Chris Arnold

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996, and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.

In recent years, Arnold has spent much of his time reporting on the financial crisis, its aftermath, and the U.S. economy's ongoing recovery. He has focused on the housing bubble and its collapse. And he's reported on problems within the nation's largest banks that have led to the banks improperly foreclosing on thousands of American homeowners. For this work, Arnold earned a 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for the special series, The Foreclosure Nightmare. He's also been honored with the Newspaper Guild's 2009 Heywood Broun Award for broadcast journalism. He was chosen by the Scripps Howard Foundation as a finalist for their National Journalism Award, and he won an Excellence in Financial Journalism Award from N.Y. State's society for CPA's.

Arnold is also reporting on the now government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In a series of stories in partnership with ProPublica, Arnold exposed investments at Freddie Mac that raised serious concerns about a conflict of interest between Fannie and Freddie's massive investment portfolios, and their mission to make home ownership more affordable. The stories generated widespread attention, and led to calls for an investigation by members of Congress.

Arnold was recently honored with a Nieman Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University during the 2012-2013 academic year. He joined a small group of other journalists from the U.S. and abroad and studied, among other things, economics and the future of home ownership in America.

Prior to that, Arnold covered a range of other subjects for NPR – from Katrina recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, to immigrant workers in the fishing industry, to a new kind of table saw that won't cut your fingers off. He traveled to Turin, Italy, for NPR's coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. He has also followed the dramatic rise in the numbers of teenagers abusing the powerful and highly addictive painkiller Oxycontin – more than 1 out of 20 high school seniors report using the drug.

In the days and months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Arnold reported from New York and contributed to the NPR coverage that won the Overseas Press Club and the George Foster Peabody Awards. He chronicled the recovery effort at Ground Zero, focusing on members of the Port Authority Police department, as they struggled with the deaths of 37 officers - the greatest loss of any police department in U.S. history.

Prior to his move to Boston, Arnold traveled the country for NPR doing feature stories on entrepreneurship. His pieces covered technologists, farmers, and family business owners. He also reported on efforts to kindle entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged areas ranging from inner-city Los Angeles to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Arnold has worked in public radio since 1993. Before joining NPR, he was a freelance reporter working out of San Francisco's NPR Member Station, KQED.

When it comes to taxes, the field of Republican presidential candidates is unified: Keep them low and certainly don't raise them.

In both his runs for the White House, Mitt Romney has hewed to this Republican line. But whether he cut or actually raised taxes as governor of Massachusetts is a subject for debate.

All politicians like to talk about cutting taxes. But at the state level during tough economic times, many end up cutting spending while raising taxes because they have to balance their budgets.



This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

The Federal Housing Administration today issues its annual report to Congress. A Wharton School professor is warning the FHA's problems are worse than the agency is letting on. The professor predicts that taxpayers will have to provide another multi billion dollar bailout if the economy doesn't improve soon.

Federal regulators have announced the start of a nationwide review of foreclosures by the nation's largest banks. The goal is to reach homeowners who've been treated unfairly or who lost their house when they shouldn't have.

Banks have started mailing out letters to upwards of 4 million homeowners. The regulators have ordered the banks to find people who have suffered financial harm due to the banks' mistakes, and to offer "remediation."

The U.S. economy hit an important milestone last week: Gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced in the country, returned to pre-recession levels. But the gains were made with millions fewer workers. Part of the reason is technology, as computers and machines continue to replace humans.

We used to think about machines taking over mundane jobs, like twisting a screw into a toaster on an assembly line over and over again. But more recently, technology is eliminating higher-skill jobs.

President Obama's home refinancing plan seeks to let a million or more American homeowners save money on their mortgages, even if those loans are underwater. But the plan announced Monday is not a new idea: A pair of economists at Columbia University — Chris Mayer and Glenn Hubbard — have been proposing a similar measure for years.

Home prices across the U.S. have dropped 30 percent from their peaks, a downturn that has sapped trillions of dollars in wealth from Americans. Not surprisingly, it's a hot topic for presidential candidates this campaign season. But so far, new ideas about how to fix the crisis have been scarce.

On Monday, President Obama is visiting Nevada, where he's expected to announce his administration's latest proposals on housing. The state is at the epicenter of the downturn, with the latest reports showing home prices and sales numbers continuing to slip.

The U.S. hasn't had unemployment this high for this long since the Great Depression. That's weighing heavily on a lot of Americans and seems to be a key part of the frustration and anger that's being directed at Wall Street and the big banks. For many people, it's not so much about high finance as it is about a weekly paycheck.

"I'm unemployed, and I'm down here because I'm unemployed," says Bob Norkus, a protester in downtown Boston.

Walking around, it doesn't take long to figure out that many people here have the same problem.

Three years ago, the real estate market was simple — simply terrible, that is. In virtually every part of the country, foreclosures were shooting up and prices were plunging. Today, the real estate picture is more nuanced. Foreclosures are still rising, but prices are stabilizing in some markets, making home-buying look more attractive.

If you had talked to some good economists just before the housing bubble burst, they would have told you it didn't make sense to buy a house.

The job market is barely treading water. The Labor Department reported Thursday that 404,000 more people filed for unemployment benefits last week, a number that's essentially unchanged from the week before.

Overall, there are 14 million people looking for work in the U.S., but at the same time there are still job openings around the country.

Federal regulators are moving closer to implementing new safety standards for table saws. Every year, several thousand Americans cut off their fingers using the tools.

Engineers at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency tasked with ensuring safety standards on a range of consumer products, say almost all of those injuries could be prevented with a better safety brake system.

Currently, such a brake is only available on one brand of table saw, called SawStop, but the vast majority of saws sold today don't have the safety brake.

In his jobs speech last week, President Obama also took time to say he wants to help more Americans save money on their mortgages.

"To help responsible homeowners, we're going to work with federal housing agencies to help more people refinance their mortgages at interest rates that are now near 4 percent," he said to applause from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, inflicted the single greatest loss of life ever suffered by a police department in U.S. history. The department wasn't the New York Police — it was the less well-known Port Authority Police Department. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey polices the bridges and tunnels around New York, and it also was in charge of security at the Twin Towers. It's a small, tight-knit department, and it lost 37 officers that day.

The long Labor Day weekend is a time for backyard barbecues, catching up with friends and family, and for some, a game of Wiffle Ball.

Over the years, the Wiffle Ball has wound its way into the fabric of America. Those who don't even like baseball very much have taken a swing at that white plastic ball with the oval slots around one side.

There is something about the Wiffle Ball that's kind of irresistible — toy stores and even some hardware stores across the country sell them. And for consumers looking for a ways to spend more time outside, they're pretty cheap.

The day after Irene, cleanup efforts continue and the damage estimates are starting to come in. Overall, it appears to have caused much less damage than forecasters expected.

But it's still early to make exact pronouncements about how much damage this storm caused or may still cause.

Swollen rivers in upstate New York and New England continue to threaten dams. And on Monday, President Obama said that the cleanup in many areas will be tough.

The turmoil in the financial markets has been pushing mortgage rates lower. Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages have now fallen to about 4.3 percent, which is very close to the lowest level on record.

But many Americans can't qualify for those low rates, and analysts say these historic interest rates aren't likely to do much to help the housing market.

That is, unless the government intervenes.

While Wall Street experiences the biggest stock sell-off in years, some very successful investors don't appear to be concerned. They're out buying stocks while everybody else panics.

Top executives are also downplaying the perceived crisis.

"We don't run the business based on what happens in the market in a day," Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, said Wednesday on CNBC. Bank stocks like his have been getting hammered in recent days.

Turmoil in the financial markets has coincided with an annual fishing trip for economists and top executives deep in the woods of Maine near the Canadian border. While the economists were together, Standard and Poor's took the unprecedented step of downgrading the U.S. government's credit rating.


LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: We'll be updating the story today, as negotiations continue on a deal to raise the debt ceiling. But as the debt ceiling drama drags on, stocks just saw their biggest one-week decline in more than a year. But as NPR's Chris Arnold reports, analysts caution anyone worried about their retirement savings should not panic.