TheDC Morning: HUD crumples up Obama’s transparency pledge, uses it as a gag

Mike Riggs Contributor

1.) Why is HUD pledging lobbyists to secrecy? — “Obama administration officials told a group of housing proponents this month that they must sign a confidentiality agreement to continue participating in talks — a highly unusual request that has drawn criticism from a top Republican lawmaker who is investigating the matter,” Chris Frates. “How can they go around and pat themselves on the back as the most transparent administration in history and then turn around and ask lobbyists to sign nondisclosure agreements to keep their meetings secret,” one lobbyist told Frates. Meanwhile, Rep. Judy Biggert has started digging into the allegations and plans to ask HUD “why industry participants are being told to keep quiet if they want a seat at the table.” Don’t we already know the answer to that one? It’s the Chicago way!

2.) If TSA unionizes, theft would be the least of our problems — Just days after the Senate failed to prevent the TSA from holding a vote to unionize, investigators at Newark airport uncovered a long-running scam in which TSA screeners were using their security powers to steal from passengers. If that’s what we can expect now, what can we look forward to once the mouth-breathers at the front lines of the war on terror are allowed to bargain collectively with stodgy Uncle Sam? Ed Feulner proffers a glimpse: “Look what happened in Toronto over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2006. Canadian law allows airline screeners to unionize, and at that time, the Toronto airport union was unhappy with how the talks were going. So they decided to send a little message to government: They started hand-inspecting every single piece of luggage. As planned, of course, this caused huge back-ups, and many fliers missed their flights.” Sounds lovely, no? It gets better: “To help move people along, managers allowed 250,000 people to board their flights without being screened.” It’s like airport screeners, many of whom are apparently toads, will be able to form one giant toad that keeps you from flying anywhere, ever.

3.) The wait is over: Darrell Issa issues first subpoena — If Countrywide Financial let you into its VIP program, Rep. Darrell Issa will find out and come to your house in the middle of the night. “Involvement in the VIP loan program casts a cloud of suspicion over the actions – or in many instances non-actions – of those charged with policy-making, legislative, or oversight responsibility for the mortgage industry and the GSEs,” reads a statement from Issa’s office that was probably drafted in blood. “The subpoena will reveal for the first time the scope of the company’s VIP program and could ensnare scores of lawmakers, congressional staffers, officials and lobbyists. Sen. Kent Conrad and former-Sen. Chris Dodd received special deals, as did dozens of top Fannie Mae executives,” reports The Daily Caller’s Jonathan Strong. Just wait until Issa gets his subpoena arm warmed up!

4.) Mitch Daniels is the cat food king — How far Republicans have come in just one year: From accusing Democrats of wanting to kill grandma, to offering to kill grandma themselves. JUST KIDDING! But really: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is serious about cutting Medicare, which he says is “completely unsustainable.” As he told Reason’s Peter Suderman, “When infinite demand meets finite supply, you have a problem.” His fellow Republicans need to admit this, Daniels says. “I didn’t think it was a very proud moment when our party decided to denounce cuts in Medicare spending. It’s going to have to happen,” he said. “To suggest that Medicare is inviolate, that you can’t ever reduce spending—that’s not helpful.” Mitch also wants to means-test old people entitlements, and move away from the “fanatical” idea “that you have to send a pension check to Warren Buffet.”

5.) America’s banks get caught with their hands in the cookie jar (again), will now have their fingers cut off — “A review of mortgage-servicing practices by U.S. regulators found serious problems with internal controls and staffing levels at the companies, which are likely to result in formal enforcement action against more than a dozen major financial institutions,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “The penalties against Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and 11 other home-loan servicers being investigated since last fall over breakdowns in procedures for payment collection, loan modifications and foreclosures could include fines and changes in how the companies operate.” According to a report from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, “By emphasizing timeliness and cost efficiency over quality and accuracy, examined institutions fostered an operational environment that is not consistent with conducting foreclosure processes in a safe and sound manner.” Tell me again why we couldn’t let the banks fail in 2008?

6.) Senators pledge to navigate budget impasse ‘in a matter of weeks, or months’ — Sen. Dick Durbin is working with several other senators on a “Plan B” for the current budget crisis. According to the WSJ, “The plan would break the task of deficit reduction into four pieces: a tax code overhaul; discretionary spending cuts; changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements; and changes to Social Security.” Said Durbin, “We’re getting close. We understand that if we’re going to do something that’s important, it has to be timely,” and that the group hopes to reach agreement “in a matter of weeks, or months.” Yes, Durbin said both timely and months.

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