Thursday (Feb. 10) was a dignity-elevating day for the 99 percent (and an overdue reckoning for America's big banks.) A massive $25 billion settlement between mortgage lenders and the states will yield distressed Washington homeowners (and former homeowners) $648 million. True, almost all Northwest homeowners are distressed, but many have shouldered a Steinbeckian fate at the hands of often tone-deaf, ravening lenders.
"The deal, signed by five major banks and all states but Oklahoma, settles claims that lenders routinely signed foreclosure documents without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct," the Herald's Jerry Cornfield writes. "In Washington, the deal will be worth in the neighborhood of $648 million, with the bulk of it being money banks will expend in modifying the loans of homeowners."
If all political questions devolve into legal issues (hat tip, de Tocqueville) then perhaps all legal agreements become political (hat tip, Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna.) Yesterday's agreement sparked a Facebook faceoff between Washington's two gubernatorial candidates with McKenna writing, "My opponent has backed himself into an embarrassing corner. After originally opposing today’s $26 billion settlement, he is now covering his tracks by referencing a 'revised' deal he can finally get behind." Inslee's post, "The original proposals were grossly inadequate and failed to hold the banks accountable. I'm hopeful this newly revised deal will provide real relief to homeowners. Congratulations to those who refused to accept earlier deals and insisted on fairness and accountability." Cry "achievement" and let loose the dogs of social media.
It's a man's world, at least if you review the impact of Washington's budget cuts. A report from Washington's Budget and Policy Center, noted by Publicola, underscores the trend.
"Of about $10 billion in cuts so far, 93 percent have been to education, human services, and health programs. Those jobs, unsurprisingly, are mostly held by women: 72 percent of workers in education, health, and social services are women. As private-sector jobs have rebounded, public-sector jobs have continued to be cut," Publicola's Erica Barnett writes. "Additionally, women in Washington State are more vulnerable to poverty, because they tend to make less than men and because they tend to be responsible for taking care of children, which limits how much and whether women are able to work outside the home. For single women with children, the poverty rate in Washington State is 37 percent." As Collin Tong reported here last year, another study has shown that cuts also have disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minorities.
Are there lures to attract young families to live in downtown Seattle? Alas, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood didn't include nightclubs and street crime, and we have Mayor Mike McGinn, not King Friday XIII. Nevertheless, as the Seattle Times' Eric Pryne writes, "Downtown's population under age 5 is among the central city's fastest-growing demographic groups, the Downtown Seattle Association says."
The challenge is that most parents bolt once their children reach school age. The Downtown Seattle Association argues that the best way to ameliorate the family-flight pattern is to create more outdoor play space and establish a downtown elementary school. Belltown qua Brooklyn doesn't sound so bad.
If a friend claims to understand energy markets, she is either lying or a Nobelist in training. For example, why can't Northwest wind farmers simply sell excess power to British Columbia or California rather than get paid not to produce? It sounds like the energy version of federal agriculture policy, although the Bonneville Power Administration says the proposed payments boil down to transmission overload (an additional reason to invest more in infrastructure.)
"The federal agency that sells and transmits most electrical power in the Northwest has proposed a plan to cover half of wind producers' lost revenue when they're forced to shut down wind farms during periods of excess hydropower production," the Longview Daily News' Andre Stepankowsky writes. "The plan would affect Cowlitz PUD, which owns interests in two Central Washington wind farms, but would not lower or raise rates significantly, PUD officials said."
Lastly, the Washington Legislature is exhibiting real backbone, finally catering to the needs of ale-loving filmophiles like Midday Scan's author. As the Oregonian's Justin Runquist writes, "The House passed a bill Thursday that would create licenses for single-screen theater owners to serve beer and wine in theater auditoriums. Rep. Jim Moeller is the sponsor for the bill, House Bill 2558. It passed with 87 votes in support and 10 votes in opposition."
Longview Daily News, "BPA releases plan to reimburse wind energy producers"