Congress held several hearings this week that pertained to consumer issues: mortgage modification, the safety of foreign-made pharmaceuticals and changes to the U.S. postal system.
Mortgage modification: A Senate Banking subcommittee heard today from fellow Senators, mortgage industry representatives, and academics who study the housing market about new ways to finance home purchases in the U.S. According to a Wednesday Bloomberg Businessweek report, about 10.88 million homes, or 22.5 percent of those with a mortgage, owe more than their home is worth - sometimes called "being underwater" on the loan.
One issue in the hearing is the role of the government and government-sponsored enterprises ("GSEs") like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the mortgage market. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) testified about a bill she authored that aims to make it easier for borrowers with GSE-backed loans to refinance at today's rates, which are historically low. Sen. Boxer said in a statement that the bill "would help millions of responsible homeowners who are making their payments, but are still struggling to make ends meet."
Foreign-made Drugs: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is examining the globalization of the pharmaceutical drug market and supply chain. According to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released today, up to 80% of the chemicals and ingredients of prescription drugs are made outside the United States.
The GAO report said the FDA inspected only 8% of foreign drug manufacturers in 2007, and it highlighted several shortcomings of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which include the lack of access to inspect foreign drug makers' facilities and the FDA's lack of correct information about these foreign companies.
U.S. Postal Service: Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe outlined changes that could make the financially unstable Postal Service solvent. These changes included a list of 252 processing facilities slated for closure. He also answered questions from reporters.