Solar Trust of America, an energy firm based in Oakland, California, declared bankruptcy on April 2, fewer than 10 months after breaking ground on a project near Blythe, California, that was to be the world’s largest solar power energy project built on public lands. In its bankruptcy filing, the company claims to have assets of up to $10 million. Those assets, however, are dubious, consisting primarily of the Blythe project and another project in Riverside County, California, neither of which has gotten off the ground. Meanwhile, its liabilities may run as high as $100 million.
The Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) is doling out $42 million in federal funding for housing counseling grants to 468 local, regional, and national organizations. Intended to prevent foreclosures and assist new home buyers, the grants will offer free assistance on foreclosure avoidance as well as educate buyers on how to rent or purchase a home. HUD alleges that beneficiaries of these services will help combat predatory lending practices, because buyers will be equipped with information to help them evade mortgage scams, high interest rates, and unreasonably high appraisals.
Goldman Sachs Corporation is facing a new wave of charges of not looking out for the interests of its clients this week, as one corporate vice president published a resignation March 14 letter in the New York Times and the company agreed March 13 to pay a $7 million fine to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Goldman Sachs stock took a hit on the two-pronged attack March 14, losing $2.2 billion in stock value with a three-percent plunge, though the stock recovered significantly the next day.
As part of its Tribal Energy Program, the U.S. Department of Energy is providing $6.5 million to various American Indian tribes for “clean energy” projects — everything from solar and wind power to fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. This being government, however, the majority of the money will not be spent on actual projects but on studies to determine if projects are even feasible.
The report from The New York Times on Wednesday about the foreclosure settlement reached between five big banks and 49 states’ attorneys general made it appear that justice was being served. The $26 billion to be paid out to some 2 million homeowners (former and current) “could provide relief” to them under the terms of the settlement. It would also remove a cloud of uncertainty from the banks’ liability and might help in “halting the housing market’s downward slide.”
San Francisco, as even casual observers of the political scene know, is one of the most liberal cities in the country. Many of its citizens fear big business — but not big government — and speak lovingly of locally owned small businesses. Its Mayor, Edwin M. Lee, recently announced a $1.5-million fund to assist small businesses.
Freddie Mac has again entered the spotlight as a new report claims the government-sponsored enterprise betrayed American homeowners after placing multibillion-dollar bets that will pay off if homeowners remain shackled by costly mortgages with interest rates well above current rates. In a scathing new revelation of their investigation, National Public Radio (NPR) and ProPublica, an independent investigative news service, uncovered multibillion-dollar investments made by Freddie in late 2010 that will pay off only if homeowners remain trapped in high-interest mortgages.
Central banks are often justified on the basis that a complex, modern economy requires top-down management by experts. These people, it is said, can study the markets and then “fine-tune” the economy to keep it humming along.
On the morning of August 3, 2011, armed agents of the U.S. government and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office conducted a raid on a small private club in southern California, seizing the substances being sold therein and arresting three individuals on felony charges. It was the second raid on the club in two years and the culmination of a yearlong investigation by 10 local, state, and federal agencies that, according to the Los Angeles Times, “used high-tech video equipment hidden on a utility pole for round-the-clock surveillance and undercover agents to make covert buys.”
Obama’s Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, has created new regulations for farming safety that would bar children under 16 from much of the work of agriculture. The rules would keep them from “agricultural work with animals and in pesticide handling, timber operations, manure pits and storage bins” or from handling most types of “power-driven equipment” as well as being involved in the “cultivation, harvesting and curing of tobacco.” Solis explained, “Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America. Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach.”