Paul Krugman Rips ‘Ugly, Destructive War Against Food Stamps’

By 

Published: May 30, 2013

 

Like many observers, I usually read reports about political goings-on with a sort of weary cynicism. Every once in a while, however, politicians do something so wrong, substantively and morally, that cynicism just won’t cut it; it’s time to get really angry instead. So it is with the ugly, destructive war against food stamps.

The food stamp program — which these days actually uses debit cards, and is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — tries to provide modest but crucial aid to families in need. And the evidence is crystal clear both that the overwhelming majority of food stamp recipients really need the help, and that the program is highly successful at reducing “food insecurity,” in which families go hungry at least some of the time.

Food stamps have played an especially useful — indeed, almost heroic — role in recent years. In fact, they have done triple duty.

First, as millions of workers lost their jobs through no fault of their own, many families turned to food stamps to help them get by — and while food aid is no substitute for a good job, it did significantly mitigate their misery. Food stamps were especially helpful to children who would otherwise be living in extreme poverty, defined as an income less than half the official poverty line.

But there’s more. Why is our economy depressed? Because many players in the economy slashed spending at the same time, while relatively few players were willing to spend more. And because the economy is not like an individual household — your spending is my income, my spending is your income — the result was a general fall in incomes and plunge in employment. We desperately needed (and still need) public policies to promote higher spending on a temporary basis — and the expansion of food stamps, which helps families living on the edge and let them spend more on other necessities, is just such a policy.

Indeed, estimates from the consulting firm Moody’s Analytics suggest that each dollar spent on food stamps in a depressed economy raises G.D.P. by about $1.70 — which means, by the way, that much of the money laid out to help families in need actually comes right back to the government in the form of higher revenue.

Wait, we’re not done yet. Food stamps greatly reduce food insecurity among low-income children, which, in turn, greatly enhances their chances of doing well in school and growing up to be successful, productive adults. So food stamps are in a very real sense an investment in the nation’s future — an investment that in the long run almost surely reduces the budget deficit, because tomorrow’s adults will also be tomorrow’s taxpayers.

So what do Republicans want to do with this paragon of programs? First, shrink it; then, effectively kill it.

The shrinking part comes from the latest farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee (for historical reasons, the food stamp program is administered by the Agriculture Department). That bill would push about two million people off the program. You should bear in mind, by the way, that one effect of the sequester has been to pose a serious threat to a different but related program that provides nutritional aid to millions of pregnant mothers, infants, and children. Ensuring that the next generation grows up nutritionally deprived — now that’s what I call forward thinking.

And why must food stamps be cut? We can’t afford it, say politicians like Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican of Tennessee, who backed his position with biblical quotations — and who also, it turns out, has personally received millions in farm subsidiesover the years.

These cuts are, however, just the beginning of the assault on food stamps. Remember, Representative Paul Ryan’s budget is still the official G.O.P. position on fiscal policy, andthat budget calls for converting food stamps into a block grant program with sharply reduced spending. If this proposal had been in effect when the Great Recession struck, the food stamp program could not have expanded the way it did, which would have meant vastly more hardship, including a lot of outright hunger, for millions of Americans, and for children in particular.

Look, I understand the supposed rationale: We’re becoming a nation of takers, and doing stuff like feeding poor children and giving them adequate health care are just creating a culture of dependency — and that culture of dependency, not runaway bankers, somehow caused our economic crisis.

But I wonder whether even Republicans really believe that story — or at least are confident enough in their diagnosis to justify policies that more or less literally take food from the mouths of hungry children. As I said, there are times when cynicism just doesn’t cut it; this is a time to get really, really angry.

Thank you to The NY Times for this story.

‘All in the Family’ Star Jean Stapleton Dies at 90

Jun 1, 2013 5:40 pm

gty jean stapleton all in the family jt 130601 wblog All in the Family Star Jean Stapleton Dies at 90

 

Jean Stapleton, the actress best known for her role as Archie Bunker’s wife Edith in the groundbreaking 1970s television series “All in the Family” died of natural causes at her home in New York City on Friday. She was 90.

Stapleton’s son, John Putch, confirmed his mother’s death to ABC News.

“Being the children of a beloved Mother on Television means sharing the spirit of who JEAN STAPLETON was with her friends and fans. It is with great love and heavy hearts that we say farewell to our collective Mother, with a capital M. Her devotion to her craft and her family taught us all great life lessons,” John Putch and his sister Pamela Putch said in a statement released today.

Despite a successful acting career, Stapleton did not attain fame until she was nearly 50 years old when she took on the role of “dingbat” Edith Bunker, softening Carroll O’Connor’s bigoted, brash Archie in the CBS series produced by Norman Lear. Stapleton won three Emmys for her portrayal.

“The benign, compassionate presence she developed made my egregious churl bearable,” O’Connor wrote of Stapleton in his 1998 autobiography.

When the series wrapped in 1979, Stapleton moved on to new roles in television and in film, most notably for her portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1982′s “Eleanor, First Lady of the World,” for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Stapleton was married to William Putch, a producer/director of the Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, Pa., where she appeared for many season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He died in 1993.

Stapleton is survived by her daughter, Pamela Putch, and her son, John Putch.

Thank you to ABC News for this article.

Let ‘Em Die: TEApublican Quotes Bible To Justify Letting Poor Starve To Death

May 20, 2013

In a disgusting display, even by TEApublican standards, Stephen Fincher (R-TN) quoted the “Book of Thessalonians” to justify letting the poor starve.  Fincher smugly stated on the House floor:

The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.

Of course, it’s a well-known attribute of conservatives to see things in black and white while often missing more nuanced aspects of real life.  In Fincher’s warped mind, people that need help are just lazy moochers who should simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps, even though, as most liberals know, many of these people don’t even have boots–or functioning  feet in the context of this analogy–for that matter.

We have three points to make to Mr. Fincher and anyone else who buys into this absurd and disturbing way of thinking.

1. Most people on SNAP are not “unwilling” to work.   Food insecurity is a real problem in America, but indolence is not to blame.  From a Center on Policy and Budget Priorities (cbpp.org) piece titled, Contrary to “Entitlement Society” Rhetoric, Over Nine-Tenths of Entitlement Benefits Go to Elderly, Disabled, or Working Household:

Some conservative critics of federal social programs, including leading presidential candidates, are sounding an alarm that the United States is rapidly becoming an “entitlement society” in which social programs are undermining the work ethic and creating a large class of Americans who prefer to depend on government benefits rather than work.  A new CBPP analysis of budget and Census data, however, shows that more than 90 percent of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households — not to able-bodied, working-age Americans who choose not to work.  This figure has changed little in the past few years.

 

Entitelment Society Lie

 

Conservatives have also proven to be shameless lying hypocrites in many cases.  Take Mark Sanford, who just won a congressional seat in South Carolina, for example.  After much finger-wagging, Mr. Sanford voted to impeach President Clinton over the Lewinsky sex scandal, yet asked for forgiveness–without any sense of irony–after being caught romping with his mistress in South America on the tax payer’s dime.  It would seem Rep. Fincher also fits this mold.

2. Hypocrite Fincher took millions in farm subsidies. From AlterNet:

The reason this is even more egregious than the usual Republican class warfare is that Fincher himself is a poster boy for government dependency. It’s not just that he’s benefited here and there from some government help. That sort of low-level hypocrisy is almost to be expected from these types. But Fincher has received millions –  $3.2 million as of June 2010 – in federal crop subsidies. The people who refer to themselves as  Tea Partiers threatened to derail his candidacy over this, but then they realized that they have no principles, and supported him anyway. He’s now a member of the “Tea Party Caucus,” which, amazingly, is something that actually exists. Fincher’s brother and father also snatched another $6.7 million in subsidies as Stephen geared up to run for Congress on a platform of eliminating “wasteful government spending.” The “wasteful spending” that he had in mind, of course, was that which serves policy aims with which he disagrees, such as keeping poor people alive.

And, finally, let’s examine the TEApublican’s penchant for cherry-picking documents to suit their agendas.  Whether it be the Constitution or the Holy Bible, these folks love to take what fits into their preconceived narrative and leave the rest behind.  Fincher is clearly no exception.

3. The Bible also says:

The Old Testament

Psa. 82:3  Give fair judgment to the poor man, the afflicted, the fatherless, the destitute.

Prov. 14:31  Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.

Prov28:27  If you give to the poor, your needs will be supplied! But a curse upon those who close their eyes to poverty.

Prov22:9  Happy is the generous man, the one who feeds the poor.

The New Testament

Isa. 58:7  I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold, and don’t hide from relatives who need your help.  Isa. 58:8 If you do these things, God will shed his own glorious light upon you. He will heal you; your godliness will lead you forward, goodness will be a shield before you, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.  Isa. 58:9  Then, when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.  All you need to do is to stop oppressing the weak and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! Isa. 58:10  Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day.

Doesn’t exactly sound ambiguous, now does it?   False accusations and vicious rumors, Mr. Fincher–THAT is was you’re spreading, as it’s obvious that your assertions quickly dissolve when bathed in the light of facts.   It’s not children, elderly, disabled and working poor Americans who get food assistance that should be ashamed of themselves; it’s you and the rest of your factually-bankrupt, judgmental TEApublican ilk who should.

Bible quotes sources: 

http://www.friendships.org/Scriptures.html

http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/g8-bibleverses

Thank you to AATTP.org for this story.

The Onion Calls it Quits

by The Troubadour Follow for Writing by David Harris Gershon

SUN MAY 26, 2013 AT 09:10 PM PDT

For nearly 25 years, The Onion has been satirizing American politics and society with unparalleled brilliance. However, the fake news publication – or “America’s Finest News Source” – has sadly and stunningly announced that it will cease operations in 2014.

In a press release, The Onion’s Editor-In-Chief, Will Tracy, explained what led to the publication’s difficult decision:

The Onion has always been recognized as a first-rate satirical publication, making fun of all that is absurd in our socio-political world. However, in today’s contemporary political environment, our brand has simply gotten muddled. And I can say with clarity that today’s GOP is fully to blame.

[…]

It used to be that political satire was easy. All one had to do was find the absurd buried beneath the surface of a given story and employ satire to highlight that absurdity. To shine a light on it.

Now? Now you have headlines showing up in mainstream publications like “Kansas Republican Actually Opposes the Poor Buying More Food” and “Conservatives Less Likely to Buy Energy Efficient Bulbs if Labeled as Environmentally Friendly.”

The absurdity of conservatives in this country has completely destroyed our business. Republicans have ruined us. Period.

New readers to The Onion can’t tell anymore that we are a satirical publication. And established readers have been leaving our pages, finding greater absurdity at places like CNN and USA Today.

The Onion apparently considered changing its business model – shifting to become a ‘real’ news outlet – but eventually decided against it.

Creative Director of the Onion News Network, JJ Shebesta, told The New York Times:

A bunch of us thought that if we wanted to keep doing weird and absurd shit, that we should just start covering the news for real.

But then we were like, Wait, we’re just comedy writers, not journalists. We’re overqualified!

The Onion will continue operations through the upcoming presidential election, with its last issue set to be published on November 6, 2014. When asked why, Shebesta answered, “What better day for a satirical news outlet to close up shop?”

Indeed.

Rest in peace, The Onion. You will be missed.

Thank you to The Daily KOS for this article.

I-5 bridge over Skagit River collapses, cars with people in water

by Associated Press 

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River at Mount Vernon collapsed Thursday evening, dumping vehicles and people into the water, the Washington State Patrol said.
   
The four-lane bridge collapsed about 7 p.m., Trooper Mark Francis said.
   
Francis said he had no immediate estimate of how many people were in the water or whether there were any injuries or deaths.
   
He did not know what caused the collapse.
  
A Skagit Valley Herald reporter at the scene said a sheriff’s office rescue boat has arrived and rescue crews were looking for people in the water.
   
The reporter saw one person sitting atop one vehicle in the water and could see a second vehicle as well.

Crowds of people lined the river to watch the scene unfold.
 
The incident has closed northbound and southbound traffic in the area; traffic is reportedly backed up significantly on I-5.

 

Two-mile-wide tornado kills at least 51 — including 24 elementary school students

By Nick Valencia and Dana Ford, CNN
updated 8:58 PM EDT, Mon May 20, 2013
Onlookers stop to view a portion of the destruction delivered by a large EF4 tornado in Moore, near Oklahoma City on Monday, May 20. At least 51 people are confirmed dead in the storm that touched down near Newcastle, Oklahoma, at 2:56 pm CDT carrying winds up to 200 mph.

Moore, Oklahoma (CNN) — Rescue workers raced against time and the oncoming night Monday looking for survivors after a powerful tornado blasted an area outside of Oklahoma City, leveling homes and killing at least 51 people.

Twenty four of the dead, with one still missing, were children from Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, which lay directly in the path of the monster storm’s wall of wind.

Seventy-five students and staff members had been huddled the school when the storm hit, CNN affiliate KFOR reported.

As nightfall approached, determined searchers in hard hats dug in the debris for students possibly trapped, but authorities described the work as a recovery, not rescue, effort.

A temporary flight restriction was put in place over the school so that aircraft would stay away and emergency officials on the ground might hear any cries for help, said Lynn Lunsford with the Federal Aviation Administration.

After the ear-shattering howl of the killer storm subsided, survivors along the miles of destruction emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision — the remnants of cars twisted and piled on each other to make what had been a parking lot look like a junk yard. Bright orange flames flew from a structure that was blazing even as rain continued to fall.

“Our worst fears are becoming realized this afternoon,” Bill Bunting, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Storm Prediction Center, told CNN.

Get the latest developments in the story

“We certainly hope everyone heeded the warnings, but it’s a populated area and we just fear that not everyone may have gotten the word,” he said.

Bodies of those killed in the storm were being sent to Oklahoma’s office of the chief medical examiner, said the office’s Amy Elliott. Authorities had no immediate estimate on the number of injured.

The preliminary rating of damage created by the tornado is at least EF4 (winds 166 to 200 mph) — the second-most severe classification on a scale of zero to five — the National Weather Service said.

The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, KFOR reported.

Lando Hite, shirtless and spattered in mud, told the affilaite about the storm hitting the Orr Family Farm in Moore, which had about 80 horses.

“It was just like the movie ‘Twister,'” he said, standing amid the debris. “There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere.”

The tornado damaged several barns and he was worried many of the animals were killed.

Hite said he did not hear any warnings or sirens.

“It was real windy and everything stopped. Being from Oklahoma, I knew that was not right.”

Twenty patients, including 12 adults and eight children, were in trauma rooms at Oklahoma University (OU) Medical Center and at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, said spokesman Scott Coppenbarger.

Injuries ranged from minor to critical.

Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma was evacuated after it sustained damage, a hospital spokeswoman said.

All patients were being evacuated to Norman Regional Hospital and Healthplex Hospital, and residents injured in the storm were being told to go to those centers as well.

Norman Regional Hospital and the Healthplex were treating an unspecified number of people with “signs of trauma, lacerations and broken bones,” spokeswoman Melissa Herron said.

10 deadliest tornadoes on record

Interstate 35 in Moore was closed as a result of debris from the tornado, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cole Hackett said. Crews were heading to the north-south highway to start the cleanup process.

“People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come,” said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol. She did not say how many people were trapped.

More than 38,000 electricity customers in Oklahoma are without power, according to local power providers.

Even as authorities and rescue workers struggle to get handle on the damage, NOAA’s Bunting warned the worst may be yet to come.

“These storms are going to continue producing additional tornadoes. They’ll also produce some very, very large hail, perhaps larger than the size of baseballs. We’re also concerned that there may be an enhanced and widespread damaging wind threat with storms as they merge together,” he said.

“As bad as today is, this is not over yet.”

Track severe weather

Oklahoma resident: ‘It’s just all gone

The severe weather came after tornadoes and powerful storms ripped through Oklahoma and the Midwest earlier Monday and on Sunday.

Forecasters had said that the destructive weather, which killed at least two people, was perhaps just a preview.

Even before Monday afternoon’s devastation, residents in areas hard hit by weekend storms were combing through rubble where their homes once stood.

“My mind is, like, blown, completely blown,” said Jessie Addington, 21, who found that few pieces of her childhood home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, were still standing Monday.

Addington, who now lives in a nearby town, said her mother huddled in the mobile home’s bathroom when the weekend storm hit. But the tornado still tossed her around like a rag doll, leaving her bruised.

When Addington arrived, she was shocked to find the neighborhood where she had lived for 17 years reduced to ruins.

“I’m feeling cheated, to be honest,” she said, “like, it’s just all gone.”

An estimated 300 homes were damaged or destroyed across Oklahoma in weekend weather, Red Cross spokesman Ken Garcia said.

Two men, both in their 70s, were confirmed dead as a result of an earlier tornado that hit Shawnee, said Elliott, the spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office.

As many as 28 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa, according to the National Weather Service, with Oklahoma and Kansas the hardest hit. Some of those reports might have been of the same tornado.

A combination of factors — including strong winds and warm, moist air banging against dry air — means severe weather could continue sweeping across a wide swath of the United States for days, Petersons said.

“Keep in mind we have all the ingredients out there that we need,” she said.

Severe weather 101

Tornado watches were in effect for portions of southeastern Kansas, western and central Missouri, northwest Arkansas, central and eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Texas until 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET).

Thank you to CNN for this story.

Two-mile-wide tornado slams Oklahoma City area, killing at least 10

By Nick Valencia. Catherine E. Shoichet and Dana Ford, CNN
updated 7:39 PM EDT, Mon May 20, 2013
 
Watch this video
 

Shawnee, Oklahoma (CNN) — At least 10 people were killed Monday when a powerful tornado blasted an area outside of Oklahoma City, ripping roofs off buildings, leveling homes, and cutting a wide path of destruction the scale of which is just starting to be made clear.

The victims’ bodies were being sent to Oklahoma’s office of the chief medical examiner, the office’s Amy Elliott told CNN, confirming the tornado’s first fatalities. Authorities had no immediate estimate on the number of injured.

After the ear-shattering howl of the killer storm subsided, survivors emerged from shelters to see an apocalyptic vision — the remnants of cars twisted and piled on each other to make what had been a parking lot look like a junk yard. Bright orange flames roaring from a structure that was blazing even as rain continued to fall.

At least one school was in the tornado’s devastation zone in Moore, Oklahoma. Lance West, a reporter for CNN affiliate KFOR, said that rescuers were searching for students trapped in debris at Plaza Towers Elementary School. There were no immediate reports on the condition of the children but rescuers swarmed to the scene to begin a painstaking search.

There were 75 students and staff at the school when the storm hit, KFOR reported.

“Our worst fears are becoming realized this afternoon,” Bill Bunting, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, told CNN soon after the tornado struck.

“We certainly hope everyone heeded the warnings, but it’s a populated area and we just fear that not everyone may have gotten the word,” he said.

The preliminary rating of damage created by the tornado is at least EF4 (winds 166 to 200 mph) — the second-most severe classification on a scale of zero to five — the National Weather Service said.

The tornado was estimated to be at least two miles wide at one point as it moved through Moore, KFOR reported.

Lando Hite, shirtless and spattered in mud, told the affilaite about the storm hitting the Orr Family Farm in Moore, which had about 80 horses.

“It was just like the movie ‘Twister,'” he said, standing amid the debris. “There were horses and stuff flying around everywhere.”

The tornado damaged several barns and he was worried many of the animals were killed.

Hite said he did not hear any warnings or sirens.

“It was real windy and everything stopped. Being from Oklahoma, I knew that was not right.”

Twenty patients, including 12 adults and eight children, were in trauma rooms at Oklahoma University (OU) Medical Center and at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, said spokesman Scott Coppenbarger.

Injuries ranged from minor to critical.

Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma was evacuated after it sustained damage, a hospital spokeswoman said.

All patients were being evacuated to Norman Regional Hospital and Health Plex Hospital, and residents injured in the storm were being told to go to those centers as well.

Interstate 35 in Moore was closed as a result of debris from the tornado, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesman Cole Hackett said. Crews were heading to the north-south highway to start the cleanup process.

“People are trapped. You are going to see the devastation for days to come,” said Betsy Randolph, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Highway Patrol. She did not say how many people were trapped.

More than 38,000 electricity customers in Oklahoma are without power, according to local power providers.

Even as authorities and rescue workers struggle to get handle on the damage, NOAA’s Bunting warned the worst may be yet to come.

“These storms are going to continue producing additional tornadoes. They’ll also produce some very, very large hail, perhaps larger than the size of baseballs. We’re also concerned that there may be an enhanced and widespread damaging wind threat with storms as they merge together,” he said.

“As bad as today is, this is not over yet.”

Track severe weather

Oklahoma resident: ‘It’s just all gone

The severe weather came after tornadoes and powerful storms ripped through Oklahoma and the Midwest earlier Monday and on Sunday.

Forecasters had said that the destructive weather, which killed at least two people, was perhaps just a preview.

Even before Monday afternoon’s devastation, residents in areas hard hit by weekend storms were combing through rubble where their homes once stood.

“My mind is, like, blown, completely blown,” said Jessie Addington, 21, who found that few pieces of her childhood home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, were still standing Monday.

Addington, who now lives in a nearby town, said her mother huddled in the mobile home’s bathroom when the weekend storm hit. But the tornado still tossed her around like a rag doll, leaving her bruised.

When Addington arrived, she was shocked to find the neighborhood where she had lived for 17 years reduced to ruins.

“I’m feeling cheated, to be honest,” she said, “like, it’s just all gone.”

An estimated 300 homes were damaged or destroyed across Oklahoma in weekend weather, Red Cross spokesman Ken Garcia said.

Viewed from the air, the extent of the damage was staggering, said John Welsh, a helicopter pilot for KFOR. “Like you took the house, you put it in a gigantic blender, you turned it on pulse for a couple minutes and then you just dumped it out.”

And that was before the monster tornado moved in Monday afternoon.

Two men, both in their 70s, were confirmed dead as a result of an earlier tornado that hit Shawnee, said Elliott, the spokeswoman for the state medical examiner’s office.

As many as 28 tornadoes were reported in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa, according to the National Weather Service, with Oklahoma and Kansas the hardest hit. Some of those reports might have been of the same tornado.

More tornadoes were spotted in Iowa, near Earlham, Huxley and east of Dallas Center, according to the National Weather Service.

The agency also confirmed a twister in the northwestern Illinois county of Carroll.

A combination of factors — including strong winds and warm, moist air banging against dry air — means severe weather could continue sweeping across a wide swath of the United States for days, Petersons said.

“Keep in mind we have all the ingredients out there that we need,” she said.

Tornado watches were in effect for portions of southeastern Kansas, western and central Missouri, northwest Arkansas, central and eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Texas until 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET).

Thank you to CNN for this article.

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