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Cutting food stamps during a recession

I’m sure this is what Jesus would cut! Seriously, anyone who votes for this is just plain evil, and that’s how voters should treat them:

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if the states decided to react primarily by thinning the benefits for everybody, the maximum benefit would equal 88 percent of the the “Thrifty Food Plan”–the government’s estimate of what a typical family would need to pay for a “bare-bones, nutritionally adequate diet.” In 2012, a family of three would lose $116 a month, while a family of four would lose $147 a month.

If, instead, the government implemented the cut entirely by reducing eligibility for the program, SNAP would serve 8 million fewer people over the next ten years. That’s an awful lot of people. In fact, the Center reports, it’s roughly equal to cutting off SNAP assistance for the 30 smallest states in the country over that time span. (In case you’re wondering, those 30 states would be Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.)

And what’s the rationale for this cut? Republicans and their supporters say the program’s spending has gotten “out of control” and warn that it’s fostering a culture of dependency, just like the old welfare system did. But the evidence for this is pretty thin. SNAP expenditures have unquestionably grown in recent years, but there are good reasons for that, starting with the fact that the economy is lousy. (Jason DeParle and Robert M. Gebeloff of the New York Times had an extensive look at this about a year ago.) As the Center on Budget notes, current projections suggest the program will return to pre-recession levels and grow no faster than the economy as a whole, which means it’s not really a net contributor to the deficits.

Fraud and waste aren’t issues, either. Last year the General Accounting Office found that program errors, which include underpayment of benefits as well as overpayments, were less than 4 percent. And “trafficking”–that is, the illegal trade of food stamps for other goods or money–had fallen to less than one cent on the dollar. Both were record lows. The GAO report suggested there was still room for improvement and, certainly, there is. But even if the government figured out a way to wipe out all of the errors and fraud, it’d be a fraction of the cut Republicans are contemplating.

The people’s budget

From my buddy Dave Johnson over at Campaign for America’s Future:

You can’t open a newspaper or turn on a radio or TV without being told that the world is going to end because of the deficit. The deficit was caused by tax cuts for the rich, huge military spending increases, two wars and the costs of our health care system. So of course all the solutions we hear about involve gutting the things We, the People (government) do for each other and our economy, not touching the military budget and even more tax cuts for the rich.

Bet you didn’t know about The People’s Budget. I wrote about it the other day, but you sure won’t hear about it in your local newspaper, or on the radio (except a few stations) or on TV, except maybe on one or two of the MSNBC shows.

Why is there so little attention being paid to this plan, in the middle of all this huffing and puffing about the deficit? This plan fixes the deficit by addressing the causes of the deficit.

The People’s Budget is a budget plan from the Progressive Caucus of our Congress. Click here for a summary.

From their website:

The CPC proposal:

• Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus by 2021
• Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
• Protects the social safety net
• Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
• Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)

What the proposal accomplishes:

• Primary budget balance by 2014.
• Budget surplus by 2021.
• Reduces public debt as a share of GDP to 64.1% by 2021, down 16.5 percentage points…
• Reduces deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21…
• Outlays equal to 22.2% of GDP and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.

You can read the details in this PDF document.

The Economic Policy Institute has prepared an analysis that you can read here.

No kidding

And here, I thought print publishers were geniuses.

Why they’re at Gitmo

Amy Davidson at the New Yorker:

Here are some of the reasons we’ve held people at Guantánamo, according to files obtained by WikiLeaks and, then, by several news organizations: A sharecropper because he was familiar with mountain passes; an Afghan “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khost and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver”; an Uzbek because he could talk about his country’s intelligence service, and a Bahraini about his country’s royal family (both of those nations are American allies); an eighty-nine year old man, who was suffering from dementia, to explain documents that he said were his son’s; an imam, to speculate on what worshippers at his mosque were up to; a cameraman for Al Jazeera, to detail its operations; a British man, who had been a captive of the Taliban, because “he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”; Taliban conscripts, so they could explain Taliban conscription techniques; a fourteen-year-old named Naqib Ullah, described in his file as a “kidnap victim,” who might know about the Taliban men who kidnapped him. (Ullah spent a year in the prison.) Our reasons, in short, do not always really involve a belief that a prisoner is dangerous to us or has committed some crime; sometimes (and this is more debased) we mostly think we might find him useful.

Poor Grover

I’ll bet he has a sad!

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), arguably the most prominent fiscal conservative in the Senate, is declaring his independence from one of the country’s leading anti-tax groups, Americans for Tax Reform – and its fiery founder, Grover Norquist.

Coburn, a member of the “Gang of Six” bipartisan group working on a deficit reduction plan, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’d favor a “net” increase in tax revenue if it didn’t include hiking rates. He’d do so even if didn’t include a dollar-for-dollar match in spending cuts he agreed to when he signed a 2004 pledge to Norquist’s group.

“Which pledge is most important… the pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all American conservatives when, in fact, they really don’t?” Coburn asked. “The fact is we have enormous urgent problems in front of us that have to be addressed and have to be addressed in a way that will get 60 votes in the Senate… and something that the president will sign.”

“Where’s the compromise that will save our country?” he asked. “This isn’t about politics that is normal.”

The Y article

Hmm. As I was just saying recently, imagine if we as a country defined national security as the health, well-being, education and gainful employment of our citizens, and not as the ability to deliver bombs on targets.

I’m not surprised that someone else agrees — only that it’s two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying so:

On Friday, April 8, as members of the U.S. Congress engaged in a last-minute game of chicken over the federal budget, the Pentagon quietly issued a report that received little initial attention: “A National Strategic Narrative.” The report was issued under the pseudonym of “Mr. Y,” a takeoff on George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow (published under the name “X” the following year in Foreign Affairs) that helped set containment as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.

The piece was written by two senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a “personal” capacity, but it is clear that it would not have seen the light of day without a measure of official approval. Its findings are revelatory, and they deserve to be read and appreciated not only by every lawmaker in Congress, but by every American citizen.

The narrative argues that the United States is fundamentally getting it wrong when it comes to setting its priorities, particularly with regard to the budget and how Americans as a nation use their resources more broadly. The report says Americans are overreacting to Islamic extremism, underinvesting in their youth, and failing to embrace the sense of competition and opportunity that made America a world power. The United States has been increasingly consumed by seeing the world through the lens of threat, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness, and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world.

Courageously, the authors make the case that America continues to rely far too heavily on its military as the primary tool for how it engages the world. Instead of simply pumping more and more dollars into defense, the narrative argues:

By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans — the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow — we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.

Teaching her a lesson

This story literally makes me sick. I’m guessing this is a “better” school district, as in “whiter”? Which would explain why it’s the first criminal prosecution, ever.

He’s got you on his mind

The rain stopped, it turned out to be a beautiful day, we went out to Easter dinner and then back home to watch a movie. And then, the season premiere of my very, very favorite show, “Treme.” In case you never saw it, it’s set in New Orleans after Katrina and the city’s music is deeply woven into the show. Tonight’s episode featured the Subdudes, which reminded me how much I like them:

Leave me alone

Ian Axel:

Nothing but a miracle

Diane Birch and Daryl Hall:

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