Bernanke: Foreclosure Trend Needs To Stop

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is urging that more be done to stem the flood of foreclosures. Bernanke called on the government Thursday to get more involved and hopefully spare the U.S. economy even more damage.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Of course, people aren't just losing jobs in this rough economy. Yesterday, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, said the government should do more to reduce the number of foreclosures. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD: Bernanke said the scale of the foreclosure crisis keeps growing.

Mr. BEN BERNANKE (Chairman, Federal Reserve): Lenders appear to be on track to initiate 2 and a quarter million foreclosures in 2008, up from average annual pace of less than 1 million per year during the pre-crisis period.

ARNOLD: Bernanke said that's continuing to drive down home prices for all Americans and cause a bunch of other problems.

Mr. BERNANKE: Despite good-faith efforts by both the private and public sectors, the foreclosure rate remains too high. With adverse consequences for both those directly involved and for the broader economy, more needs to be done.

ARNOLD: There's been some public anger over using taxpayer money for any bailout efforts, but Bernanke said basically foreclosures are doing so much harm to the economy that it makes sense to intervene.

Mr. BERNANKE: Reducing the number of preventable foreclosures would not only help families stay in their homes, it would confer much wider benefits.

ARNOLD: Bernanke said the government should consider adopting a proposal from FDIC chairman Sheila Bair, which could restructure several million loans to make them affordable. He also talked about re-working existing government programs to allow them to reach more people, and offer those people lower interest rates. Chris Arnold, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: The nation's capital is looking forward to an economic boost in January. Our last word in business today is inaugural overtime. This week, the Washington, D.C., council approved emergency legislation giving bars more time to serve alcohol during the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. From January 17th to the 20th, drinks can be served until 5 a.m. Last call is usually 2 a.m. This will lead to extra pay for bartenders; it could also mean even more overtime for police. And that's the business news on Morning Edition from NPR News.

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