The New York Times fronts a story on how the mortgage industry is fighting tougher regulations proposed by the Federal Reserve. The opposition is already prompting the Fed to consider scaling back its plans.
The regulations would cover all subprime loans and many middle-tier loans, but wouldn’t apply to most prime loans. The mortgage business says the rules will make lending more expensive, cutting off loans to many. That wouldn’t exactly have been a bad thing from, say, 2004 to 2007. What are these outlandish regulations?
It would force mortgage companies to show that customers can realistically afford their mortgages. It would require lenders to disclose the hidden fees often rolled into interest payments. And it would prohibit certain types of advertising considered misleading.
The Times doesn’t really explain these further, but they sound pretty common-sense and cheap to us. The paper also doesn’t say exactly how the industry suggests these would cost it and consumers money, beyond opening it up to lawsuits somehow.
Critics say the Fed’s not going far enough, bringing us our Quote of the Day:
“The Fed has accurately diagnosed that this is a brain tumor and responded by prescribing an aspirin,” said Kathleen E. Keest, a former state regulator who is now a senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a group supporting home ownership.
Show us the money…and then we’ll operate
The WSJ fronts a worthwhile story about how some hospitals are demanding cash up front before operating on patients.
It’s a big problem: “uncompensated care” rose 44 percent, to $31.2 billion, from 2000 to 2006. The trend is happening even at nonprofit hospitals, which a study recently found had tripled their profit per bed over roughly the same period.
The bad debt is driven by a larger number of Americans who are uninsured or who don’t have enough insurance to cover medical costs if catastrophe strikes. Even among those with adequate insurance, deductibles and co-payments are growing so big that insured patients also have trouble paying hospitals.
The Journal profiles the nightmarish experience of a cancer patient who needed urgent care at a Houston cancer hospital, which demanded $105,000 upfront before it would do anything because she had a limited-benefit health-care plan.
The silence of the lambs
The Times has a good twofer on Murdoch and the Journal on its Business Day cover. The news story profiles Robert Thomson, Murdoch’s main man at the WSJ, and breaks news that the paper will be adding four pages of newshole for international stories.
Adding heft to a paper at a time when cutbacks are the industry norm—The Journal’s advertising revenue, like other newspapers, declined in the first quarter—is a nice start for Mr. Thomson to ease the anxieties of Journal staff members whipsawed by change. But the vagueness of his role—publishers do not typically attend news meetings—has everyone wondering what else he has in store.
To say the least. It’s worth reading the story just for the picture of Murdoch, who looks (even more than usual) like a rubber-masked villain in a Scooby Doo vintage.
The profile is paired with an excellent (and not just because he quotes The Audit) David Carr column in which he calls out outgoing Journal editor Marcus Brauchli—and Journal attorney Stuart Karle, also recently forced out by Murdoch—for walking away without making a stink.
Both men, who had spent their lives helping others speak truth to power, were unwilling to do the same after getting kicked to the curb. Each is under a nondisparagement clause as part of his negotiated agreement, so Journal reporters and editors watched the odd specter of a First Amendment lawyer and a lifelong journalist talking about everything except what was on everyone’s mind
“Here you have two people who are icons of freedom of expression and they can’t talk because of NDA’s they signed,” said one reporter who was in the room but did not want to be identified speaking ill of his former bosses. “It was disgusting. They were talking about preserving the culture of The Wall Street Journal when it’s clear that the buffer is gone and that culture is history.”