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January 26, 2014 | By Kenneth R. Harney
WASHINGTON - The verdict was nearly unanimous at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill: The new federal "ability to repay" and "qualified mortgage" regulations that took effect Jan. 10 will make obtaining credit tougher, not easier, this year, and potentially force large numbers of creditworthy home buyers to defer or cancel their plans. What nobody addressed at the hearing, though, was the elephant in the room: OK, we've got a problem. But what, if anything, can buyers who find it difficult to meet the new standards do about it?
January 13, 2014 | By Chris Megerian
SACRAMENTO - Gov. Jerry Brown's new budget proposal would continue to improve California's finances, but his plans for financing bullet train construction and a lack of new money for the cash-strapped teacher pension system are troublesome, the Legislative Analyst's Office said Monday. A report from the office, which provides nonpartisan budget advice to lawmakers, said Brown's $155-billion spending blueprint correctly emphasizes paying down debt incurred during state budget crises.
January 13, 2014 | By David Wharton
Her shoes are made special, with scores of tiny spikes to grip the ice, and they never seem to last long enough. The steel runners for her sled cost more than $6,000 and the airlines charge $100 each way to carry her equipment to international races. When American bobsled pilot Jazmine Fenlator sat down and calculated her expenses leading up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics - eight months of training and competition - the numbers added up quickly. "I'm in debt," she said. "People don't realize.
January 12, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
California's fortunes have improved so dramatically in the last two years, it was hard for even Gov. Jerry "Era of Limits" Brown to sound dour about the government's finances when he rolled out his $155-billion budget proposal last week. The tax increases that Brown persuaded voters to approve in November 2012 have not only averted the need to slash more from education and other state programs, they've helped generate a multibillion-dollar surplus. Yet Brown has stuck with the cautious practices that led the state safely to this point, proposing to pay down debt and focus new spending on education rather than trying to undo all the cuts the Legislature made during the downturn.
December 29, 2013 | David Lazarus
Teresa Martin was laid off in October from her job as office manager for a packaging company. The Corona resident is now struggling to pay her bills. Martin, 57, isn't carrying any credit card balances at the moment, but she said she may have to start running up debt on plastic in the coming days if she wants to keep a roof over her head. "It's scary," she told me. "But I'm not sure what else I can do. " As we stagger into a new year, consumer debt is climbing at the fastest pace in more than five years.
December 27, 2013 | By Walter Hamilton
Guess how many Americans correctly answered this basic financial question: Is the stock of a single company usually safer than a mutual fund? A) 100% B) 80% C) 60% D) None of the above. The right answer is D. Barely 1 in 2 people knew that a single stock is not safer than a mutual fund, which holds many stocks. The question, included in a survey by a pair of college professors, underscores a fundamental problem facing millions of Americans. At a time when the world of personal finance is increasingly complex - and when people are more responsible than ever for their own financial future - Americans' understanding of basic concepts is sorely lacking.
December 19, 2013 | By Jim Puzzanghera
WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew formally told congressional leaders Thursday they must raise the debt limit by early March at the latest, warning the government has less ability to postpone a potential default than in the past. Some top Republicans have said in recent days they plan to try to get concessions from the Obama administration in exchange for raising the $16.7-trillion debt limit, which was suspended last fall until Feb. 7. With rumblings of another showdown over the politically volatile issue, Lew made clear Congress needs to "take prompt action to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.
December 16, 2013 | By Michael Hiltzik
Mark Twain wrote of the cat that sat down on the hot stove lid that she would never again sit down on a hot stove lid, but she would never again sit down on a cold one either. The Republican Party seems to have the opposite tendency: having been burned once by toying with the federal debt limit, it sounds determined to get burned again. Rather than taking more of a lesson from experience than is warranted, like Twain's cat, it's poised to take no lesson at all. That's the takeaway from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's appearance Sunday on Fox News . Fresh from his supposed victory in crafting a budget compromise with Sen. Patty Murray(D-Wash.)
December 13, 2013 | By The Times editorial board
Top Assembly Democrats have revealed what they'd like to do with billions of dollars in extra tax revenue that the state is projected to receive, and their top priorities were reassuring: expanding the reserve fund and paying down the debts that Sacramento accumulated over the last decade. Their budget blueprint also calls for a lot of new spending on education and anti-poverty programs, however. If state government really has entered a sustained period of large surpluses, lawmakers can afford to make more long-term investments in California's infrastructure and its people.
December 4, 2013 | By Mike Boehm
The bad news for the Detroit Institute of Arts today is that a bankruptcy judge has authorized the city that owns the museum to declare bankruptcy, giving its creditors a legal forum for insisting that the most valuable masterpieces from the DIA's admired collection be sold to help pay the city's debts. The good news is that, in clearing the way Tuesday for a Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, the judge made a point of questioning whether it makes any sense to sell the art. Noting the proposal that the DIA's walls be stripped of their most admired paintings to help pay off $18 billion in municipal debt, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes suggested that the point of a bankruptcy proceeding is not to liquidate assets needed to sustain a city or organization that's trying to reorganize its finances, but to give it a new lease on economic life.
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