Tag: Farm bill

NYT’s Reporter Wonders Why the President’s Approval Ratings Are So Bad

What world do the economics writer live in? It can’t be anywhere on the planet Earth, never mind the United States, especially when they write things like this:

Obama’s Puzzle: Economy Rarely Better, Approval Rarely Worse

President Obama will pronounce on the state of the union for the fifth time on Tuesday, and never during his time in office has the state of the economy been better – yet rarely has he gotten such low marks from the public for his handling of it.

Not only have economic indicators shown progress toward pre-recession health, but many forecasters are predicting what one called “a breakout year” for growth. A new study from a Federal Reserve economist even put a more benign spin on a negative trend, the shrinking labor force, by attributing the decline not to discouraged unemployed workers who have quit looking for jobs, but to the first baby-boomer retirements.

Demand for labor is up and the unemployment rate is below 7 percent for the first time since November 2008. Consumers, buoyed by rising home prices and stock values, are spending more; so are businesses. Exports are growing as Europe regains health. The fiscal drag from state and federal spending cuts has abated.

I suppose that the writer, Jackie Calmes, who covers the White house, is a very smart person but obviously not tuned into what is a happening outside the bubble of the political pages of the New York Times. Quoting one anonymous Federal Reserve economist without evidence to refute the actual numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics is ether more spin or bad journalism, probably both. We all know that the markets and the GDP are not true indicators of how well the majority of Americans are faring economically.

However, the explanation for the negativity about the economy and not just the president’s approval ratings but those of the Congress, is simple: since the “recovery” started in June 2009, 95 percent of the income gains have gone to the richest 1 percent (pdf) of the U.S. population. For a vast number of Americans the recession never ended.

Just look at what is happening in New York City, since the drastic cuts to SNAP and unemployment benefits ended, food banks and soup kitchens have seen an increase in the number of people seeking assistance and are now running out of food

New York, NY – January 22, 2014 – New research from Food Bank For New York City reveals a majority of New York City’s food pantries and soup kitchens (85 percent) experienced an increase in the number of visitors following a $5 billion national cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) that took effect on November 1st, 2013. In fact, the numbers of visitors post-November 1 actually exceeded the number of visitors seen in November 2012, in the immediate aftermath of Super Storm Sandy. [..]

* 85% reported an overall increase in visitors in November 2013, as compared to November 2012, immediately following Super Storm Sandy.

* 76% of food pantries and soup kitchens saw an increase in visitors in November 2013 compared to the previous two months, with nearly half (45%) reporting considerable increases in visitor traffic of more than 25%;

* Nearly half (48%) of emergency food providers ran out of food required for meals or pantry bags, with 26% reporting having to turn people away due to insufficient food supplies;

* Nearly one quarter (23%) of food pantries and soup kitchens reported having to reduce the total number of meals they otherwise provided

  That should be setting off alarm bells in Congress and at the White House. It isn’t. Congress is now set to pass a farm bill that further cuts food assistance by another $8.8 billion dollars over 10 years but continues generous subsidies for farmers.

The president will address this inequality and need for jobs with a living wage in the State of the Union address tonight. The White House has announced that he will raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour by executive order. The president has also said that he has “a pen and a phone” and is going to use them. The question is, with so many Americans suffering and the middle class shrinking, what took five years? And why should anyone believe him now?

Perhaps if he started with vetoing this farm bill and taking a stand against the Republicans and the corporate Democrats who enable them, then, maybe, he’d see an improvement in his approval ratings. Another flowery speech won’t do it.

And, Ms Calmes, read something other than your own paper, you might find out what’s going on in the world outside the offices of the NYT. Better yet, check out a food kitchen or pantry.

Bill Moyers: The Face of Hunger in America

The Faces of America’s Hungry



The full transcript can be read here

The story of American families facing food insecurity is as frustrating as it is heartbreaking, because the truth is as avoidable as it is tragic. Here in the richest country on earth, 50 million of us – one in six Americans – go hungry. More than a third of them are children. And yet Congress can’t pass a Farm Bill because our representatives continue to fight over how many billions to slash from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. The debate is filled with tired clich├ęs about freeloaders undeserving of government help, living large at the expense of honest, hardworking taxpayers. But a new documentary, A Place at the Table, paints a truer picture of America’s poor.

“The cost of food insecurity, obesity and malnutrition is way larger than it is to feed kids nutritious food,” Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers, tells Bill. She and Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, explain to Bill how hunger hits hard at people from every walk of life. [..]

Later, Greg Kaufmann – poverty correspondent for The Nation – talks about how the poor have been stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.

One in Six Americans Are Hungry

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As more and more Americans fall into or near poverty income level, congress is debating a new Farm Bill which will impact on the ability of people to feed themselves and their families:

While the legislation will set farm policy and impact food prices for the next five years, many forget that roughly 80 percent of the funding in the bill goes to providing food for the country’s less fortunate. At the end of 2012, according to the USDA, there were nearly 48 million people on food stamps.

In the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday, lawmakers passed its version of the bill, while the House Agriculture Committee will begin marking up its bill Wednesday. The versions of the key legislation remain vastly different in how they handle the country’s food assistance program, and will need to be reconciled before current regulations expire in September.

The Senate’s legislation would make about $4 billion in reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, during the next decade. The House version would cut five times as much – $20 billion through the same time period.

According to a new report from the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU’s School of Law, one in six Americans are facing food insecurity (pdf):

The united states is facing a food security crisis:

One in six Americans lives in a household that cannot afford adequate food. Of these 50 million individuals, nearly 17 million are children. Food insecurity has skyrocketed since the economic downturn, with an additional 14 million people classified as food insecure in 2011 than in 2007. For these individuals, being food insecure means living with trade-offs that no one should have to face,  like choosing between buying food and receiving medical care or paying the bills. Many food insecure people also face tough choices about the quality of food they eat, since low-quality processed foods are often more affordable and accessible than fresh and nutritious foods. Food insecurity takes a serious toll on individuals, families, and communities and has significant consequences for health and educational outcomes, especially for children. Food insecurity is also enormously expensive for society. According to one estimate, the cost of hunger and food insecurity in the United States amounted to $167.5 billion in 2010.

Additionally, the report shows that the existing program a fail. as Aviv Shen notes in her article at Think Progress:

(T)he four biggest food assistance programs fall short for as many as 50 million food insecure households. Eligibility requirements are already so strict that one in four households classified as food insecure were still considered too high-income to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Even families considered poor enough for food aid only get a pittance that runs out quickly; for instance, the maximum benefit for a family of four is $668 a month, or a little under $2 per meal for each family member.

To demonstrate the impossibility of surviving on food stamps, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) recently spent a week eating on $4.80 a day, mainly consuming ramen noodles, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a banana. “I’m hungry for five days…I lost six pounds in four days,” Murphy said upon concluding the experiment. He also realized that nutritious food and produce was far, far out of reach for people living on SNAP benefits. Indeed, obesity and related diseases are common among SNAP recipients who simply can’t afford nutritious food.

Co-author and faculty director of the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU’s School of Law, Smita Narula was a guest on Democracy Now with hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.

Transcript can be read here

Utopia 8: CSA


“In nature’s economy the currency is not money, it is life.”  

“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you”  

Vandana Shiva

Our Corrupt System: The Politics of Sugar

Today, as it has for many many years, The New York Times today slams the sweet deal given to the American sugar industry:

[S]ugar supports cost American consumers — who pay double the average world price — more than $1.5 billion a year. The system also bars farmers in some of the poorest countries of the world from selling their sugar here.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is about to topple this cozy arrangement. Next year, Mexican sugar will be allowed to enter the United States free of any quotas or duties, threatening a flood of imports. Rather than taking the opportunity to untangle the sugar program in this year’s farm bill, Congress has decided to bolster the old system.

Big Sugar is not the only beneficiary of this corporate welfare. The farm bill is larded with subsidies and other rewards for agricultural producers. The eagerness of members of Congress to please their sugar daddies is not surprising. Campaign donations from the sugar industry have topped $3 million in each of the last four political cycles. American consumers and taxpayers, as well as poor farmers overseas, shouldn’t have to pay the price.

This is of course all true, but the sugar industry is not the only egregious manipulator of our political system. But I want to concentrate on a different point, of personal interest to me. It is the fact that this system does not protect industries and jobs – it protects fat wallets. The small Florida town I grew up in lost hundreds of jobs – the excuse?

Sugar mill closes; trade pacts blamed

PAHOKEE, Fla. (AP) – The old sugar mill rises like a rusty tin mirage from endless green fields of freshly cut cane and swaths of rich, black soil. A sweet, musty smell hangs heavy in the air as white steam pours from its smokestacks for the last time.

The Bryant Sugar House has ground more than 90 million tons of cane into about 20 billion pounds of raw sugar since it opened in 1962. On Wednesday, the plant wrapped up its 45th harvest season and prepared to close forever following the industry trend — falling prices and better technology that means fewer jobs as more mills turn to automation and computers.

Faced with growing pressure from foreign sugar, U.S. Sugar Corp., the nation's largest producer of cane sugar, is combining the mill's operations with a high-tech plant 30 miles away. About 200 people will lose their jobs.

'We've had more and more trade agreements that continue to give away more access to our marketplace, creating a very, very competitive environment,' said Robert Coker, the company's vice president.

He said the company was forced to modernize one plant and consolidate operations, 'and unfortunately, when you modernize, it means eliminating jobs.'

Thirty-three mills across the country have closed in the last decade as producers try to remain competitive in a market becoming flush with excess foreign sugar, according to the American Sugar Alliance.

The $10-billion-a-year industry employs 146,000 people in the U.S. But trade agreements with other nations threaten even more American jobs as producers streamline their facilities to cut costs, the industry claims.

How convenient, trade pacts justified firing hundreds of people, a great many of them black and Latino, while the fat wallets still get to pad their pockets by virtue of a government giveaway.

Is it too difficult for Congress to insist that these fat cats use some of the money Congress gives them to keep Americans working?

Our government is broken. And small towns, populated with people who do not have millions for lobbyists, suffer:

Some of the 202 employees will go to work at U.S. Sugar's other plant. Some will retire. Many will simply move on. The company held a job fair.
'It's a sad day,' said 65-year-old mill manager Jacques Albert-Thenet. 'Some of these people have worked here an entire generation.'

Secretary Linda Stanley, 63, is one of only two employees who have worked at the plant since it opened in 1962. She has seen generations working side-by-side: 'Husbands, wives, sisters, children, brothers, nieces and nephews.'

Mill mechanic Jessie Brown Jr., 50, works alongside his two sons. He's been here 31 years and will soon head to the other mill for work.

'I'm going to have to do little adjusting. This is home,' Brown said. 'You gotta start all over again in a new place. Most of the people who are here now are your family.'

Not to worry. The fat cats will still get theirs -on the dole. The 1.5 billion dollar sugar fat cat dole.