more energy-efficient Detroit possible. An auto czar cannot make the Big Three automakers profitable. But the czar’s influence—backed up by the capacity to speed loan repayment and impose bankruptcy—and the thorough restructuring guidelines laid out by Congress can ensure that the American automakers do not once again fail to confront environmental concerns and recalcitrant management.
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