Thursday, January 30, 2014

Farm Welfare

We do not have welfare for the poor and unemployed, but we have it for large, rich farmers.

"The new farm bill, which had been mired in partisan gridlock, makes fundamental changes to both nutrition and farm programs. It cuts the food stamp program by $8 billion, and about 850,000 households will lose about $90 in monthly benefits under the change. (Let them eat cake.)
Anti-hunger groups called the food stamp cuts draconian. Feeding America, a coalition of food banks across the county, said the change would result in 34 lost meals per month for the affected households.
The bill does provide a $200 million increase in financing to food banks, though many said the money might not be enough to offset the expected surge in demand for food.
Farm programs were not spared from the cuts in the new bill. The most significant change to farm programs is the elimination of a subsidy known as direct payments. These payments, about $5 billion a year, are paid to farmers whether or not they grow crops, and the issue had become politically toxic over the last several years as farm income has risen to record levels.
The new bill cuts this subsidy and adds some of the money to the government-subsidized crop insurance. The government pays 62 percent of premiums for the $9 billion-a-year insurance program."   NYT 30 jan 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

World Wealth Distribution is Skewed

One percent of the world's population owns 45 percent of the wealth.  Absurd!
At least the President of France has proposed a substantial tax on the super wealthy.
How long will we put up with this before people revolt.  Maybe they already are, and we call them terrorists.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Air Force as Show Business and Special-Interest Politics

At the end of WW II a task force was assembled to study the role of the Air Force in winning the war.  John Kenneth Galbraith was a member of the team.  It concluded that the Air Force was of limited impact and that it was the infantry that had to do the work.  “Attempts at daylight precision bombing in World War II proved ineffective.  The bombers suffered heavy losses, and the enemy had to be defeated the old-fashion way with massive armies slogging across Europe….” The same battle is going on again.  The Air Force wants new, big and super-fast fighters that cost $1.5 trillion each.  Yet, it was the cheaper, slower and more maneuverable A-10 that provided air support to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Probably, the speedier fighters account for many of the civilian casualties that the Afghans complain about.  Fast planes and drones lack the necessary field of vision to distinguish friend from foe.  The Air Force is determined to eliminate the A-10.  Harper's reports that “Legislators with A-10 bases in their districts who might ordinarily attempt to save those jobs, were offered special inducements by the Air Force.  Thus Michigan’s Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services committee, has been guaranteed a squadron of aerial tanker planes that will provide substitute employment.”
    The military-industrial complex is fleecing us again. I wish Levin had asked for high-speed rail lines rather that jets.
Source: Andrew Cockburn, “Tunnel  Vision,” Harper’s, February 2014.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chemical Spills in West Virginia

It is ironical that Freedom Enterprises stored a chemical that leaked into the Elk River.  Whose freedom did they have in mind?  Not the thousands who can't even take a bath or wash their clothes. 


Ireland's Rebound Is European Blarney
O’Toole questions the claimed wonder of fiscal austerity--
“After five years of austerity, it is shocking but hardly surprising that one in four Irish children are growing up in households in which no one at all is in paid employment.”
“The policy of No Bondholder Left Behind, on which the European Central Bank insisted, has been staggeringly expensive. To put it in perspective, the European Union has just agreed to create a fund of $75 billion to deal with all future banking crises in its member states. Tiny Ireland has spent $85 billion bailing out its own banks.”
Why is it that the banks have come out smelling like a rose when it was their lack of wisdom that created the problem in the first place?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Civil Wars

The new year is marked by numerous civil wars (not so civil actually) including Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Indonesia that the U.S. is powerless to contain.  So much for Bush's shock and awe.