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Flood Insurance Requirements for Stafford Act Assistance

Description: The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) imposes flood insurance requirements upon eligibility for disaster assistance in two general cases: (1) if the entity seeking disaster assistance has received disaster assistance in the past, or (2) if the entity seeking disaster assistance is a state or local government or private nonprofit located in a federally designated special flood hazard area (SFHA) as determined under the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The requirements imposed by the Stafford Act operate independently of each other, and a potential applicant for disaster assistance may fall into both categories. This report will discuss the specific requirements imposed in each situation after briefly discussing the history of flood insurance and the relevant types of disaster assistance.
Date: September 5, 2008
Creator: Liu, Edward C.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

H.R. 6076: Home Retention and Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

Description: The Home Retention and Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 would defer foreclosure for eligible mortgage borrowers for up to 270 days. If passed, the bill would give extra time to some borrowers and lenders to consider alternatives to foreclosure, including traditional loss mitigation and participation in the new Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program for refinancing troubled loans. Some policymakers believe that a moratorium on foreclosures could help stabilize housing markets and alleviate problems from the subprime financial turmoil. This report explores this issue in detail and analyzes the individual aspects of the relevant legislation.
Date: August 29, 2008
Creator: Murphy, Edward Vincent
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Islamic Finance: Overview and Policy Concerns

Description: The international market for Islamic finance has grown between 10% to 15% annually in recent years. Islamic finance historically has been concentrated in the Persian Gulf countries, but has expanded globally to both Muslim and non-Muslim countries. There is a small but growing market for Islamic finance in the United States. Through international and domestic regulatory bodies, there has been effort to standardize regulations in Islamic finance across different countries and financial institutions, although challenges remain. Critics of Islamic finance express concerns about possible ties between Islamic finance and political agendas or terrorist financing and the use of Islamic finance to circumvent U.S. economic sanctions. Proponents argue that Islamic finance presents significant new business opportunities and provides alternate methods for capital formation and economic development.
Date: July 29, 2008
Creator: Ilias, Shayerah
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Credit Default Swaps: Frequently Asked Questions

Description: Credit default swaps are contracts that provide protection against default by third parties, similar to insurance. These financial derivatives are used by banks and other financial institutions to manage risk. The rapid growth of the derivatives market, the potential for widespread credit defaults (such as defaults for subprime mortgages), and operational problems in the over-the-counter (OTC) market where credit default swaps are traded, have led some policymakers to inquire if credit default swaps are a danger to the financial system and the economy. This report defines credit default swaps, explains their use by banks for risk management, and discusses the potential for systemic risk.
Date: July 30, 2008
Creator: Murphy, Edward Vincent
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Campaign Finance Law and the Constitutionality of the "Millionaire's Amendment": An Analysis of Davis v. Federal Election Commission

Description: In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), also known as the McCain-Feingold law, establishing increased contribution limits for congressional candidates whose opponents significantly self-finance their campaigns. This provision is frequently referred to as the "Millionaire's Amendment." The Court found that the burden imposed on expenditures of personal funds is not justified by the compelling governmental interest of lessening corruption or the appearance of corruption and, therefore, held that the law is unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment.
Date: July 17, 2008
Creator: Whitaker, L. Paige
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

China's "Hot Money" Problems

Description: China has experienced a sharp rise in the inflow of so-called "hot money," foreign capital entering the country supposedly seeking short-term profits, especially in 2008. Chinese estimates of the amount of "hot money" in China vary from $500 billion to $1.75 trillion. The influx of "hot money" is contributing to China's already existing problems with inflation. Efforts to reduce the inflationary effects of "hot money" may accelerate the inflow, while actions to reduce the inflow of "hot money" may threaten China's economic growth, as well as have negative consequences for the U.S. and global economy.
Date: July 21, 2008
Creator: Martin, Michael F. & Morrison, Wayne M.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Community Development Block Grants: Legislative Proposals to Assist Communities Affected by Home Foreclosures

Description: In response to the rising number of home mortgage foreclosures, several bills have been introduced during the 110th Congress that would provide additional federal assistance to state and local governments with high concentrations of foreclosed homes, subprime mortgage loans, and delinquent home mortgages. At least one of these proposals, H.R. 3221, as passed by the Senate, includes provisions that would use the framework of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to channel an additional $4 billion in assistance to state and local governments. This provision faces an uncertain future; objections to it have been raised by the Bush Administration and others, contending that the assistance will result in the rescue of lenders and speculators.
Date: July 15, 2008
Creator: Boyd, Eugene & Gonzales, Oscar R.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's Financial Problems: Frequently Asked Questions

Description: Recent turmoil in the housing and financial markets have caused concern over the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are chartered by Congress as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) and are widely believed to have an implicit guarantee from the federal government. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) -- the GSEs safety and soundness regulator -- has repeated assurances that Fannie and Freddie have adequate capital, but as highly leveraged financial intermediaries, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have limited resources against losses. This report analyzes various aspects of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in relation to the financial turmoil that began in September 2008.
Date: July 15, 2008
Creator: Weiss, N. Eric
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Primer on Energy Derivatives and Their Regulation

Description: Prices of oil and other energy commodities are set in futures and derivatives markets, where producers, commercial users, and financial speculators buy and sell contracts whose value is linked to the price of the underlying commodity. Trading occurs on regulated futures exchanges and in a largely unregulated over-the-counter (OTC) market; both forms of trading are global in scope. This report presents basic information about these markets, the instruments traded, the regulatory framework, speculation, and current legislative proposals.
Date: July 15, 2008
Creator: Jickling, Mark
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

The Future Role of U.S. Trade Policy: An Overview

Description: The United States has become increasingly integrated with the rest of the world economy. This integration has offered benefits and presented challenges to U.S. business, agriculture, labor, and consumers. Those who can compete in the more integrated economy have enjoyed opportunities to broaden their success, while those who are challenged by increased foreign competition have been forced to adjust and some have exited the market or relocated overseas. Some observers contend that, in order to remain globally competitive, the United States must continue to support trade liberalization policies, while assisting those hurt by trade. Others have raised doubts over whether free trade policies benefit the U.S. economy. This report provides an overview and background on the debate over the future course of U.S. trade policy.
Date: July 24, 2008
Creator: Morrison, Wayne M. & Cooper, William M.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

The Future Role of U.S. Trade Policy: An Overview

Description: The United States has become increasingly integrated with the rest of the world economy. This integration has offered benefits and presented challenges to U.S. business, agriculture, labor, and consumers. Those who can compete in the more integrated economy have enjoyed opportunities to broaden their success, while those who are challenged by increased foreign competition have been forced to adjust and some have exited the market or relocated overseas. Some observers contend that, in order to remain globally competitive, the United States must continue to support trade liberalization policies, while assisting those hurt by trade. Others have raised doubts over whether free trade policies benefit the U.S. economy. This report provides an overview and background on the debate over the future course of U.S. trade policy.
Date: July 14, 2008
Creator: Morrison, Wayne M. & Cooper, William M.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

The Enron Loophole

Description: The Commodity Exchange Act exempts certain energy derivatives contracts from regulation by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). These exemptions are popularly known as the "Enron loophole." Soaring energy prices have raised concerns about whether the CFTC has enough information about these unregulated markets to monitor energy trading in a comprehensive manner. A number of other bills in the 110th Congress would impose new reporting or regulatory requirements on the bilateral energy swaps market, which was not addressed by the Farm Bill.
Date: July 7, 2008
Creator: Jickling, Mark
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Currency Manipulation: The IMF and WTO

Description: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade Organization (WTO) approach the issue of "currency manipulation" differently. The IMF Articles of Agreement prohibit countries from manipulating their currency for the purpose of gaining unfair trade advantage, but the IMF cannot force a country to change its exchange rate policies. The WTO has rules against subsidies, but these are very narrow and specific and do not seem to encompass currency manipulation. Several options might be considered for addressing this matter in the future, if policymakers deem this a wise course of action.
Date: May 8, 2008
Creator: Sanford, Jonathan E.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

The Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative

Description: In Juen 2005, G8 finance ministers proposed the new Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). The MDRI proposes to cancel debts of some of the world's poorest countries owed to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and African Development Bank. This report discusses MDRI's implementation and raises some issues regarding debt relief's effectiveness as a form of foreign assistance for possible congressional consideration.
Date: April 1, 2008
Creator: Weiss, Martin A.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

National Flood Insurance Program: Treasury Borrowing in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Description: In 2008, Hurricanes Ike, Gustav, and Dolly made landfall in the United States, causing widespread flood damage. Exactly three years earlier, claims and expenses related to the massive flooding caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma had financially overwhelmed the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that the NFIP will need about $3 billion in additional borrowing authority to cover the claims currently outstanding and a yet to be determined amount for the 2008 Hurricanes. Congress is currently working to reform the NFIP while retaining its original intent to keep rates affordable for people to buy the insurance.
Date: September 19, 2008
Creator: King, Rawle O.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

The Pattern of Interest Rates: Does it Signal an Impending Recession?

Description: The cyclical behavior of the economy is of great interest to Congress, yet the onset of an economic downturn is seldom recognized promptly. Policymakers frequently search for reliable recession predictors. The behavior of interest rates may provide advanced warning of an impending downturn. The easing of monetary policy in evidence since September 2007 is consistent with efforts to forestall or minimize an economic downturn. Economic growth has been low since the last quarter of 2007, and some forecasters are now predicting a recession in 2008.
Date: May 5, 2008
Creator: Labonte, Marc & Makinen, Gail
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

U.S. Trade Deficit and the Impact of Rising Oil Prices

Description: Petroleum prices rose sharply in the first half of 2008, at one time reaching more than $140 per barrel of crude oil. Since July, however, petroleum prices and import volumes have fallen at a historically rapid pace; in November, prices of crude oil fell below $55 per barrel. The fall in the cost of energy imports combined with the drop in import volumes as a result of the slowdown in economic activity has reversed the trend of rising energy imports costs and will sharply reduce the overall costs of U.S. energy imports for the rest of 2008. This report provides an estimate of the initial impact of the rising oil prices on the nation's merchandise trade deficit.
Date: November 13, 2008
Creator: Jackson, James K.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Foreign Direct Investment in the United States: An Economic Analysis

Description: Foreign direct investment in the United States1 declined sharply after 2000, when a record $300 billion was invested in U.S. businesses and real estate. In 2007, according to Department of Commerce data, foreigners invested $237 billion. Foreign direct investments are highly sought after by many State and local governments that are struggling to create additional jobs in their localities. While some in Congress encourage such investment to offset the perceived negative economic effects of U.S. firms investing abroad, others are concerned about foreign acquisitions of U.S. firms that are considered essential to U.S. national and economic security.
Date: August 15, 2008
Creator: Jackson, James K.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

China's Currency: A Summary of the Economic Issues

Description: Many Members of Congress charge that China's policy of accumulating foreign reserves (especially U.S. dollars) to influence the value of its currency constitutes a form of currency manipulation intended to make its exports cheaper and imports into China more expensive than they would be under free market conditions. Although China made modest reforms to its currency policy in 2005, Members contend the forms have not gone far enough and have warned of potential legislative action. This report summarizes the main findings CRS Report RL32165, China's Currency: Economic Issues and Options for U.S. Trade Policy.
Date: November 20, 2008
Creator: Morrison, Wayne M. & Labonte, Marc
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

China's Currency: A Summary of the Economic Issues

Description: Many Members of Congress charge that China's policy of accumulating foreign reserves (especially U.S. dollars) to influence the value of its currency constitutes a form of currency manipulation intended to make its exports cheaper and imports into China more expensive than they would be under free market conditions. Although China made modest reforms to its currency policy in 2005, Members contend the forms have not gone far enough and have warned of potential legislative action. This report summarizes the main findings CRS Report RL32165, China's Currency: Economic Issues and Options for U.S. Trade Policy.
Date: May 8, 2008
Creator: Morrison, Wayne M. & Labonte, Marc
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Regulation of Energy Derivatives

Description: After the collapse of Enron Corp. in late 2001, that company's activities came under intense scrutiny. Much of its business consisted of trading financial contracts whose value was derived from changes in energy prices. Enron's derivatives trading was largely "over-the-counter" (OTC) and unregulated: little information about transactions was available. This incident has sparked interest in reform of energy derivatives regulation. This report summarizes energy derivatives regulation and proposed legislation.
Date: May 12, 2008
Creator: Jickling, Mark
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Agricultural Disaster Assistance

Description: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several permanently authorized programs to help farmers recover financially from a natural disaster, including federal crop insurance, the noninsured assistance program (NAP), and emergency disaster loans. This report outlines the various agricultural disaster assistance appropriations included in the FY2007 Iraq war supplemental appropriations act; the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the 2008 farm bill; and the FY2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act.
Date: July 3, 2008
Creator: Chite, Ralph M.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

U.S. Direct Investment Abroad: Trends and Current Issues

Description: The United States is the largest investor abroad and the largest recipient of direct investment in the world. Some observers believe U.S. firms invest abroad to avoid U.S. labor unions or high U.S. wages, however, 70% of U.S. foreign direct investment is concentrated in high income developed countries. Even more striking is the fact that the share of investment going to developing countries has fallen in recent years. Most economists conclude that direct investment abroad does not lead to fewer jobs or lower incomes overall for Americans and that the majority of jobs lost among U.S. manufacturing firms over the past decade reflect a broad restructuring of U.S. manufacturing industries.
Date: August 15, 2008
Creator: Jackson, James K.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

Multilateral Development Banks: U.S. Contributions FY1998-2009

Description: This report shows in tabular form how much the Administration requested and how much Congress appropriated during the past 11 years for U.S. payments to the multilateral development banks (MDBs). It also provides a brief description of the MDBs and the ways they fund their operations. It will be updated periodically. Three companion reports provide further information on the MDBs. See CRS Report RS20793, Multilateral Development Banks: Basic Background, CRS Report RS20791, Multilateral Development Banks: Procedures for U.S. Participation, and CRS Report RS22134 International Financial Institutions: Funding U.S. Participation.
Date: August 8, 2008
Creator: Sanford, Jonathan E.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department