Monday Reads

Good Morning!

The most recent vivisection of Mitt Romney’s political career is in the NY Review of Books and is written by Garry Wills.  It looks at a batch of losers and wonders which path Romney will choose.  My guess is it will have nothing to do outside of the realm of increasing his personal wealth or church standing. Shallow Mitt will continue his life in the bubble.

What public service do we expect from Mitt Romney? He will no doubt return to augmenting his vast and hidden wealth, with no more pesky questions about where around the world it is stashed, or what taxes (if any) he paid, carefully sheltered from the rules his fellow citizens follow.

Barry Goldwater, after his massive defeat, stayed true enough to his principled conservatism that the modern Republican Party was a beneficiary of his legacy—a beneficiary but not the determiner of that legacy. It was Goldwater himself who told the heir to his influence, Richard Nixon, that it was time to cleanse the White House by leaving it. Though Goldwater was a factor in the Southern strategy of Nixon, he was no racist, and no fanatic of any stripe. He was an acidulous critic of the religious right and a strong advocate for women’s rights (like abortion). He had backbone.

What vestige of a backbone is Romney left with? Things he was once proud of —health-care guarantees, opposition to noxious emissions, support of gay rights and women’s rights, he had the shamelessness to treat as matters of shame all through his years-long crawl to the Republican nomination.

Other defeated candidates compiled stellar records after they lost. Two of them later won the Nobel Prize—Jimmy Carter for international diplomacy, Al Gore for his environmental advocacy. John Kerry is still an important voice for the principles he has always believed in as a Democrat. Michael Dukakis carries on as the college professor he always was, with no need to reject or rediscover any of the policies he championed. Robert Dole joined with McGovern in international nutritional projects.

One of the most off-the-wall suggestions was offered on MTP. Historian Doris Kerns Goodwin suggested that  Shallow Mitt should join the Obama administration as some kind of jobs czar.   WTF has she been smoking?  Why would any one want to hire the father of shipping jobs to China to oversee bringing jobs back to the US?  Why would Obama want this race baiter in his administration? The man specialized in stuff that wrecked the country?  What could we possibly learn from him but how to damage the US for personal wealth and gain?

Pulling Romney in as a business czar for the Obama administration is a popular idea being volleyed around among liberal circles. Recently, a CNN panel enthusiastically endorsed Romney for Secretary of Business. Perhaps Romney’s opinion of adding a new office to government was forgotten.

“I don’t think adding a new chair in his cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street,” Romney said while on the campaign trail, adding, “His solution to everything is to add another bureaucrat … I don’t think adding a new chair in his Cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street. We don’t need a Secretary of Business to understand business. We need a president who understands business.” The idea that Romney would accept the position of “another bureaucrat” is as likely as Obama repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Kerns dropped this suggestion right in the middle of a discussion about the economy, the fiscal cliff, the problem of declining growth of business, and a “mandate to compromise.” The host, David Gregory, agreed recent polls indicated a majority favored Romney over Obama to fix the economy, put America back to work and grow business.

Disco Dave’s Dance Party has reached a new level of irrelevance.  I would have never thought that possible.

Melissa Harris-Perry turns the national conversation to poverty and reminds us that ‘Those Aren’t Numbers. Those Are People’.

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry debut a new regular segment Sunday focusing on poverty, which she noted many people did not want to touch, even as the national poverty rate remained at 15 percent of the population last year, or just over 46 million people, with 21.9 percent of them being minors.

“Let me be crystal clear,” she said. “Those aren’t numbers. Those are people.”

President Barack Obama’s administration, Harris-Perry noted, has already at least broached the subject; days before his re-election, a campaign spokesperson cited programs like Choice Neighborhoods, Promise Neighborhoods and others in a response to The Nation as proof Obama took the issue seriously.

You can watch her panel on the main link.

Yesterday, I wrote a post talking about the crazy fairy tales that Republicans tell themselves and others about trickle down economics.  It’s been shown to be a failure by every empirical study possible and yet, they still won’t give it up.  It’s so bad that they are still pushing the voted-down Romney version of it as the answer to the fiscal curb.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): On ABC’s This Week, Chambliss said, “Bowles-Simpson said, look, eliminate all these tax credits and tax deductions. You can generate somewhere 1 to 1.2 trillion in additional revenue. You can actually lower tax rates by doing that. And I think at the end of the day, what’s got to happen, George, we’ve got to get this economy going again.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): In a Friday column, House Budget Committee member Cole wrote: “However, raising tax rates is not the only way to increase revenue, nor is it the best way. Speaker Boehner has proposed comprehensive tax reform to raise revenue and lower rates. Eliminating inefficient loopholes and deductions will generate economic growth while creating a simpler, fairer tax code.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX): In a Wednesday Tweet, House Ways and Means Committee member Brady opined: “Stronger economic growth from tax reform that lowers rates and closes loopholes will generate higher revenue to bring the deficit down.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): In a letter to his Republican caucus, the House Majority Leader wrote: “What would be best is a fundamental reform of the tax code that lowers rates, broadens the base, makes America’s businesses competitive again, and reduces the burden imposed by taxes on work and investment.”

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI): In a Wednesday press release, the House Ways and Means Chairman wrote: “There is a better path forward than simply increasing tax rates, and one in which both sides can claim victory. We can address both our jobs crisis and our debt crisis by focusing on tax reform that strengthens the economy. There is bipartisan support for tax reform that closes loopholes and lowers rates.”

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): On Fox News Sunday, House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Price, a member of both the Ways and Means and Budget Committees, said “We can increase revenue without increasing the tax rates on anybody in this country.”

I’m not sure if you waded through my wonk yesterday, but just recently the CBO announce there would be no significant damage done to the economy should Congress let the Bush Tax Cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says there will be no significant negative impact on the economy should the lower rates on the wealthiest Americans be allowed to expire. And the notion that lowering rates will magically create more revenue is indeed a right-wing pipe dream.

There’s one more look at how the Romney loss has highlighted differences in the US population.  This break down shows the regional clashes as analyzed by Colin Woodward at Bloomberg.  There’s some interesting looks at why the Appalachia region may not have taken to Obama’s messages.

President Barack Obama explicitly embraced the notion that we are all in the same boat, that we will succeed or fail as a community, that the successful ought to make sacrifices for the common good. On the stump and in his victory speech, he presented these as American ideals, and they are in the sense that they are the central founding principles of Yankeedom, the section of the country colonized by the early Puritans and their descendants. The Puritans believed they were God’s chosen people and, as such, would be rewarded or punished collectively. They came to this continent to create a religious utopia, a “light on the hill,” a godly community to serve as an example for the world. Ever since, Yankees have had faith in their ability to engineer a more perfect society through public institutions. Their culture, more than any other, has prized the common good above individual aspiration, often celebrating self-denial as a virtue.

Many other, equally American cultures look upon this philosophy with skepticism, even revulsion, and none more so than the people of Greater Appalachia. This nation was founded in the early 18th century by wave upon wave of rough, bellicose settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England and the Scottish lowlands, whose culture included a warrior ethic and deep commitments to individual liberty. Here “freedom” is broadly understood to mean having the fewest possible encumbrances on individual action. If Yankee ideology seeks to make a community free of tyrants, Appalachia’s sticks up for each person’s freedom to become a tyrant.

Jonathan Chait says we did in fact have a class war during the election season this year.

The telling phrase came when Obama turned away from the thank-yous and patriotic hymnals into the guts of his remarks. “Despite all our differences,” he transitioned, “most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.” The key term here is “most,” as opposed to “all”—“most” meaning less than 100 percent and possibly as little as 51 percent. He attributed to most Americans a desire for great schools, a desire to limit debt and inequality: “a generous America, a compassionate America.”

Obama then proceeded to define the American idea in a way that excludes the makers-versus-takers conception of individual responsibility propounded by Paul Ryan and the tea party. Since Obama took office, angry men in Colonial garb or on Fox News have harped on “American exceptionalism,” which boils our national virtue down to the freedom from having to subsidize some other sap’s health insurance. Obama turned this on its head. “What makes America exceptional,” he announced, “are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth. The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.” Obama invoked average Americans living out this ethos of mutual responsibility (such as a “family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors,” the example of which stands at odds with the corporate ethos of a certain ­Boston-based private-equity executive). And even the line about red states and blue states began with the following statement: “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions.”

Presumably more was at work here than mere uplift. The president was establishing the meaning of his victory. Even in the days leading up to Tuesday, clouds of dismissal had already begun to hover overhead. The election was “small,” in the words of one story in the conventional-wisdom-generating machine Politico, and “too narrow and too rooted in the Democratic base to grant him anything close to a mandate,” in the words of another. “I don’t think the Obama victory is a policy victory,” sniffed Romney adviser Kevin Hassett. “In the end what mattered was that it was about Bain and frightening people that Romney is an evil capitalist.”

Like every president, Obama won for myriad reasons, important and petty. But his reelection was hardly small and hardly devoid of ideas. Indeed, it was entirely about a single idea. The campaign, from beginning to end, was an extended argument about economic class.

So, that’s some of the things that I’ve been reading.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

We passed an ominous milestone recently. Have we crossed the Rubicon with climate change?

Monitoring stations in the Arctic have confirmed atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm), far past the acknowledged safe limit of 350 ppm.

Global levels of carbon dioxide—the most prevalent heat-trapping gas—are around 395 ppm, but Arctic levels signal where global trends are headed, and scientists are confident that levels will soon eclipse this ominous milestone worldwide.

According to the Washington Post, Jim Butler, the global monitoring director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado, said “The fact that it’s 400 is significant. It’s just a reminder to everybody that we haven’t fixed this and we’re still in trouble.”

Preceding the Industrial Revolution, global levels of carbon dioxide were believed to be around 275 ppm. The meteoric rise in carbon pollution is mainly attributed to fossil fuel dependence, such as burning coal and oil for gasoline. Forest depletion and oceanic biodiversity loss complicate matters by diminishing nature’s ability to absorb and repurpose carbon dioxide.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, former Vice President Al Gore wrote via email, “The news today, that some stations have measured concentrations above 400 ppm in the atmosphere, is further evidence that the world’s political leaders—with a few honorable exceptions—are failing catastrophically to address the climate crisis. History will not understand or forgive them.”

The UK Guardian reports that 28 top US corporations are working hard to block any action meant to prevent or stop climate change.

An analysis of 28 Standard & Poor 500 publicly traded companies by researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists exposed a sharp disconnect in some cases between PR message and less visible activities, with companies quietly lobbying against climate policy or funding groups which work to discredit climate science.

The findings are in line with the recent expose of the Heartland Institute. Over the years, the ultra-conservative organisation devoted to discrediting climate science received funds from a long list of companies which had public commitments to sustainability.

The disconnect in this instance was especially stark in the researchers’ analysis of oil giants ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, and the electricity company DTE energy.

But even General Electric Company, which ranks climate change as a pillar of its corporate policy on its website, had supported trade groups and thinktanks that misrepresent climate science, the researchers found.

Caterpillar Inc, despite its public commitment to sustainability, also worked behind the scenes to block action on climate change. The company spent more than $16m (£10.3m) on lobbying during the study, with nearly five times as much of that spent lobbying to block climate action than on pro-environmental policies.

Other big corporate players were fairly consistent with their public image. Nike and NRG Energy Inc lobbied in support of climate change policy and supported conservation groups.

Peabody Energy Corporation, which produces coal, was ranked the most obstructionist of any of the companies. It spent more than $33m to lobby Congress against environmental measures and supporting trade groups and think tanks which spread disinformation about climate science, the researchers found.

“The thing we found most surprising in doing this research is just how all 28 companies expressed concern about climate change,” said Francesca Grifo who heads the UCS scientific integrity programme. “But when we took a deeper look we found that a lot of the actions they took weren’t connected to the messages.”

The result of the disconnect was growing confusion about climate science, the researchers said. That made it more difficult to push for environmental protections.

Republicans continue to chip away at abortion rights. The House is zeroing in on “sex selection” abortions.  These are not a big issue in this country but could be a big issue for Republicans because the rhetoric almost always centers on Asian countries in a way that’s offensive to Americans of Asian heritage.

Republicans long ago lost African American voters. They are well on their way to losing Latinos. And if Trent Franks prevails, they may lose Asian Americans, too.

The Arizona Republican’s latest antiabortion salvo to be taken up by the House had a benign name — the Prenatal Non­discrimination Act — and a premise with which just about everybody agrees: that a woman shouldn’t abort a fetus simply because she wants to have a boy rather than a girl.

The problem with Franks’s proposal is that it’s not entirely clear there is a problem. Sex-selection abortion is a huge tragedy in parts of Asia, but to the extent it’s happening in this country, it’s mostly among Asian immigrants.

For Franks, who previously tried to pass legislation limiting abortions among African Americans and residents of the District of Columbia, it was the latest attempt to protect racial minorities from themselves.

“The practice of sex selection is demonstrably increasing here in the United States, especially but not exclusively in the Asian immigrant community,” he announced on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. He quoted a study finding that male births “for Chinese, Asian Indians and Koreans clearly exceeded biological variation.”

The Bill even has one of those weird Republican names like offensive missiles called “peace keepers.”  It’s called PRENDA or Prenatal NonDiscrimination Act.

The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), H.R. 3541, was defeated in a 246-168 vote. While that’s a clear majority of the House, Republicans called up the bill under a suspension of House rules, which limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. In this case, it would have required more support from Democrats.

Twenty Democrats voted for the bill, while seven Republicans opposed it. The bill would have needed 30 more yeas to pass.
Suspension votes are normally used for noncontroversial bills, but the GOP-backed measure was clearly controversial. Republicans have occasionally put controversial bills on the suspension calendar in order to highlight that Democrats oppose certain policies.

Boehner said he will try again later.  So much for the Republican lies about being all about the jobs.

Just when you think the state Republican groups can’t get more extreme you find out something like this item in Pennsylvania.

Republicans in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania have elected Steve Smith, a lifelong white supremacist with close ties to neo-Nazi groups and groups like Aryan Nations, to the county’s GOP Committee.

The elections, which took place in late April, were certified by the committee two weeks ago, and Smith notified supporters of his victory last week by posting a message to the online forum White News Now.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented Smith’s participation with known skinhead organizations like Keystone State Skinheads, (now Keystone United) which he co-founded in 2001. And his racist activism extends far beyond violent rhetoric as well, into actual violence:

In March 2003, he and two other KSS members were arrested in Scranton for beating up Antoni Williams, a black man, using stones and chunks of pavement. Smith pleaded guilty to terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation and received a 60-day sentence and probation.

Smith is also an active member of local Tea Party groups, a network that he used to gain support for his bid for the committee seat. According to the SPLC, Smith referred to the Tea Party as “fertile grounds for our activists.”

Our economy continues to have some of the highest poverty rates in the developed world.  Seven million kids and mothers are in poverty. Georgetown Law Professor and advisor to the Kennedys and Bill Clinton explains why this is so devastating to our country’s future as well.

Peter Edelman: Extreme poverty means having an income of less than half the poverty line. That’s less than $9,000 a year for a family of three. The stunning fact is that in 2010, there were 20.5 million people who had incomes that low. And perhaps even more disturbing — 6 million people have no income other than food stamps (SNAP). That means an income at one third of the poverty line or less than $6,000 a year for a family of three. You can’t live on that.

So, these are people who are really in extreme trouble. In fact, many of them will get out of extreme poverty fairly quickly, and that makes it even more inexcusable not to have a basic safety net for them when their income dips so low. How do they survive? We don’t really know. They obviously have to have the support in one way or another of family and friends– if they have such networks. They sleep on couches, they move around a lot. If they can find casual work to get a little extra money, they do. But they are in a very tough place. The percentage of people in extreme poverty has doubled since 1976, so it is getting worse.

Public benefits, which are not counted in official poverty figures insofar as they’re not paid in cash, make the situation a little better, but not much. The fact that there could be 6 million people who only have food stamps is because of another fact: that welfare –Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) —  is basically unavailable in many states in the country. In Wyoming, for example, 4% of poor children in the entire state — that’s 644 people including the mothers — receive cash assistance. In 19 states, fewer than 20% of poor children are receiving cash assistance. So that’s how you can have 6 million people living only on food stamps. About 7 million of those in extreme poverty are mothers and children. We can only imagine the damage that this does to the children. It really is a crisis, and very few people are aware of it.

So those are the stories that I’m following this week.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Just Exactly What Qualifies Mitt Romney to be POTUS?

"The purple mountain majesties" of Great Basin National Park

Via Think Progress, yesterday Mitt Romney sat for an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal. Today, the conservative newspaper endorsed Romney for the Republican nomination in advance of the Nevada caucuses tomorrow.

During the interview, Romney was asked whether, if elected, he would consider permitting the state of Nevada to buy back public lands that are currently held by the Federal government. Here’s his response:

I don’t know the reason that the federal government owns such a large share of Nevada. And when I was in Utah at the Olympics there I heard a similar refrain there. What they were concerned about was that the government would step in and say, “We’re taking this” — which by the way has extraordinary coal reserves — “and we’re not going to let you develop these coal reserves.” I mean, it drove the people nuts. Unless there’s a valid, and legitimate, and compelling governmental purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.

So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.

Think Progress:

Public lands in Nevada – and other western states—actually provide an enormous economic boost and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs. Indeed, recent Interior Department statistics show that federally managed public lands in Nevada provided over $1 billion in economic impacts and supported 13,311 jobs in 2010 (and this statistic doesn’t even include the economic impacts of Forest Service lands, managed by the Department of Agriculture). Recreation, energy and minerals, and grazing and timber all play a part in the economic effects that public lands provide to Nevada. Activities like skiing at Lake Tahoe, boating at Lake Mead, and hiking at Great Basin National Park all take place on public lands.

Do you suppose Romney has even heard of Teddy Roosevelt? Or was the conservationist President insufficiently “conservative” for today’s Republican Party? Today “conservatives” don’t seem to care about conserving the beauty of nature for all Americans. It sounds like Romney is more interested in milking public lands for coal, gold, and oil than preserving their beauty so that in the future children can learn “to fall in love with America” as he was able to do? (h/t Think Progress).

A couple of days ago in, Romney sang “America the Beautiful” at a campaign appearance at a retirement community in Florida.

But what will Romney’s policies do to the beauty of our country? The folks at Think Progress made a video about it.

What else hasn’t Mitt Romney “studied” about our country? Well, he doesn’t seem to be aware that America’s social safety net is pretty weak and that his economic policies will completely shred what’s left of social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Romney doesn’t seem to be aware that the number of Americans living in “deep poverty” is the highest it’s been in 35 years.

More than 20 million Americans live in a household with income of less than half the federal poverty rate, the level social scientists often use as a category for the very poor, according to census data for 2010. Last year that meant an annual income below $11,057 for a family of four.

The portion of the population in that category was the highest in at least 35 years and has almost doubled since 1975, from 3.7 percent then to 6.7 percent in 2010.

Romney told CNN on Feb. 1 that “I’m not concerned about the very poor” because they have many programs to help them. He later clarified his remarks, telling reporters on his campaign plane that low-income people have an “ample safety net,” including Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

I wonder if Romney knows that one in five American children lives in deep poverty? Frankly, I doubt it. And just think of all those fetuses who don’t get proper nutrition and health care because their pregnant mothers are poverty-stricken. Mitt probably hasn’t “studied” that yet, because he really just doesn’t care.

Now Romney is claiming he “misspoke” when he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien–twice!–that he’s not concerned about the very poor, because they have an “ample safety net.” But O’Brien doesn’t buy it. And, as NPR points out Romney even made the same remark about the poor to the press corps on his campaign plane after the CNN interview.

So what has Romney “studied?” And if he hasn’t familiarized himself with two of the most important issues facing Americans today–the environment and poverty–why on earth does he want to be president anyway? Is it because he’s an expert on foreign policy? Well, no. Not really.

So why does this man want to be President of the United States? He’s repeatedly told us that he knows how to create jobs and manage an economy. But then, why didn’t he do that when he was governor of Massachusetts?

Numbers are important in evaluating Mitt Romney, but the focus should not be on the $250 million estimated fortune he amassed at Bain Capital, or the $374,00 in speaking fees he took in last year, or even on the roughly 15 federal percent tax rate he paid.
The most important number is 47 — Massachusetts’s rank in job creation when he was governor. This is the number that most calls into question Romney’s own current job application.

No job is comparable to the presidency, but the closest thing to it is governor of a large state — an executive position in public office, where the welfare of millions of people is the charge. Unlike a corporate executive, whose overriding goal is to make profits for investors, the president and governors have the same central goal — improving the well-being of the entire population. The first priority, usually, is the overall economy.
Indeed, Romney won office in 2002, after shouldering aside Acting Governor Jane Swift, with a pledge to use his business experience and connections to bring jobs to Massachusetts. He failed, dreadfully.

The 47 figure is one Romney cannot escape. During his four years in office, Massachusetts ranked 47th in overall job growth — only 0.9 percent compared with 5.3 percent nationally. Romney has countered that the unemployment went down appreciably — from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his term.

How could so few new jobs translate into a healthy-looking decline in unemployment? The answer is simple — and not so healthy: Working-age adults were packing up and moving out. Many were replaced, fortunately, by immigrants. But overall, Massachusetts was one of only two states to have no growth in its resident labor force during Romney’s term.

So what exactly qualifies Mitt Romney to be President of the U.S.? And why does he want the job? Perhaps it has something to do with the folks that are funding his campaign?

Goldman Sachs $496,430
JPMorgan Chase & Co $317,400
Morgan Stanley $277,850
Credit Suisse Group $276,250
Citigroup Inc $267,050
Bank of America $211,650
Barclays $203,650
Kirkland & Ellis $201,701
HIG Capital $188,500
PriceWaterhouseCoopers $179,300
Blackstone Group $170,550
Bain Capital $144,000
EMC Corp $127,800
Wells Fargo $126,200
UBS AG $123,900
Elliott Management $121,000
Citadel Investment Group $118,625
Bain & Co $116,050
The Villages $98,300
Sullivan & Cromwell $97,150

Or maybe the moguls who are funding his super pac “Restore Our Future,” 10 of whom gave $1 million or more?

What will become of “America the Beautiful” if Romney and his multimillion-dollar backers achieve their goals?


Blame or Shame? When It Comes to America’s Kids, Where Do We Stand?

Don’t know about you but to me the blame game has hit the hyper-drive button.  Whether it be Fundamentalists claiming that the country’s economic difficulties are God’s payback for licentious living or Herman Cain pointing to the unemployed as being responsible for their own unemployed status, the mounting accusations are deafening and ultimately unproductive.  The Right blames the Left; the Left blames the Right.  Libertarians blame anything that smacks of cooperative, interdependent governance, yearning for circa 1900, a Paradise Lost.  And the Anarchists?  They blame the world.

The one segment of the population that has virtually no voice over the current US economic tailspin are the children.  But like any vulnerable, powerless group, they are caught in the crosshairs.  

A recent headline not only caught my attention but stunned me by its implications.  One in four American children are now categorized as “food insecure.”  I initially misread this label as ‘hungry, absolutely food deprived.’ 

Not necessarily true. 

According to a report sponsored by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) food insecurity is defined as follows:

Limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (Anderson, 1990).

The IOM points out that this ‘insecurity’ can be cyclical in nature.  Mom and/or Dad have work one month with adequate hours and money to buy food for the family and the next month their hours are cut. Less hours, less money, less food. Or, as is the case for many middle-class families, the jobs they once depended on simply vanish and nutrition suffers.  Or a family is living on a meager monthly wage that runs out before the month is over; so food is available at the beginning of the month and in short supply as the month goes on. Walmart has confirmed this cyclical nature, reporting that their customers, many of whom are low-wage or government-assisted households, are running out of funds before the end of each month.  The company has spotted the pattern in their sales records—thin at the end of the month, a big spike at the start. The rising cost of food has only complicated matters.

But wait!  Haven’t we been awash in data warning about the growing problem with childhood obesity?  Michelle Obama has used her office as First Lady to address not only the problem but accompanying health concerns–diabetes, for instance, a silent killer and a condition that’s expensive to treat. How can we have food insecurity and obesity at the same time?  A paradox, for sure.

Again, not necessarily.

A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Drewnowski A, Specter SE. Poverty and obesity) indicates that meager incomes will affect a family’s behavior when it comes to food.  When faced with bills to pay—rent, utilities, expenses to get to and from work, etc.—a family head will limit funds to those needs where the cost is not fixed.  This behavior directly impacts the purchase and selection of food.  When purchases are made, low-income families will steer towards calorie-dense foods, selections high in sugar and fat but low in cost.

You gotta do what you gotta do, as my Mama once said.

Though there is contradictory data for the effects of calorie-dense food on children, particularly young children, we do have data indicating the link between food selection and obesity in low-income women.  This from the IMO:

Researchers and the public increasingly are recognizing that obesity and food insecurity co-exist in the same families, communities, and even the same individuals. For example, recent research suggests that household food insecurity may be related to increased weight in women.

The paradox is explained, at least in part: food insecurity is linked to poverty and particular food selection, which can play havoc on weight. This makes sense to any of us who have had weight problems [Peggy Sue raises her hand because of a childhood weight problem].  Genetics, metabolism, emotional factors, physical activity are certainly factors, too. But food selection plays an important role.  Nutritional experts are now seriously questioning the sort of foods we’re feeding our kids in school programs and other government-assisted nutritional outreaches.

Finally, symbolizing the growing number of American kids in poverty and those tumbling into the ‘food insecurity’ category, Sesame Street has added a new, cameo-appearing Muppet—Lily, the hungry kid.  This move has already come under attack by PBS critics, who claim that this is simply another ploy to reinforce the Nanny State, a pulling of heart strings by left-of-center activists.

But here’s what we know: 25% of American children are now categorized as ‘food insecure.’  That represents 17 million children, a number which spikes during the summer when school is in recess. Food insecurity can result in cyclical, end-of-the-month nutritional deficits and/or possible obesity because of calorie-dense food selection.  Our children, all our children, represent the future.

Who do we blame?  It’s easy, even tempting to point fingers or take self-righteous, politically-charged stands. 

But if we continue the blame game, point fingers without pushing to alleviate our rising poverty rates and the subsequent food insecurity of our children?  Then shame on us.

Additional information can be found at Feeding America:

http://feedingamerica.org/

The stats on rising poverty and food insecurity in the US are nothing short of . . . staggering.

And check out Map the Meal Gap, where you can see how your state, your region measures up in food security/insecurity statistics:

http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx

A final note: I am very happy to be joining the fine staff of Sky Dancing. Everyone has been kind, encouraging and helpful as I put my toe in the water.  This is a new venture for me, a different sort of writing than I normally do. But I’m looking forward to join the discussion and analyses from a different vantage point. And learn as I go.


The Call of the Loons

Well, I did manage to watch a little of the “tea party” debate last night. I’m one of those independents that every one should be after this season. I was more appalled at this one than the last which I didn’t think possible.  It’s amazing to me how far off a right wing cliff the party has gone.  If the rest of them were trying to make Romney look sane, they sure did a good job of it.  I’d like to cover a few of the more outrageous points made by the worst of them by point you to see stylized facts this morning.   This is from a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Oh, and for any of you Republicans reading this out there, the U.S. Census Bureau is not and has not have been a member of the Communist Party. It’s a release of information on US citizens.  The most incredible part of the data is the poverty statistics. This decade is driving families into poverty.   It’s a statistically significant trend.

  • The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest since 1993 but was 7.3 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points.
  • In 2010, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.7 percent and 9.2 million, respectively, up from 11.1 percent and 8.8 million in 2009.

You can read more about it in BostonBoomer’s post below. You should, because poverty is at  it’s the highest rate in 18 years.   This is the part that I want to blog about.  People are also losing private insurance and moving to government plans. One of the few bright notes is that the high flawed 2010 HRCA let parents keep their young adult children on their insurance until age 26 so coverage for the 18-24 year old group went up.  Every one else was not so fortunate.  They’ve been left to the wolves.

The White House sought to find a silver lining in the census figures by noting, as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blogged at healthcare.gov, that the percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds covered by health insurance increased by 2.1 percentage points from 2009 to 2010.

So, you already now what I’m going to do as my segue way back to the current crop of Republicans. I’ll give Mittens Romney a pass at the moment. Most of the people on that stage actively promote policies that create statistics like these. Texas is the worst state in the union on nearly every development statistic. It is one huge underdeveloped nation. We also get to know the heart and soul of the current crop of Republicans who have whooped and cheered at executions by Perry–many of the questionable and undoubtedly wrong–and now we get “let them die” on the plight of the uninsured. This answer from Doctor Ron Paul–who should have taken the Hippocratic Oath at one point in his life–was leave them to the churches. Let the charities sort them out!!!

A bit of a startling moment happened near the end of Monday night’s CNN debate when a hypothetical question was posed to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn’t have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage? “Are you saying society should just let him die?” Wolf Blitzer asked.

“Yeah!” several members of the crowd yelled out.

Paul interjected to offer an explanation for how this was, more-or-less, the root choice of a free society. He added that communities and non-government institutions can fill the void that the public sector is currently playing.

“We never turned anybody away from the hospital,” he said of his volunteer work for churches and his career as a doctor. “We have given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves, assume responsibility for ourselves … that’s the reason the cost is so high.

The question by Blitzer should’ve just used one of the statistics above. What about the number of people that basically cannot afford private insurance under any circumstance  and the many of them that don’t qualify for state medicaid plans?  Well, just in case you want a little more back ground on how committed Ron Paul is to the Let them Die wing of the Right to Life party, let me point to a 2008 event.

What a testament to the Libertarian creed, which abhors the idea of universal health care. This loyal, passionate man, who died too young, left his family a debt of $400,000 in medical bills.

Who knows whether he put off getting treatment for the pneumonia that killed him because he was uninsured.

Kent Snyder did some amazing work on the Ron Paul Campaign and is remembered as a “libertarian giant”- by Lew Rockwell, on the libertarian site, Lew Rockwell.com.

The Wall Street journal reports that Kent, more than anyone else, persuaded Ron Paul to run for president. And Kent, according the the WSJ, developed what “ultimately became a $35 million operation with 250 employees that helped deliver more than one million votes for the Texas congressman’s bid in the Republican nominating contest.”-

Ron Paul posted this message about Snyder on his website: “”Like so many in our movement, Kent sacrificed much for the cause of liberty, Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for freedom. He will always hold a place in my heart and in the hearts of my family.”

Sadly, the Libertarian heart apparently does not include health care. The poor guy raised tens of millions of dollars and couldn’t afford the $300-$600 a month that COBRA medical insurance would have cost.

Along with this we get Michelle Bachmann’ screed about endangering little girls with forced government vaccines that cause “mental retardation”. Rick Santorum–not to be left out–reminded every one that the HPV virus wasn’t transmitted like the measles and the mumps would be in a Texas classroom and maybe they did things differently down there.  Now, in this case I have to give a mild pass to Perry, because he did err on the side of life on this one. Have you ever seen the rape and incest statistics for minors? Would you think it was worth risking a girl’s life because of the way the disease is transmitted?  I’d like to turn this part of my post over to Doctor Daughter who has to operate on cervices showing signs of abnormality.  These are the ones that don’t get sent directly to the oncologists.  Yes, there are 20 year olds that have to undergo radical hysterectomies, Rick and Michelle!! Nice of you both to toss them aside to advance your whacky political ideals.

We are the biggest developed nation in the world that refuses to deal with our broken down health system.  The existence of third party payers in a market means the market is broken, the pricing mechanism does not work, the market will effectively provide the necessary supply, and there will be a huge dead weight loss which is the economics term for the result of a dysfunctional market.  It’s the value of loss based on what the market misallocates because of the presence of third party payers.  This is one of those instances where a government has to step in to make it a working market. If you’ve got third party payers, the market will never be a normal market and it doesn’t matter who the third party payer is.  That’s why you have to go for efficiency and a market choice that mimics what the market would look like without them.  Insurance is not like buying hamburgers, accounting services, or number 5 red grain wheat.  It exists because of moral hazard, information asymmetry, and all the bad things that happen when a market isn’t suited for pure privatization. Every other developed nation has taken the burden of providing private insurance off of private business.  Every other developed nation puts every one in the public basic plan so they don’t die in the streets or leave their families impoverished and reliant on government safety net programs the rest of their days trying to pay off the bills.   We need a simple, generic, public plan that’s provided to every one that replaces medicare, medicaid, and basic private insurance.  It should be standardized so the paper work is simple.  Prices should be negotiate on all health-related  products and services.  The plan can be administered by private insurance companies who can also provide supplemental plans or gap plans.  At the very minimum, this plan should provide major medical insurance.  It would be most efficient and cheapest with every one opted in, everything standardized, and every price negotiated.  PERIOD.  This is the situation chosen by every other developed nation in one format or another.  It’s called universal coverage and it would save the country a heckuva lot of money and angst.

To date, we have haphazard policy that has basically played into making the market more dysfunctional because it enriches the already parasitic third party payers as well as lets the producers of the end goods or services avoid price negotiations.  ObamaCare and RomneyCare are the 1993 Republican Health Plan first put out by Lincoln Chaffee that was the Republican alternative to Bill Clinton’s plan.  It later became known as DoleCare and was probably the first sign of Republicans deciding not to negotiate in good faith in order to tank a US President. The source of this plan was the American Heritage Institute.  This is basically the plan that Michelle Bachmann says she’ll never stop trying to recall.

The debate last night has really shown the degree of extremism that has infiltrated the Republican Party.  It also shows that ideology will triumph over everything.  I said it in a thread, but I’ll say it again, watching people cheer on the idea of executing living, breathing human beings and shouting let them die when discussing human beings with devastating, life threatening, costly illness was like being present in Rome when prisoners were sentenced ad bestias Through out history, public executions  have always brought out the worst in society.  This debate went way beyond let them eat cake.  It was blood lust set loose on a mad mob. The heirs of Nero were in full regalia last night.