Food stamps and priorities

Updated: Thursday, November 28, 2013
Food stamps and priorities  story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Food banks across the country are struggling to help millions of Americans put holiday meals on their tables for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

On Thanksgiving eve, Tom Van Howe has a few thoughts about priorities and the growing gap between the rich and just about everybody else.

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It’s probably not the best time to have slashed food stamps by five billion dollars.

Most of us, at one time or another, see – or think we see – people taking advantage of the system, but for the most part people use those stamps to put food on their tables, simple as that.

The U.S. Agriculture Department says 15 percent of Americans, roughly 50 million people are considered “food insecure.”

Food banks are astonished at the demand, they’ve fallen behind, they’re scrambling like never before to catch up, and we’ve reduced food stamps by five billion dollars.

Just for the sake of perspective, this is coming from a government that lost nearly seven billion dollars in the early years of the Iraq war. Not misspent, although there was a lot of that too, but lost. Gone. Lining someone’s pockets. The Pentagon said, given enough time, they’d find it, but they never did.

The cash had been flown into Iraq in 20 C-130s in shrink-wrapped bricks. There was no accounting for it, presumably a lot of people got very rich.

Did anyone’s head roll? No. Did anybody go to prison? No.

We brought $55 billion in cash to Afghanistan, $55 billion to win the hearts and minds of the people. Nobody is certain where it all went. We just don’t know.

Over the past decade, tens of millions of dollars of cash has been regularly delivered to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. It arrives in suitcases, backpacks, and shopping bags. We don’t know how much in all, certainly enough to keep him in fancy hats and robes and we don’t know how it’s been spent. Mind you, these were regular deliveries.

Ostensibly the money was meant to buy influence for the CIA, but some of it instead fueled corruption and empowered warlords, many of whom have ties to the drug trade or the Taliban.

Anybody called to the carpet? Not as far as anyone knows.

JP Morgan-Chase just agreed to pay a fine of $13 billion for the fraudulent way it bundled and sold bad mortgages and securities leading up to the great recession six years ago. The company lied repeatedly in an effort to cover its losses and JP Morgan wasn’t alone; all of Wall Street was lying, cheating, stealing and paying themselves bonuses.

Remember AIG and Lehman Brothers? Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, all of them, they were embroiled in an obscene scandal that left millions impoverished, that destroyed trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth.

Anybody pay for this? Anybody go to jail? Nope.

For the record, in the case of JP Morgan-Chase, the longtime chairman and CEO is still the chairman and CEO. JP Morgan’s stock is up 23 percent for the year and the $13 billion fine will most likely be paid by stockholders, but what gets everyone into a dither is food stamps.

None of this is to suggest that law enforcement in general doesn’t still have a grip on things. Last week a 24-year-old trouble making McDonald’s worker up in Iron Mountain was convicted of spitting into a snack wrap and serving it to a cop.

He got two-and-a-half years.

Business News

Last Update on August 21, 2014 07:34 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Asian stock markets were dampened by a weak China manufacturing survey Thursday. But Japan gained on the prospect of a stronger dollar after Fed minutes showed policymakers are leaning toward their first rate hike since the 2008 financial crisis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 percent to 15,575.82 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 5,645.70. South Korea's Kospi sank 1.2 percent to 2,047.77 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent to 24,948.59. China's Shanghai Composite was down 0.7 percent to 2,225.44.

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department today will report on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. In the previous week, more people applied for benefits, though the figure remained near pre-recession levels.

The Conference Board will issue its index of leading economic indicators for July. In June, the index, which is designed to predict the economy's future health, increased for a fifth straight month.

The National Association of Realtors will report on existing-home sales in July. In June, sales rose for a third straight month, lifting the figure to the highest level in eight months.

Freddie Mac reports on average U.S. mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan slipped to 4.12 percent from 4.14 percent the previous week.

Also today, two big retailers report their quarterly financial results. Sears reports before the market opens. Gap reports after the closing bell.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

HONG KONG (AP) -- A survey says Chinese factory activity expanded in August at a slower rate, suggesting the recovery in the world's No. 2 economy is losing momentum.

The HSBC preliminary purchasing managers' index fell to a three-month low of 50.3 from 51.7 in July.

The index is based on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate contraction.

China's economy had been showing signs of revival after a slowdown, with growth edging higher to 7.5 percent in the April-June quarter. But the report on the country's vast manufacturing industry shows the recovery is uneven.

Communist leaders in Beijing have already unveiled small-scale stimulus to bolster growth. HSBC economists said "more policy support is needed to consolidate the recovery."

The final version of the survey is due Sep. 1.

BANK OF AMERICA-SETTLEMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Officials directly familiar with intense private negotiations have told The Associated Press that Bank of America has reached a record settlement of nearly $17 billion with the government. The aim is to resolve a federal investigation into the bank's role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis.

One of the officials, who spoke with The Associated Press said the bank will pay $9.65 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion. The official spoke on grounds of anonymity because the settlement was not scheduled to be announced until Thursday at the earliest.

The deal is the largest settlement arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. It follows agreements in the last year with Citigroup for $7 billion and with JPMorgan Chase & Co. for $13 billion.

Like the Bank of America deal, those settlements were a mixture of hard cash and "credits" for various forms of consumer aid that the banks promised to provide in coming years.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY-SETTLEMENT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Warren Buffett's company has agreed to an $896,000 penalty for failing to give advance notice to l regulators about a December 2013 investment in wallboard maker USG Corp.

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. should have notified the Justice Department before it converted $325 million of senior USG notes it held into 21.4 million shares of the company.

Because Berkshire was already a significant USG shareholder, antitrust laws required it to notify regulators because of the size of the deal. At the end of June, Berkshire held just over 39 million USG shares.

Berkshire did correct its initial filing after the USG investment and clarify that it should have notified officials. But regulators said Berkshire made a similar mistake six months earlier.

COAL ASH

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina lawmakers have approved legislation they say makes the state the nation's first to address decades of toxic water pollution from residue left behind by coal-burning electricity plants.

The General Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation addressing the problem unmasked six months ago when a coal ash spill from a Duke Energy plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge. The measure goes to Gov. Pat McCrory before becoming law.

Environmentalists say the legislation improved on earlier efforts, but didn't go far enough.

Lawmakers say the measure would reverse a Superior Court judge's ruling that Duke must take "immediate action" to eliminate groundwater contamination that crosses onto a neighboring property.

Environmental attorney Frank Holleman says that will allow Duke to study the problem indefinitely before starting cleanup.

UPS-DATA BREACH

ATLANTA (AP) -- Some customers of The UPS Store may have had their credit and debit card information exposed by a computer virus found on systems at 51 stores in 24 states.

A spokeswoman for UPS says the information includes names, card numbers and postal and email addresses from about 100,000 transactions between Jan. 20 and Aug. 11.

United Parcel Service Inc. said Wednesday that it was among U.S. retailers who got a Department of Homeland Security bulletin about the malware on July 31. The malware is not identified by current anti-virus software.

Spokeswoman Chelsea Lee says the company isn't aware of any fraud related to the attack.

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