On the News With Thom Hartmann: Five major US Banks are violating a a $25 billion settlement from last year that was meant to compensate victims of abusive bank practices and foreclosure fraud; the sequester cuts are slowly being unleashed on our nation; investigators have determined the cause of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion; and More.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Last year, five major U.S. Banks and 49 state attorneys general agreed on a $25 billion settlement to compensate victims of abusive bank practices and foreclosure fraud. But, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the banksters are violating the terms of that agreement. The settlement required the banks to pay restitution to victims of illegal foreclosures, modify existing loans to keep people in their homes, and abide by new rules aimed at protecting consumers. Despite the terms in the settlement agreement, Attorney General Schneiderman said that his office alone has documented 210 violations by Wells Fargo and 129 by Bank of America. And, he says he is prepared to file a lawsuit against the banks if the problems aren't corrected. In addition to the issues reported in New York, the settlement monitor, Joseph Smith, says his office has received nearly 6,000 consumer complaints about bank services. These violations include not meeting loan processing deadlines, not informing borrowers of missing documents, and not making loan decisions in the 30-day period mandated by the settlement. The allegations are practically the same complaints made against the banks before the settlement agreement, and they indicate that the big banks aren't holding up their end of the bargain. The $25 billion settlement may sound like a huge payout, but only a portion of the fund was meant to repay victims of foreclosure fraud. So, someone who lost their home in an illegal foreclosure could end up with as little as $500. And now the banksters aren't even living up the deal. This is why no settlement agreement should have been made. The big banks should have been broken up, and held accountable for their illegal practices. If too-big-to-fail means too-big-to-jail, then the big banks are too-big-to-exist. No more fines and settlements over fraud – it's time to break up the banks.
In screwed news... The sequester cuts are slowly being unleashed on our nation, and more vital programs are starting to experience the pain of Republican austerity. The latest agency to face the chopping block is The Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women. Because of the sequester, $20 million dollars will be cut from programs that fight domestic violence and sexual assault. According to Sen. Tom Harkin, that equates more than 70,000 victims who will no longer have access to programs and shelters, and about 36,000 fewer people will get help with restraining orders and sexual assault treatment. But, don't expect any compassionate conservatives to stand up for victims of assault and abuse. Remember, it was Republicans who opposed re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it included undocumented immigrants and LGBT victims. It's apparent that preventing domestic abuse isn't a top priority for the GOP. We must reverse this Republican austerity before it destroys any more of our vital programs. Call Congress today and tell them to stop playing politics with domestic abuse victims.
In the best of the rest of the news...
South Carolina may soon invest in our future leaders. That state's legislature has advanced a bill that would almost double what they spend on early childhood education. Since 2006, South Carolina Democrats and education advocates have called for an expansion of a pilot per-kindergaten program, but their effort was routinely met with opposition by Republicans. But now, that state's Republican Senate Finance Chairman, Hugh Leatherman, says he's considering including the expansion in his upcoming budget. Numerous studies show that children who receive early education are less likely to drop out of school or commit violent crimes, and they are more likely to attend college. Investing in our children is investing in our future. These are the people who will someday run our nation, and possibly the world, and we should be giving them the best start possible.
Investigators have determined the cause of the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion. According to Reuters, ammonium nitrate was responsible for the massive explosion that left 14 dead, hundreds injured, and countless residents homeless. That was the same chemical that Timothy McVeigh used in the deadly Oklahoma City bombing, and the Texas facility was storing over 1,300 times the amount that should have triggered oversight by the Department of Homeland Security. Not only had the West, Texas plant failed to disclose the chemical to regulators, but DHS wasn't even aware of the plant's existence until it exploded. And, the Dallas Morning News recently reported that at least 44 additional plants in Texas are storing the same dangerous chemical. Considering the lack of oversight in West, Texas, who really knows how many more potential explosions are out there. Disasters like this can and should be prevented. Officials can start by actually enforcing the regulations that are already on the books. After that, it's time to put additional protections in place to make sure that every community is protected from tragedies like the West, Texas explosion.
And finally... Celebrities face challenges that many people can't relate to, especially when it comes to parenting. But now, the rich and famous can get some special help from professionally trained nannies who have been taught Tae Kwon-Do and evasive stunt driving maneuvers. Norland College in Somerset, England has been training nannies for royals and celebrities since 1892, but they've recently changed their curriculum to meet the special needs of modern wealthy parents. A former graduate of the Norland said that Emily Ward, who started the school over 100 years ago, always wanted to keep it "forward thinking," and "she'd love the idea that we're now moving it even more forward." The school added the additional instruction to help nannies ward off paparazzi or kidnappers, and they do it all in classic "nanny" uniforms that include felt hats and white gloves. I think it's safe to say that even Mary Poppins would be impressed with these super-nannies.
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, May 7, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.