A Grim Record: One In Seven Americans Is On Food Stamps

Alan Simpson Doesn’t Know What His Grandchildren Are Talking About  – As President Obama’s Fiscal Responsibility Commission releases its recommendations, we’ll continue to hear how the plan stands up for young people — people like Alan Simpson’s grandchildren: "Erskine and I are in this one for our grandchildren," said Simpson. I’m 26. Like my fellow Millennials, I could be Alan Simpson’s grandkid. And from that perspective, our national debt is not the greatest threat to my future, the future of my generation, or of the country more generally. For the last 9 months, the Roosevelt Campus Network has been holding forums asking Millennials what they want the world to look like in thirty years — when our generation is in its prime. The first results of this "Think 2040" initiative, were released on December 1st, in the Blueprint for the Millennial America. According to the Millennial Generation’s standpoint, as represented in the Blueprint for the Millennial America, the Bowles-Simpson report looks terribly out of touch. Yes, Millennials want to get our federal debt under control. But they also believe that we have to fix the economy comes first. In fact, they know without a growing economy, our federal deficit will grow dramatically larger.


Unemployment and Food Stamps – Two statistics from the Wall Street Journal. First, 6 million people were unable to find work last year. Nearly 6 million Americans looked for work but weren’t able to find employment at all last year,… an increase of 2.7 million from a year earlier. … That makes it thard to swallow stories where the high unemployment rate is caused by an unwillingness to work due to government programs such as unemployment compensation. Second: More people tapped food stamps to pay for groceries in September as the recession and lackluster recovery have prompted more Americans to turn to government safety net programs to make ends meet. Some 42.9 million people collected food stamps last month, up 1.2% from the prior month and 16.2% higher than the same time a year ago… Nationwide 14% of the population relied on food stamps as of September… That means the presently about one out of every seven people relies on food stamps.

Tax Cut Deal Shows No One Really Cares About Deficits – President Obama and congressional Republicans struck a deal Monday night to fully extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, as well as extending unemployment insurance and stimulus tax cuts. They will also reduce the estate tax and temporarily cut payroll taxes. There are plenty of good things that can be said about the deal: it will help stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment, it allows (theoretically) for the tax cuts to expire or be renegotiated in two years, and it will break the legislative logjam. But you cannot say that it will reduce the deficit. The deal is just a microcosm of the bargain Republicans and Democrats have been making for decades: Republicans want low tax rates for rich people, Democrats want to help the needy, and you cannot do both without running a deficit. Something has to give, so it is the deficit.

Some Public Workers to Lose a Tax Benefit in Deal –More bad news for government workers.  At a time when state and local governments across the country are imposing furloughs and layoffs, and President Obama has frozen pay for federal employees, it turns out that one of the few groups to face higher federal taxes next year may be public sector employees.  The proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks unveiled by Mr. Obama this week would offer a tax cut for most Americans. The deal would end the Making Work Pay credit, which gave a tax reduction of up to $400 to workers with low and middle incomes. That credit will be replaced by a 2 percent decrease in the payroll tax for Social Security for people of all incomes.  But more than six million federal, state and local government employees do not pay into Social Security at all. Instead, they pay into public pension systems. So if the agreed proposal becomes law, such employees will lose the $400 credit and would not reap any benefit from the payroll tax cut.

Analysis: GOP Senators Represent More Than Four Times As Many Unemployed People As Wealthy Households – Last week, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) admitted on the Senate floor that a proposal to extend tax cuts for families with incomes below $1 million would entail a tax increase for “just a small number of people, most of whom live on Wall Street and in New York.” This bout of honesty made it painstakingly clear that President Obama was correct yesterday when he called tax cuts for the wealthy the “holy grail” of conservative economic theory.  In striking a tax deal with Obama, Republicans insisted that the price of extending middle-class tax cuts and unemployment benefits for middle-class families (along other initiatives to boost the economy) would be extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich and slashing the estate tax. As Pat Garofalo and Michael Linden noted yesterday, the GOP’s priorities would cost $133 billion to benefit fewer than 5 million people, whereas the Democratic priorities cost $214 billion, but would help 156 million people.

A Grim Record: One In Seven Americans Is On Food Stamps – The number of people on food stamps keeps hitting new all-time highs; as of September, nearly 43 million people were using the program, according to figures out this week. Of course, because of population growth, absolute numbers only tell part of the story. The best way to look at the numbers over a long period of time is as a percentage of the population. And when you do that, you see that we’re also hitting new highs. The criteria for qualifying for food stamps haven’t changed much over time, according to Jean Daniel, a spokeswoman for the government agency that oversees the food-stamp program

 The GOP’s next hostage: The full faith and credit of the U.S. government – The worst answer of President Obama’s news conference yesterday had nothing to do with the left. It had to do with the debt ceiling. The National Journal’s Marc Ambinder stood and asked the president whether there was "any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package," as if the debt limit doesn’t get raised, the GOP has a "significant amount of leverage over the White House." Obama, who had gotten a bit prickly by this point in the Q&A, responded by questioning Marc’s premise. "When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House," he asked, "what do you mean?"  Sigh. Here’s what Marc means: In February, the Treasury Department will have borrowed as much money as the Congress has allowed them to borrow. If it is to keep meeting the government’s obligations, Congress will have to raise the debt limit, which it does every few years. If it doesn’t, the U.S. government can’t fulfill its obligations to its creditors, and we fall into a fiscal crisis the likes of which are very hard to imagine, as it won’t just be about immediate borrowing, but also the market’s sudden realization that the political system might not be able to meet future obligations, either.
"Why work?" – Here’s a claim, with concrete numbers, that: "a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year." That’s after various government benefits and taxes, but the calculation seems incorrect to me.  For instance, should the Medicaid and CHIP benefits of the poorer household actually be valued — to the user — at $16,500 a year?  (Is that number coming from some kind of cost basis?  If so, is it adjusted for the age of the Medicaid recipients to rule out nursing home expenditures?)  Is the $60,000 per year family receiving employer-supplied health insurance?  The assumption seems to be that they do not. Still, even if you make adjustments this is a scary comparison.

What Aspect of Dealing with Bullies Did Obama Fail to Learn as a Child? – President Obama has adopted Republican tax policies he knows to be disastrous for the nation. Obama never learned, or forgot, one of the essential lessons of junior high school — how to deal with bullies. (This is proof positive that he is a native-born American — he never would have survived Kenyan bullies.) Here is the Washington Post’s summary of Obama’s explanation of why he had no choice but to capitulate to Republican efforts to reduce taxes for the wealthiest one percent.  Obama summed up his view of why the Republican’s position on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans left him helpless to fulfill his promises to prevent the cuts: "I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of our economy." No, you’re there to prevent any leader, foreign or domestic, from harming the American people and our economy. The way that leaders harm us is by "playing games" — which means that they act strategically to obtain their interests at our expense. The President of the U.S., therefore, has to be expert at recognizing and courageous and tenacious in countering these strategies.

What’s Wrong With Cutting Taxes? – Simon Johnson – President Obama and Congressional Republicans have reached a deal that would cut taxes “for all Americans.” Their argument is that this package will stimulate the economy, create jobs and help lead to economic recovery and sustained growth. This proposal, which seems likely to pass Congress, is not a good idea. Why? (To see me explain these points in a five-minute video, click here.) Vice President Dick Cheney said, loud and clear, in 2002: “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” He was right that Ronald Reagan showed the Republican Party that you can get away with running significant deficits as a result of tax cuts – exactly the strategy of President George W. Bush. But Mr. Cheney was completely wrong with regard to the implication that there are no economic consequences of sustained fiscal deficits. If the I.M.F. could speak truth to authority in the United States, it would say this most forcefully.


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