As part of a new infusion of economic stimulus aimed at businesses, President Obama is expected to propose expanding the so-called bonus depreciation – a tax credit that allows businesses to fully deduct the cost of a range of office and factory equipment, from tractors to computers.
Using a Buffalo, N.Y. small business he visited this week as his focal point, President Obama said consumers, business owners and community banks have much at stake in sweeping Wall Street oversight reform that could come to a final vote next week. “First and foremost, you have a stake in (reform) if you’ve ever been treated unfairly by a credit card company, misled by pages and pages of fine print, or ended up paying fees and penalties you’d never heard of before,” Obama said.
Just more than a month since he signed sweeping health care reform, President Obama today said millions of Americans have or are soon to receive “real benefits” from the legislation, including many small business owners who can start to take advantage of tax credits to encourage expanding or maintaining coverage for their employees. “Two weeks ago, four million small business owners and organizations found a postcard in their mailbox informing them that they could be eligible for a health care tax cut this year,” Obama said in his weekly address.
President Obama today lashed out against a Republican amendment proposing a consumer financial protection agency without the autonomous and sweeping authority over credit cards, mortgages and other loan products that is sought by Democrats. The Republicans want to create a division of consumer protection within the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and subject it to FDIC rules. The FDIC’s primary role, White House officials say, is the safety and soundness of banks, not protecting consumers from unfair or predatory practices.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”