Saturday, March 28, 2009

Freedom As "Ideological Symbolism"

Remember shortly after 9/11? Most of the country came together, willing to wave an American flag, talking freedom. People were not willing to simply hang up the American way of life. They were interested in seeing those who brought this horror onto American soil found and brought to justice. And it was a popular thing for the replacement tower to be named "Freedom Tower." It sounded good... it sounded right. Because it was America's way of saying, "We stand for freedom and we won't back down." 

Eight years later, we've backed down. After all, giving the tower a name like "Freedom Tower" is controversial. After all, tenants "might balk at a name with such potent ideological symbolism." Freedom is supposed to be the foundation for American political thought and deed. So, I suppose it's fair to say that "freedom" is American political ideology. But freedom is FREEDOM. Without it, what do you have? Isn't the fact that American has stood for freedom for centuries something to be proud of? Since when are we ashamed of it? Or worried that people might shy away from renting space in a building aptly named for it? 

But now the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is calling the tower "One World Trade Center" to market leases in the building. The New York Times is downplaying this change, saying that "people will call this building whatever they like. The Sears Tower is about to be renamed The Willis Tower after a British insurance company. Try that on a Chicago cabbie and see where you end up." But it's more than that. A change from the name of "Freedom" to the name of "One World" is a very big change. And one that Americans shouldn't be taking lightly.

Power Grab Part 2

I don't know if this can actually be classified as a "power grab" or if I would be more accurate to simply declare it insanity and be done with it. But worldwide, things are going a little bit loopy. 

As crazy as things are getting here, we're still behind Europe in the insanity department. Unfortunately, we're heading the same direction... but we can look to them to see where we will be in the near future. It's kind of like looking at someone else's pictures of their vacation to Siberia right before you go on yours. I can't figure out why we're still planning the trip, but HEY. I guess I'm not in charge. 

Barack Obama, in his recent "town hall meeting," made the following comment:

We could set up systems so that everybody in each house have their own smart meters that, uhh, will tell you when to turn off the lights, when the peak hours are, can help you sell back energy, uh, that you've generated in your home through a solar panel or through, uh, uh, other mechanisms. All this can be done, but it also creates jobs right now. Our biggest problem, we don't have enough electricians to lay all these lines out there.

Oh, really? That's the biggest problem? Huh.

I understand that a smart-meter and a smart-grid can actually be a good thing. I'm not opposed to the idea of using something in my home that will tell me if the kids left on all the lights in the basement. It also doesn't sound too bad to have some sort of energy producing mechanism in my house, saving me money. But all these things cost a lot of money, too. If the federal government decides that everybody in each house has to have this, who is going to pay for it? And if the federal government is going to pay for it, how will they generate the dollars needed to pay for it? I think this is where the cap and trade system comes into play. 

Back in October of 2008, Obama was interviewed on public television on energy and he had this to say:

Number one, we're gonna have to start doing a better job of conserving on energy. Americans like to drive their big SUVs, the like to leave all the lights on in their house... If we want to do something serious about that, it's not going to be painless. We're going to have to cap the emission of greenhouse gases. That means the power plants are going to have to adjust how they generate power. They will pass on those costs to consumers... We will have to guard against the low income and fixed income individual having to pay more for electricity, but a lot of us who can afford it are going to have to pay more per unit of electricity. And that means we're going to have to change our light bulbs, we're gonna have to, you know, shut the lights off in our houses... And I think it is important for us to send some price signals to change behavior. If electricity goes up, people become more mindful of their electricity bill. Over time the electricity bill goes back down as technology catches up.  

So... once again those of us whom Obama deems "can afford it" are going to foot the bill for everyone. Apparently, he's going to have some system in place so that not everybody has to pay a higher energy bill. Just most of us. 

But on to Europe, where the insanity has become more profound. In the UK, councils are sending "energy police" into the suburbs with heat detector vans to take thermal images of homes. The thermal image is then sent to the homeowner to show them where heat is escaping... from leaky doors, windows, walls and lofts. The director of the thermal imaging company, "Heatseekers," has said that there's no way the plan can infringe on privacy rights because "It is purely and simply a heat seeking camera. It can't penetrate brick work and it can't penetrate glass." Whew! I'm certain the Brits were all concerned you were trying to see them naked. 

The UK's Energy and Climate Change Secretary (yes, they have one of those) likes this new approach -- but he says the ultimate solution is in going door to door. "It's been experimented on by a few councils and what we want to see is, can this be taken wider and more nationwide? By going street to street, door to door, people can actually get help." 

Really!! Because up until now, people have been sitting in their homes, wondering from where help would come. I know I have... I've been wondering when the heat seeking van will drive through my neighborhood and tell me what I have to do to my home. Whatever...

But this is where we're headed. An insane waste of money... and further greenhouse gas emissions (c'mon... vans everywhere, traveling through neighborhoods at 10 mph, taking pictures of houses?) so that the government can tell people further how to live their lives. After all, it's for the good of the planet. Right?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Power Grab Part 1

I confess that I'm just not old enough to remember power grabs of the sort that we're seeing in the news these days. Thus, this feels like completely new and unchartered territory to me.

Tim Geithner has announced a "plan" to overhaul financial regulation. According to him, the changes are needed to fix a system that is badly flawed. Of course, we had no idea that the system was as messed up as it is until this current financial crisis -- and now we understand. Thus, he doesn't want any modest change...  he wants a complete overhaul. "New rules of the game." 

Basically, what he's calling for is a new governmental agency (we need another one of those like another hole in the head). This agency will be responsible "for systemic stability over the major institutions and critical payment and settlement systems and activities." Translation: the federal government does not currently have power to seize whatever they please and Geithner would like to change this, please. 

According to Geithner, the changes called for are "very complex, very consequential, very difficult." Ooookay. And apparently they're too complex and difficult for his wee little mind to grasp because he didn't divulge any details (this is fast becoming a trademark for him) but said that the proposals will be outlined over the coming weeks. 

And here's a tidbit that should put everybody's mind at ease: Barney Frank is still the chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Yes, this is the same committee that oversees Fannie and Freddie. This committee "oversees all components of the nation's housing and financial services sectors including banking, insurance, real estate, public and assisted housing, and securities." Barney Frank has said that it's clear... we need better options than allowing Lehman Brothers to fail or pumping billions into AIG. He says that they are looking for alternatives to avoid those "polar extremes." OH! I'm so glad he's on it.

Representative E. Scott Garrett (R, New Jersey) made a statement that any authority given to the government to take over failing institutions would need to be carefully structured "to avoid a lot of unintended consequences." Forget the unintended consequences! What about those intended? Or is he just being nice in trying not to accuse his fellow congressmen of a massive power grab?

Geithner is hoping to work with Europeans on a "global framework, a global infrastructure which has appropriate global oversight." He doesn't want a "balkanized system at the global level like we had at the national level." 

They're going for government power to look at the inner workings of companies. If the regulators decide that a company has become "too big to fail," then they would begin to impose stricter capital requirements and closer scrutiny of its activities. They want to regulate private capital as well. And here's where it gets really interesting: Under this proposal, hedge fund, private equity and venture capital fund advisers would have to register with the S.E.C. (These are the companies which handle investments of the very rich.) They would be required to provide the government information on how much they borrow to leverage their investments as well as information about their investors and trading partners. And then the S.E.C will share those reports with the new "systemic risk regulator." 

They're going after the people with the money. I'm still not sure what it is they're trying to accomplish with this, but I can guarantee you that it isn't good. Hedge funds haven't been at fault in this current financial mess... it's been the result of poor judgment in mortgage lending and financial investments tied to subprime mortgages. (Hello, Fannie and Freddie -- and Barney Frank.) 

And it isn't that hedge funds aren't regulated already. They are. There are laws and rules that apply to this sort of investing that would certainly leave me out of qualification for participation. 

Geithner has said that time is of the essence in implementing this restructuring. He says, "We have a moment of opportunity, we need to act." Sound familiar? Never waste a good crisis... But he is also saying it's important to have an international effort to reform the global financial system. In one sentence he says that the US will work with Europe because we cannot move alone... and then he said, "We cannot wait for consensus with the rest of the world." I'm not really sure what to do with that -- but that's par for the course these days. 

All I'm patently certain of is the government is on a massive power grab. The current administration doesn't much care for the producers and money makers in our society. And everybody should be on the alert for further infringement on freedom and capitalism. 

Oh - and, as always, hold on to your wallet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The First Lover's Tiff

Could it be?? Maybe? Is the NYT actually getting disgruntled with the messiah? It appears that they may not have appreciated his most recent prime-time news conference:

For just under an hour on Tuesday night, Americans saw not the fiery and inspirational speaker who riveted the nation in his address to Congress last month, or the conversational president who warmly engaged Americans in talks across the country, or even the jaunty and jokey president who turned up on Jay Leno.

Instead, in his second prime-time news conference from the White House, it was Barack Obama the lecturer, a familiar character from early in the campaign. Placid and unsmiling, he was the professor in chief, offering familiar arguments in long paragraphs - often introduced with the phrase, "as I said before: - sounding like the teacher speaking in the stillness of a classroom where students are restlessly waiting for the ring of the bell.

Hooo---ee! Barack Obama stars as Sybil! And, along with his apparent myriad of personalities, he has a myriad of agendas as well. But rest assured that "the bottom line is that I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit." Uh-huh. Isn't calling for all those in one sentence kind of like a fat person saying that they want more food, more fried food, more desserts, and to lose weight?

Also... we need to feel comfort in the fact that Barack Obama is "as angry as anybody about those [AIG] bonuses." And for executives, "enriching themselves on the taxpayers' dime is inexcusable." What I think is kind of funny is that there's this irritation... this anger... this rage - towards "executives." What about the blasted politicians? Are they not enriching themselves on the taxpayers' dime? Are they not the ones making the decisions to give taxpayer money to these failing corporations?

The NYT goes on to say:

He showed his usual comfort with a wide array of subjects, even as he excluded the nation's big newspapers from the questioning in favor of a more eclectic mix. (Perhaps this sentence alone explains why the article was opened with criticism of Obama.) He signaled that the new conservative government in Israel could make achieving a peace deal more difficult. (Why is it always the conservatives' fault? None of the other governments have been able to achieve a peace deal, either... at least not one by which the Arabs are willing to actually live!) He expressed patience about dealing with Iran. And he defended his proposal to increase the tax burden on the wealthy.

Well... I can't say that I agree with much that Barack Obama says or does. I do think that he's right when he says there's no peace deal coming in Israel - but I don't think he's right in assuming that has anything to do with the conservative government. It's just really hard to broker a peace deal with people who insist that your entire race needs to be dead before there will be peace. 

And I also think it's interesting that he expressed patience with Iran. Really, what's the alternative? Bomb the hell out of them? If "patience" means holding down the nasty rhetoric, then fine. If "patience" means that we're not going to annihilate them just yet, okay. If "patience" means that we're going to compromise American principles and forsake Israel in order to play kissy-face with the Iranian government, well -- that's not okay. 

All in all, it's good to hear that the New York Times was bored with words coming out of Barack Obama's mouth. Usually they only hear the angels singing and respond with a resounding "HOSANNA!"

Saturday, March 21, 2009


All the focus on Barack Obama's "faux pas" on the tonight show when he dissed the handicapped by comparing his bowling performance to the Special Olympics is silly, I think. I don't like Obama - not one bit. But I don't think that he has some deep seeded hatred for the handicapped and it happened to slip out during his talk with Jay Leno. I think only that he isn't sensitive to the fact that some people would be offended by some common middle school language. 

And yes, it's certainly fun to point out how stupid it was to say such a thing. But I have to say, I wouldn't want people pointing to all the stupid things I say... and I say plenty. So no, I don't think that we should be focusing on his faux pas of the evening. 

I do think, however, that there are plenty of things he said during that interview that we could focus on and discuss. How about Obama stating that the problem with the AIG bonuses is an "attitude of entitlement," while almost in the same breath he was calling for higher taxes so that the people who are doing "pretty well" will "pay a little more" so that the country can pay for health care, energy, and higher education for all those "less fortunate." 

Jay Leno had pointed out how scary it was that congress was going to tax some people they don't like 90%. What happens when congress decides they don't like another group? They can just tax them into oblivion... Obama's response to this was that we need to take measured steps to make sure this doesn't happen again. First of all, to lock the door before the horse gets out of the barn (his words, not mine). And secondly, to have a better tax system so congress isn't scrambling for the money it needs (my words, not his).

He then said we need to change the laws so that if, financially, things "explode in your face" you will be "protected." (HUH???) How, exactly, would one do this? Well, he says that we need "regulatory common sense" and then went on to explain how our economic system is based on the financial system... money on paper. (I fully acknowledge that our economic system is not based on product, only on buying - and that this is not a good thing.) But his answer to this problem is something I find troubling... for how to you put in place and enforce "regulatory common sense" that will also accomplish his goal of, "What we need is... young people... instead of a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer - uh, they want to be a scientist. They want to be - or a teacher." 

Full disclosure here: I do not have any concrete reason to believe what I'm going to say here beyond the fact that I've listened to what Obama has said thus far and I have judged his character, his beliefs, and some of his motives based on the things he has said. That said, I think that the answer to this dilemma in the Obama administration will be to regulate what people do for a living. I think Obama is going to want to take our money in taxes and give full government scholarships to "smart kids" who are willing to study what the government wants them to study. 

Granted, there are probably a number of people out there who read something like that and say, "So???" 

But why would the answer to this dilemma be further regulation and having the government paying for the college education of people willing to go into these particular fields? How is this going to actually fix anything? So there are more people in those fields... are they any good? Is it their passion to do that work? Or did they decide to go ahead with it because it was the easy way out for them? Is this the way to best build a great team of people? Who wants a bunch of scientists and engineers who are looking for the easy way out? I don't think I want that type of person designing the bridges I have to drive across every day...

Why not encourage more people to become teachers by reducing some of the already existing regulations on teachers? Get rid of some of the crazy red tape that goes along with being a teacher in the public system. Get rid of some of the regulations that are imposed on the other fields as well... Some of the bright minds out there who have a passion for that sort of thing will then jump at the chance to do their work in freedom and creativity. 

Ronald Reagan once talked about how Washington views everything. "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." I guess some things never change.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Misdirected Anger

Yes, yes... I know. The whole world is mad at AIG. They have, after all, received much taxpayer money -- and then appeared to be squandering it with lavish resort vacations for their executives. Of course this is irritating. And wrong.

But in the latest "scandal" involving AIG, it really appears to me that the anger is a bit misdirected. To paint the picture clearly...

First of all, AIG has not received only one government bailout. After the first bailout of $85 billion in September of 2008, AIG executives went to California on a posh trip. In November of 2008, AIG receives another $150 billion. Chump change, right? Ah... but that's not all. See, AIG was a recipient of "stimulus package" money as well... and language was specifically drafted within that package to include these bonuses for AIG employees. Any bonus promised before the drafting of the stimulus legislation was going to be paid. 

The American people are understandably upset at this turn of events. When you're talking about bonuses of millions of dollars, the taxpayer should not be footing that bill. If the company is in the tank, my opinion is that we should let it tank. (Not a popular opinion, I know. But as I've confessed before, I'm a radical capitalist - so there.) But... BUT... when the government specifically drafts legislation saying that they're going to be stupid with the taxpayer's money, anger for that should be directed at congress -- not at the executives at AIG.

And I think it was... and I think congress doesn't like so many angry phone calls. So their solution? To demand release of the names of AIG bonus recipients. Wow. Nothing like throwing a group of citizens under the bus. 

Of course, the congress went further than that, then. They also passed a new law that would tax all these bonuses at 90%. 

But here's the naked truth. Of course the bonuses shouldn't have been given. DUH. The company is going under. But Sen. Christopher Dodd actually changed the wording in the stimulus package to allow said bonuses (at the request of the current administration). Of course, Dodd now claims that he didn't know about AIG's bonuses at the time... and, frankly, it is impossible to know what information was in his head while he was taking out the piece of legislation which would have made these bonuses impossible. But what he knew at the time is irrelevant. If you remove wording that would require companies to be penny-pinchers with the taxpayers' money, you should have an inkling of what the consequences might be. It doesn't take a mental giant to figure that one out.

So here's how I see it. We have some goobers in power who are bound and determined to be as irresponsible with our money as they would like. When they're found out in their supreme stupidity, they have so little character as to destroy the lives of particular citizens rather than accept the richly-deserved anger of the people. 

What a bunch of weiners. 

Friday, March 6, 2009

What A Proposition...

So California is an interesting state, isn't it?

Proposition 8, which passed this last election cycle, actually changed the Constitution in the state of California to say that marriage in that state is only between a man and a woman. People opposed to this idea (the changing of the Constitution) argued forcefully that "equality under the law is a fundamental constitutional guarantee." Well... yes. It is. Frankly, everybody has to follow the law. In theory, you cannot grant special treatment to a select few and say they are above the law. (This is, however, just a theory - since we see people getting special treatment all the time in Washington, D.C.)

Not to change the subject, but I've always been fascinated by men's obsession with sex. They even call items at the hardware store "male" and "female" depending on whether the item is designed to go into something or to allow something in. Take, for example, plumbing. Can you imagine if a plumber decided that he only wanted to plumb with male parts? I would imagine that the first job he had would be the last. Seriously -- in order to declare a property a leak-free zone, you have to use both male and female parts. 

But, in reality, the current fight in the court system isn't over same-sex marriage. We don't even need to argue about plumbers and parts and leaks, etc... The current court battle is over whether the people of California have the right to change their own constitution. Can they amend it? Can the majority of the people in a state decide to put something down on their governing paper that the courts then are compelled to follow? 

I think it would take a pretty gutsy court to attempt to override the will of the people in their own Constitution. At that point, you have to assume that the courts have taken over and they're the only authority. Clearly, this is not how our founding fathers set things to be in our system of government. C'mon... dig back... three co-equal branches of government... checks and balances... remember?

Since the job of the courts is supposed to be interpretation and enforcement of the law and the Constitution, it would be a big stretch for them to overreach quite that far. They might pull a muscle...

The arguments in the court were interesting. Ken Starr, arguing on behalf of the Proposition, stated that "The people are sovereign - and can do unwise things." This is true. The people can do all kinds of stupid things and have throughout history. 

The lawyer opposing the amendment to the Constitution, in a last ditch effort to eke out some victory made the argument that if homosexuals can't say they're married, nobody should be allowed to. Maybe it's just me, but this seems like a really childish argument. I get fat if I eat ice cream in the amounts I would like. I get fat super fast, actually. My husband? He can eat anything he wants and seems to never gain an ounce. To me, this appears to be a drastic discrepancy in the natural order of things. But can you imagine if I told him that he shouldn't eat ice cream since I can't? "No more Klondike bars for you, baby. Not unless I can eat them without getting bigger than our own house." Gracious! But these people make this exact same argument in a courtroom in front of God and everybody. 

The chief deputy city attorney of San Francisco, upon leaving the courtroom, said that if the homosexual community didn't get their way this time, they would go back to the ballot box and win. Okay, she didn't use those exact words, but this was the essence of what she was saying. And you know what? I believe they will. It's only a matter of how long it will take.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More Mortgage Mumbo-Jumbo

For Mark Klepper, 40, who lives in Miami, buying a big house was a way to establish credit to start a business. In 2004 he bought a home for $585,000, and watched its value rise to $1.4 million. After refinancing twice, he owes $1,064,000. But the home is now worth a little more than he paid for it, and his income has fallen by 40 percent. He stopped paying his mortgage in January. If he were to continue paying, he said, the drain would crush his business. The government's plan does not help him. 

"I feel if there's a plan out there, there shouldn't be a limit," Mr. Klepper said. "If the government is helping these lenders, they need to take some principal write-downs."

He asked his lender to reduce his balance to $600,000 and his rate to 4 percent, but so far has made no headway.

"I'm saying I can afford to pay, just not what I did in the past," he said. "I wouldn't be asking for it if everything was fine, but it's not."  - New York Times, "Unlucky or Unwise, Some Borrowers Are Left Out," March 4, 2009

How's that for chutzpah?

Of course, then  you have Chadi Moussa who lives in a house for which he owes almost two million dollars to the bank. Unfortunately for Moussa, his home is valued at about one million. Mr. Moussa is irritated with the federal government because the "rescue package" disallows his situation. His mortgage is too high and it's not backed by Fannie and Freddie. Mr. Moussa said, "You give $25 billion to a bank, at least they should help people stay in their homes. But once you get to big loans, nobody's doing anything about it." 

There's so much that bothers me about the mortgage rescue plan that I don't even know where to start, really. According to administration officials, this plan is intended to help as many people as possible and "could prevent three million to four million foreclosures." But the plan will not help people who have seen a significant reduction in their income, making them unable to pay their mortgage. Nor will it help people who are upside down in their mortgage. Ahem... pray tell, whom are we helping, exactly? 

Can somebody please tell me why there are people who are "at risk" of foreclosure who owe 80% or less of the current value of their home, and haven't experienced a significant reduction in their pay? Pray tell, what circumstances have caused them to default on their mortgages? Are we currently experiencing, along with the economic turmoil, a plague making people in droves default on their mortgages due to unforeseen medical expenses?

According to the New York Times article mentioned above, "The planners expect 20 percent to 30 percent of people who receive modifications to default again..." Whoa... so we're modifying loans for people who have defaulted in spite of the fact that they haven't had a significant reduction in their income... and we're expecting a large number of them to default again anyway? What kind of insanity is this? But J.P. Morgan is estimating that the loan modification plan will prevent from 600,000 to 2.6 million foreclosures. First of all, that's quite a span. Secondly, how can you know? Of course, the administration is estimating a much higher number... 4 million. I guess -- reach for the sky. Nobody can prove you wrong if you say you "saved" that many people. Since all you're claiming to have done was prevent something that hadn't happened yet anyway, it's pretty hard to prove you wrong. Kind of like having sex, running around your house fifty times -- then claiming that this is what saved you from becoming pregnant.

Another issue I have with this plan: there is no ceiling on how high their income can be as long as they are "in danger" of losing their homes. Some people could see their interest rates drop to as low as 2 percent. I suppose we can then call those people "winners in life's lottery?" I mean, really... it seems like what we're talking about here is a person who has a pretty nice pad (mortgages up to over $700,000?) and isn't very good handling their money. Clearly, they have a decent income if they qualified for a mortgage that high even in the most liquid of lending times.  But for some reason, despite their decent income, they have defaulted on their mortgage at least once. Late payments, maybe. Something to alert the mortgage company that this person is a foreclosure "risk." So this person can go to the mortgage company and request that they change the terms of their loan... maybe from a reasonable 6% interest rate to a 2% rate. Hooo-ee!! Congratulations! You've won an increase in spendable income -- off the backs of the American taxpayer. 

Another aspect of this whole thing that bothers me is Timothy Geithner and his inability to make sense. He says, "It is imperative that we continue to move with speed to help make housing more affordable and help arrest the damaging spiral in our housing markets." Excuse me, Mr. Geithner? Isn't the "damaging spiral" going to effectively make housing more affordable? Really, the lower the price of homes goes, the more affordable owning one's own home becomes. But... how can you have both? Either you want things to become more "affordable," or you want to stop the downward spiral and ensure that people keep the value they currently have. That fiddle can't play both tunes at the same time.

So here's how our taxpayer dollars are helping in the loan "modification" program. The Treasury will give mortgage servicing companies an upfront payment of $1000 for each loan they modify. Oops. Make that "the taxpayer" will give them $1000. Then, the taxpayer will be fronting the company an additional $1000 each year for the first three years - but only if the borrower remains current. On top of this, we taxpayers will be chipping in $1000 per year to reduce the borrower's loan amount if they stay up to date on their payments. But that's not all, folks!! We, the taxpayer, are also going to match, dollar for dollar, the lender's cost in reducing a borrower's monthly housing payment from 38 percent of the household's gross monthly income to 31 percent.

Do you want to know how they'll decide if you've won this particular lottery? The lender will calculate how much it would cost to reduce your monthly payments to an "affordable" range. If the calculation shows that the lender's cost in modifying the loan (after receiving our taxpayer subsidy) is lower than the cost of foreclosing -- YOU WIN!! As in, the bank is required to do this for you.  If the concessions by the bank look higher in cost than foreclosure, then the bank can decide if it wants to help you or not. And don't worry!! The lender is prohibited from charging you any fees to modify your loan. Those fees, and then some, are being charged to us - the American taxpayer. 

Do you think this frosts me a little bit? 

Of course, this program is only for people who are living in their home full time. You cannot ask the bank to modify the mortgage on your second or third home. Well, darn... but you can request modification on your mortgage if you purchased the home and signed on December 31st of 2008. Pretty cool, really, to be able to refinance at great savings on your interest rate, get the taxpayer to pay $1000 a year on  your loan just for staying current on your own mortgage, and not pay any closing costs on the new loan. 

Rock on, America!!