The housing market has been on a roll this past year. Prices are rising; vacancy rates are falling; and homeowners are spending small fortunes on upgrading properties. In this context, a White House initiative, the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, launched in 2009 to reduce mortgage payments for millions of owners at risk of foreclosure, appears downright irrelevant. But Obama Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced this morning that his boss will extend the program for two years beyond its scheduled December 31, 2013 expiration date for new applicants.
The IRS scandal that revealed targeting of conservative groups by the Treasury Department has reopened speculation that the Obama-orchestrated auto bailouts unfairly targeted Republican-leaning dealerships for closure. Republican Congressmen Mike Kelly (PA) and Jim Renacci (OH) have penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew requesting documentation so that an investigation can determine what criteria was used to shutter dealers that appear to have had one thing in common: their political affiliations.
College loan debt has become a red-flag issue rivaling that of home mortgage debt a half-decade ago. Ironically, the White House, like Congress, in the haste to avert disaster, might create it. President Obama's Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes a plan to expand participation in the Income-Based Repayment program, which is designed to assist eligible persons going through a partial financial hardship to stay current on federal student loans. At present, the program forgives outstanding debt for borrowers who make 20 years of timely payments - 10 years if they work in the public or nonprofit sector. But eligibility is limited to borrowers approved since October 2007. The Obama plan would extend forgiveness to those who took out loans before that. And it would render debt tax-exempt. It's a sweet deal - except to taxpayers.
A recent search for new Chevy Volts on cars.com unearthed 9,254 vehicles currently at dealerships for sale. There were another 258 late-model, used Volts available. About half of those had less than 5,000 miles on them. Considering the abysmal sales rate for the self-proclaimed electric wonder-car (1,306 in April for those keeping track), the unofficial inventory numbers point to about a seven month supply of Volts available. Ideal inventory levels are considered to be in the two month range. It may be near time for General Motors to halt production, yet again, for the floundering Volt.
Great news for consumers who are considering buying General Motors' green wonder car, the Chevy Volt. I know how excited those environmentally conscientious Volt enthusiasts can get, but a little patience can pay off big time if potential buyers hold off for a year or so on their purchase. According to GM CEO Dan Akerson and following another dismal month of Volt sales (1,306 in April), the car that defies logic will soon be available for up to $10,000 less money. The good news extends to shareholders of GM as the next generation of the Volt will supposedly be profitable for the company. So, as we say prepare to say goodbye to the current generation of the obsolescent Volt, let's take a trip down memory lane to review how past promises for the car panned out.
Earlier this year, I reviewed General Motors' first quarter earnings report and annual results. My take-away from the report was that GM relied upon shady accounting techniques and a build-up of US dealer inventories to produce some rosy-looking results. Channel stuffing to the tune of an over 20% increase in inventory from year end 2011 provided for GM's revenue growth. The trend continues as GM has further pumped-up inventory for quarter one.
Higher education debt suddenly has become one of the nation's hottest domestic issues. In response, a number of lawmakers believe they have a way to preserve both the integrity of the financial system and the opportunities to attend college. Several weeks ago the House and Senate introduced legislation to enable adults to discharge outstanding student loans in bankruptcy court that had been underwritten by private-sector lenders. The bills, the Fairness for Struggling Students Act (S.114) and the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act (H.R. 532), would repeal the portion of the 2005 bankruptcy law overhaul that removed this option.
The Chevy Volt has inarguably been the poster child for President Obama's push to electrify America's auto fleet. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to produce and subsidize the plug-in electric car. For years we have heard about the supposedly amazing technology for the Volt which would lead America to energy independence, be a "game-changer" for General Motors and provide a multitude of new green jobs. Proclamations were made that supply for the wonder-car could not keep up with the demand. Well, March's sales figures are in and give further confirmation that the lofty claims were all lies.