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A basic Republican attack on President Obama is shaping up for the 2012 election: the national debt is too high, the unemployment rate is too high, and gas prices are too high.
Two of these three issues find a home in the Keystone XL pipeline—the boilerplate Republican argument is that the White House not only killed a project that could provide jobs in construction and maintenance, but also exacerbated higher gas prices by denying the markets more oil. Rick Santorum charged in Ohio yesterday that Obama’s “radical environmentalist policies” were threatening the economic recovery and driving up fuel prices. Mitt Romney has been sounding similar notes.
Unfortunately, there’s an all-too-typical problem with the Republican line on Keystone: it’s completely unsupported by the facts. On the jobs front, the Cornell Global Labor Institute estimates the project would create only 2,500 to 4,650 short-term construction jobs—not the “hundreds of thousands” of jobs claimed by House Speaker John Boehner.
Similarly, gas prices would not decrease if Keystone was built—they’d likely go up in many areas of the country. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and leader of the movement to stop the pipeline, took to The Hill today to debunk this myth:
This is nonsense on many fronts, most of all because the price is oil is fundamentally set on global markets. As the Congressional Research Service pointed out in late January, when there’s trouble in places like the Straits of Hormuz, the price of oil goes up for everyone and Keystone will make no difference, since the oil market is “globally integrated’; it’s not like Exxon offers a home-country discount to American motorists.
But in the case of the Keystone pipeline, it turns out there’s a special twist. At the moment, there’s an oversupply of tarsands crude in the Midwest, which has depressed gas prices there. If the pipeline gets built so that crude can easily be sent overseas, that excess will immediately disappear and gas prices for 15 states across the middle of the country will suddenly rise. Says who? Says the companies trying to build the thing. Transcanada Pipeline’s rationale for investors, and their testimony to Canadian officials, included precisely this point: removing the “oversupply’ and the resulting “price discount” would raise their returns by $2 to $4 billion a year.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, that would translate to about $3 for an average 15-gallon fill-up—as independent energy economist Philip Verleger put it, with Keystone the industry “will be able to use its market power to raise the heavy crude price to Midwest refiners above the level that would prevail in a competitive market.”
This is point worth repeating again and again. Fox News is already revving up its outrage machine over gas prices, and aiming it directly at the White House. If gas is over $4 per gallon through most of the summer, we’ll be hearing “Keystone” on the stump almost every day.
Last month, we noted that Public Citizen filed an official petition with the Federal Reserve to break up Bank of America, using powers granted under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. Those measures were supposed to end "too big to fail,” yet Bank of America has assets equal to one-seventh of America’s GDP—and there are quiet but persistent whispers about the bank’s financial health and inability to raise capital.
If the bank were to go under, it would no doubt wreak havoc on the global economy. Public Citizen wants a controlled breakup of the bank now, before a crisis arises. It has just released a new video advocating for Federal Reserve action, using the words of President Obama, who pledged the country would never be held hostage by a too-big-to-fail institution.
There is also a public petition drive underway; you can view and sign here.
As budget wonks comb over President Obama’s outline for fiscal year 2013, a startling White House plan has become clear: the administration is seeking to undo some mandatory cuts to the Pentagon at the expense of critical domestic programs. It does so by basically undoing the defense sequester that kicked in as a result of the Congressional supercommittee on debt. This wasn’t a featured part of the White House budget rollout, and for good reason—it undercuts the administration’s carefully crafted message of benevolent government action and economic fairness.
The process for this shift is complicated, and has been flagged by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Essentially, Obama wants to eliminate individual spending caps for both military and non-military spending, and institute one single discretionary spending cap instead. Here’s the basic rundown.
To understand how deep the retreat really is, one first needs to understand the difference between security spending and defense spending. Spending on defense applies to the “National Defense Function”—that is, the entire Pentagon budget, plus $24 billion for nuclear weaponry and environmental cleanup programs at the Department of Energy, the defense activities of the FBI, and a small handful of other defense programs. Security spending, on the other hand, excludes some of the Department of Energy money, along with some of the other FBI and small program funding—but includes the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security and the “International Affairs” part of the budget, which is mainly State Department funding and foreign aid.
So from a progressive point of view, to cut the most fat from the military budget you want defense cuts, not security cuts—otherwise funding for veterans’ health and diplomatic efforts is also in jeopardy.
Next: when the debt ceiling deal passed in August, it implemented discretionary spending caps through 2021. This meant that if Congress appropriated money above certain levels for discretionary spending—which is basically everything the government spends money on, minus entitlement benefits and interest on the debt—something called sequestration kicks in, which entails automatic, across-the-board cuts to bring the budget back under the spending caps.
Under the debt ceiling deal, those spending caps were split between security and nonsecurity spending areas in 2012 and 2013. Nonsecurity spending is the important domestic stuff: everything besides security spending, entitlement benefits and interest on the debt. Think scientific research, the NASA budget, national parks and forests, environmental protection, social services, Head Start and so on. Then, in every year from 2014 through 2021, there would just be one cap. So starting in 2014, Congress could theoretically take everything from nonsecurity spending in order to maintain a healthy security budget and meet the spending cap.
The failure of the supercommittee changed all this. When the twelve members failed to reach an agreement in November, the budget laws automatically changed—now, there is no single cap starting in 2014, but dual caps in both defense and non-defense spending through 2021. That’s why hawks like Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain were so upset when the supercommittee failed—with mandatory caps in defense and nondefense spending through 2014, it was a worst-case scenario for defenders of the Pentagon budget.
The Obama budget plan, quite disappointingly, proposes to reverse the configuration of these caps. It would have caps in 2013, split between security and nonsecurity spending—not defense and nondefense—and then beginning in 2014, a single cap is reinstituted anyhow. All the firewalls ensuring that defense spending is reduced would thus be torn down.
The president’s budget for 2013 follows this new scheme: Obama proposes around $5 billion in spending above the defense cap, and $5 billion in spending below the nondefense cap. This would violate the current budget laws—unless the categorization was changed to security and nonsecurity spending. Then it would comply. And every year after, the distinction wouldn’t matter anyhow under one spending cap.
This is a dramatic shift in priorities, and one that not many people are discussing. Given the massive lobbying potential of the defense industry—and the comparably weak advocates for things like Head Start funding—it’s a virtual certainty that, under the White House proposal, these strict spending caps would be met by raiding nonsecurity spending heavily in years to come. Even the president’s own budget does that. One shudders to imagine the budget of President Romney or President Rubio.
After weeks of laborious negotiations, Congress passed a $143 billion package today to extend a payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance through the end of this year. The payroll tax cut will provide the average household $1,000 this year, a valuable form of economic stimulus, and 5 million Americans will continue to receive unemployment benefits. Taken together, the two measures may boost economic growth by 1 to 1.5 percent of GDP this year.
Both measures were part of President Obama’s jobs plan announced last fall, and Republicans were initially opposed to both. In December, Tea Party legislators in particular raised strong resistance to the idea of extending the payroll tax cut (mainly, one presumes, simply because it’s something President Obama wanted). Congress ended up passing a two-month extension only, and this time around Republican leaders seemed eager to at least extract worrisome concessions from Democrats for a yes vote.
Looking at the final details of today’s package, they failed—with some rather troubling exceptions.
I noted earlier this week that the unemployed could be left out of a deal entirely, and there were also troubling reports that Republicans might otherwise insist on mandatory drug testing and mandatory GED programs for the unemployed. In the end, the GED provisions were scrapped and the drug testing was watered down to simply allowing states to drug test unemployed applicants, not requiring it, and only for those who lost their job due to a failed drug test already or work in an industry where drug tests occur regularly.
Advocates for the jobless were largely pleased with the deal. “The payroll tax compromise affirms the critical role of the federal unemployment insurance program, on which millions of Americans have relied since the recession began to search for jobs, support their families and contribute to their communities,” said Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project. “Despite extreme efforts to dismantle this basic safety net and impose significant new barriers on unemployed workers, Congress has reached an agreement that recognizes the fundamental role of unemployment insurance in putting Americans back to work.”
Republicans insisted, however, that the unemployment extension be paid for by pension cuts for federal employees. This led several Maryland Democrats—notably Representatives Steny Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen, both members of the leadership team—to denounce the deal on the House floor this morning and vote against it. (Maryland has a high concentration of federal workers). “Nobody is targeted in this bill other than federal employees,” said Hoyer. “We ought to stop dissing them, we ought to stop demagoguing them, we ought to stop using ‘bureaucrat’ as an epithet.”
The strongest Democratic condemnation of the deal came from Senator Tom Harkin, who pledged to vote against it in a fiery Senate speech last night. His problem: the payroll tax cut slows down the revenue stream for the Social Security trust fund. The money will be replaced by money from the general taxation fund, but Harkin is still concerned this sets a precedent for raiding Social Security:
“I never thought I would live to see the day when a Democratic president and a Democratic vice president would agree to put Social Security in this kind of jeopardy,” Harkin said on the Senate floor Thursday evening. “Never did I imagine a Democratic president beginning the unraveling of Social Security.”
“It’s a devil’s deal,” he later added. “It’s a bad deal. There are better ways to accomplish these goals.”
“I choose my words carefully,” Harkin said. “Make no mistake about it, American people, make no mistake about it. This is the beginning of the end of the sanctity of Social Security.”
Harkin’s full speech can be seen here:
The package cleared the House this morning by a 293-132 vote, with 146 Republicans voting yes and forty-one Democrats voting no. It cleared the Senate 60-36.
The panel for this morning's House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing on birth control access.
This morning, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding a hearing titled “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” The topic, as you might guess, is the recent administration decision to mandate birth control coverage.
As you might not guess, the first panel of witnesses doesn’t include a single woman. The five-person, all-male panel consists of a Roman Catholic Bishop, a Lutheran Reverend, a rabbi and two professors.
Democrats on the panel were told they were allowed only one witness. They selected a young female Georgetown student, Sandra Fluke, who was going to discuss the repercussions of losing contraceptive coverage. But Representative Darrell Issa, the chairman, rejected her as “not qualified.”
When the hearing began this morning, the Democratic women on the committee walked out. Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat, put out a statement blasting Issa:
It is inconceivable to me that you believe tomorrow’s hearing has no bearing on the reproductive rights of women. This Committee commits a massive injustice by trying to pretend that the views of millions of women across this country are meaningless, worthless, or irrelevant to this debate. […]
Even if you fundamentally disagree with Ms. Fluke’s viewpoint on this matter, you should not be afraid to hear it. A hearing stacked with last-minute witnesses who offer no competing views only contributes to the perception that our Committee is fostering a circus-like atmosphere intended to further politicize this debate.
The hearing will continue well into the afternoon, with a brief lunch break. You can watch a livestream here. We'll post more updates later.
UPDATE: At a press briefing this morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called out Issa’s selective witness list. “What is it that men don’t understand about women’s health and how central the issue of family planning is to that?” she asked. “Where are the women? And that’s a good question for the whole debate. Where are the women. Imagine, having a panel on women’s health and then not having any women on the panel, duh!”
A committee spokeswoman reached out to me this afternoon, offering to correct the record on the witness list and rebuke Pelosi. “Rep. Pelosi is either ill informed or arrogantly dismissive of women who don’t share her views. Today’s hearing does in fact include two women, Dr. Allison Garrett of Oklahoma Christian University and Dr. Laura Champion of Calvin College Health Services.”
As I noted, it was the first panel that was woman-free. The second panel indeed has the two aforementioned women, though I will note both are testifying against the administration’s contraception policy. Also, Dr. Champion is the only one of now eleven witnesses who has any public health experience.
UPDATE 2: Though Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student, wasn't allowed to testify today, she did speak passionately about access to birth control at the National Press Club last week. You can watch her remarks here:
Yesterday, House Republicans announced a surprising retreat: after insisting for weeks that any deal to extend the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the Medicare “doc fix” would have to be offset by budget cuts, House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team announced they would introduce a bill to extend the payroll tax cut for one year with neither conditions nor spending reductions.
For the second time in as many months, Republicans have had to step back from a confrontation with Democrats over the payroll tax cut. They insisted back in December that they wouldn’t pass any extension without deep cuts, but then did—along with extended unemployment insurance and the “doc fix”—though just for two months. Facing that deadline, they’ve surrendered again. It’s another defeat for Congressional Republicans, and their failure to obtain cutbacks is also a setback in their long-term strategy to shrink government, as Brian Beutler notes.
But there’s one important catch—if Democrats accept this compromise, it would leave 5 million unemployed Americans in danger of losing their benefits beginning on February 29. If that happens, people in the first four tiers of the federal unemployment insurance program could finish that tier, but would not be able to advance to the next one. Anybody on a separate extension, called Fed Ed, would lose their benefits almost immediately.
Republicans say they will continue to negotiate on the unemployment extension after the payroll tax cut is dealt with, but they have several draconian requests: that everyone on unemployment participates in GED programs if they have no high school degree, and also submit to mandatory drug testing. Republicans also want to reduce the length of benefits to fifty-nine weeks, which is less than the seventy-nine weeks the White House wants and the ninety-three weeks Senate Democrats want.
Advocates for the unemployed have blasted the move and warned Democrats not to accept it. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, sent out a statement deriding the recent developments:
Unemployed women and men are tired of being pawns in partisan games. No one has suffered longer or deeper or more from the recession and slow job growth than the long-term unemployed and their families. To knowingly place their well-being on the line yet another time—to explicitly contemplate that their benefits will expire—is so beyond the pale, its proponents should be ashamed even to suggest it.
We hope the House of Representatives will reject this shameless stunt and act quickly and reasonably on both the payroll tax freeze and extension of unemployment insurance benefits. But if it fails or refuses to do so, NELP calls on the Senate and the White House to repudiate this cynical ploy and demand that the federal unemployment insurance programs be extended through the end of the year before the long-term unemployed are forced to do without the income support they vitally need to continue searching for jobs, support their families, and contribute to their communities.
Democrats have so far not agreed to the Republican compromise; House Democratic leaders said yesterday that both unemployment insurance and the payroll measure must be extended simultaneously. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday an unemployment insurance extension was “equally” as important as the payroll tax cut, before immediately rephrasing his statement by saying it was “very” important.
Republicans calculate that by taking away the Democrats’ payroll tax cut leverage—that is, by agreeing to pass it with no strings attached—they can drive a harder bargain on unemployment insurance. So there’s a few ways this could play out: fearful of not getting unemployment extensions, Democrats could come back to the table now and negotiate a total package that’s more friendly to Republican demands. Alternately, if that doesn’t happen, Republicans could just pass the straight payroll tax extension for one year and dare Democrats in the Senate to reject it. Even in that case, the Senate could approve it, but send back a package that also extends unemployment insurance, thus putting the onus back on the House Republicans.
This may seem like an overwrought, inside-the-Beltway food fight. But for millions of unemployed Americans, the outcome is crucially important—and there are only two weeks to solve the problem.
President Obama released his proposed budget today, mapping out how the White House would prefer to see the federal government operate through the fall of 2013.
The key word is “prefer,” because as every news account of the budget will tell you, the plan is dead on arrival in Congress. Republicans lambasted the proposal before the details were even released, and today Representative Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, called the Obama budget “a recipe for a debt crisis and the decline of America.” So they’re not passing it.
The White House knows this, and designed the budget essentially as a political document to contrast with Republican priorities heading into the election. The plan moves away from deficit-cutting actions—the White House budget director, Jacob Lew, said yesterday on Meet the Press that “the time for austerity is not today”—and towards measures aimed at goosing the improving, but still weak economy.
Most notably, the White House wants the very wealthy to pay for much of these stimulative measures—hiring teachers, rebuilding infrastructure and boosting manufacturing. This is an obvious nod to the increasing national focus on income inequality, not to mention the anticipation of facing a multi-millionaire ex–Wall Streeter Mitt Romney in the fall.
Here are some highlights of the budget plan, which the White House is characterizing as a “New Foundation”:
The plan calls for a total federal budget of $3.8 trillion; the projected deficit for that time period is $901 billion.
There are $1.5 trillion in new taxes, mainly from allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those earning over $250,000 annually but also a total tax overhaul that closes loopholes and is billed as a “fair share” restructuring.
Obama also proposes taxing dividends of the wealthiest taxpayers as ordinary income, which would be subject to a 39.6 percent rate assuming the Bush tax cuts for top earners also expire. This is commonly known as the “Buffet Rule,” and replaces the current capital gains tax rate of 15 percent. This is a departure from the White House’s earlier position on dividends, which it wanted to increase taxes on, but only to 20 percent.
The budget calls for a ten-year, $61 billion “financial crisis responsibility fee” on the largest financial companies. According to the White House document, the fee would be levied “in order to compensate the American people for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street, as well as to discourage excessive risk-taking.” (This is not a new idea, and was first introduced by the White House in January 2010 amidst the outrage over excessive bonuses on Wall Street).
The budget includes notable education investments, including $5 billion to help schools attract and train high-quality teachers. It also calls for a program to train 2 million workers for high-demand industries via increased community college funding, which was the subject of Obama’s appearance at a northern Virginia community college this morning.
The national infrastructure bank, a part of Obama’s jobs plan in the fall, is naturally included, as is a 5 percent bump in research and development funding. There are billions of dollars in several areas meant to goose manufacturing, from a bigger transportation bill to increased funding to enforce trade rules.
That’s the good stuff. There are also some distressing items, most of them deep spending cuts—including some in Medicare and Medicaid. The Center for American Progress calls some of these cuts “painful.” The cuts are largely dictated by the debt ceiling deal struck in August, but the White House was a party to that deal, and in fact wanted it to be larger than it was.
Again, this budget will never pass—but it serves as a useful political tool for the White House and a starting point or negotiation in the Senate, whenever money for the next fiscal year is finally approved. If, of course, it is approved. I doubt Republicans would threaten a government shutdown in an election year, but I’ve learned never to underestimate what they might or might not do.
Yesterday, Politico’s website ran a story titled: “Keystone XL handled well by State Department, inspector general says.” The story asserted that “there is no evidence of conflict of interest or bias in the State Department’s review of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.”
Well, not quite. The IG found that there wasn’t any technical conflict of interest when the State Department selected the firm Cardno Entrix to perform an environmental impact review of the project, but the report did highlight plenty of flaws in the review process—and also recommended the State Department change its contracting processes going forward.
Cardno Entrix had previously identified TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, as a “major client,” which would seem to be a clear conflict of interest. Among the report’s findings:
TransCanada influenced the State Department’s selection of Cardno Entrix. The report characterizes the influence as “minimal” and not “improper,” but does acknowledge TransCanada selected Cardno Entrix as its preferred company to perform the review. A rejoinder from one State Department employee in the report was simply that “we don’t care who TransCanada picks.”
The State Department failed “to perform any independent inquiry to verify Cardno Entrix’s organizational conflict of interest statements.”
TransCanada was not asked by the State Department to view and certify Cardno Entrix’s conflict of interest statements.
Overall, the review found that the State Department’s “limited technical resources expertise and experience” limited environmental review process. The officers in charge of the review, according to the report, had “little or no” experience with environmental law “and had to seek training and learn quickly on the job.”
The State Department has already agreed to tweak its contractor review process, but this won’t affect the official environmental impact statement that’s already been performed.
Opponents of Keystone XL, however, are using the report to make the case that the project isn’t environmentally sound, despite the State Department review. “The [IG] findings confirm once again why the project should not be rubber stamped for approval, despite efforts by Republicans in Congress to do just that,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. “The more we learn, the less merit there is to this project.”
The soundness of the State Department review is likely to come back into play in the future—President Obama has delayed, but not cancelled, a final decision on the project. And this week, a Republican-led House panel approved a bill to fast-track Keystone XL. That effort will probably die in the Senate, but Republicans could attach it as a poison pill in the massive transportation bill that Congress will presumably pass some time this year.
Last month, we noted the progressive push to get Federal Election Commission reform from the White House. A wide array of good government and campaign finance groups joined forces to ask President Obama to install new FEC members with recess appointments or some other avenue, before the 2012 elections.
The FEC frequently fails to enforce even basic campaign finance rules—it hasn’t issued a single major ruling on Super PACs, for example—and this is largely due to an even split between Republican and Democratic members.
The groups’ petition drive was targeted at the White House online outreach page, which guarantees an official response if any petition gets 25,000 signatures. The groups announced today that they crossed that barrier.
“The people have spoken, and now we’ll see if the White House is listening,” CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said in a statement. “It is time for President Obama to appoint new commissioners who will faithfully enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws.”
The administration’s response is going to be very interesting to watch, especially since just this week the president’s campaign fully embraced the use of Super PACs. In announcing that move, campaign manager Jim Messina promised that while Obama was forced to compete on the Super PAC playing field for now, he remains serious about campaign finance reform. We’ll soon see if that extends to reforming the FEC.
It’s finally here: a massive settlement, worth $25 billion, with five major banks over mortgage fraud abuses. The federal government and forty-nine state attorneys general—Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt wouldn’t sign on because he doesn’t think banks should see any penalty—reached the agreement with JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Ally Financial and Citigroup last night, and the deal was announced this morning in Washington. A federal judge must still sign off on it.
We’ll have a lot on this settlement in coming days and weeks, and the details of this hugely complicated deal—the broadest settlement for wrongdoing since the tobacco lawsuit—are still coming out at a furious pace.
But here are some basic details. This is what’s good about the settlement:
Banks could end up paying out as much as $45 billion in benefits to homeowners. $5 billion will go to state and federal authorities, which can be used for legal aid for homeowners (more on this in a bit); $17 billion goes to homeowner relief; $3 billion goes towards refinancing; and $1 billion goes to the Federal Housing Administration. But under complicated formulas in the deal, homeowner relief could total as high as $45 billion, if all servicers participate, and there are incentives built in for the banks to disperse this money in the next twelve months.
The immunity the banks receive for this payment is fairly narrow, certainly in comparison to what had been rumored earlier. The banks will only be released from investigations and charges related to foreclosure fraud and robo-signing—not all the malfeasance leading up to the crash, like the origination and securitization of bad mortgages. This means that the new federal unit to investigate that fraud still has its authority intact.
Even in the robo-signing arena, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will still be allowed to proceed with his MERS suit, which charges that banks used the private records system to fraudulently foreclose on thousands of homeowners. (We wrote about that here). The banks pushed this week to have that suit dissolved, but Schneiderman won.
While states can no longer sue the big banks for most foreclosure fraud, individual homeowners can—and that $5 billion to the states will be used for legal aid, so aggrieved homeowners can get a lawyer and pursue a case. “This will get a lawyer for everyone facing foreclosure in the state,” one source in an Attorney General’s office told Firedoglake. “This will stop every wrongful foreclosure.”
Here’s what’s not so good:
The total damages paid by banks, even if they reach the upper limit, is still much less than the $700 billion in negative equity in the housing market. So this hardly fixes the problem the banks essentially created.
Homeowners will get some help, but probably not enough. The New York Times estimates the average homeowner relief at $20,000—but the average underwater home is $50,000 deep. “I just don’t think it’s going to be a life-changing event for borrowers,” one expert told the Times.
When the deal calls for “750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure from September 2008 to the end of 2011” to “receive checks for about $2,000,” that’s got to be disappointing for those homeowners. Imagine a bank essentially took your home from you, likely through fraudulent means. How happy would you be with a check for $2,000?
The penalties banks will pay will come, in large part, from investor money. (About $5 billion of the settlement is actual money from the banks). For homeowners, aid is aid, but the more the banks face real, punitive damages themselves, the less likely misconduct will be in the future.
So as you can see: the deal is really good in terms of limiting immunity given to banks—which by several accounts is due to the work of Schneiderman and other aggressive attorneys general who refused to sign onto a bad deal—yet could go further in terms of help for homeowners.
In short: the biggest battles have yet to be fought. And that’s a significant victory, considering the initial deal was supposedly going to let the banks off the hook on just about everything.
“[This deal] gets a relatively small sum from the banks in exchange for limited immunity on their flagrantly illegal robo-signing—or forgery—of mortgage documents,” said Robert Borosage of Campaign for America’s Future. “The real question isn’t this ante. The real question is whether the federal investigation will finally turn over all the cards so we know just how bad a hand the banks are holding. Only then is there a possibility for real accountability – and real relief for homeowners.”