Food stamps and priorities

Updated: Thursday, November 28, 2013
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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.

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Last Update on July 07, 2015 17:09 GMT

JOB OPENINGS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. employers advertised slightly more job openings in May, a sign of an increasingly energized economy where companies are expecting continued growth.

The Labor Department says the number of open jobs rose 0.5 percent to 5.36 million in May. Still, the number of new hires in May and the number of workers who left their job -- a sign of strength since quits are generally associated with people finding better jobs -- slipped slightly.

Job gains have been solid since February 2014, yet many Americans are still confronting financial uncertainties because of limited wage growth. On Friday, the government said employers added a robust 223,000 jobs in June. But average hourly wages were flat.

TRADE GAP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in May, reflecting declines in sales of American-made aircraft and machinery as exports continued to suffer from the rising value of the dollar.

The Commerce Department says the deficit increased 2.9 percent to $41.9 billion in May, up from an April imbalance of $40.7 billion.

Imports fell 0.1 percent to $230.5 billion. Exports slid at a faster pace of 0.8 percent to $188.6 billion. American producers have been hurt this year by a rising value of the dollar, which makes U.S. goods less competitive in overseas markets.

Even with the slight rise in the deficit in May, the deficit over the past two months is averaging less than the first quarter. That should help boost growth in the second quarter.

IMF-US FINANCE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The International Monetary Fund says U.S. insurers and mutual funds are vulnerable to financial shocks and urges Congress not to weaken regulations passed in 2010.

The IMF says that American banks are stronger but that risk has risen elsewhere. Its previous assessment of the U.S. financial system was conducted five years ago.

Mutual funds could "act as amplifiers" of a panic if jittery investors cash out, forcing funds to dump risky investments into a collapsing market.

The IMF warns that at time when ultra-low interest rates are pressuring insurance firms to take bigger risks, regulation of the business is "fragmented" between states. It calls for a federal regulator.

The IMF urges U.S. regulators to finish enacting regulations Congress passed in 2010, though some lawmakers want to "water down" the law.

GREECE-BAILOUT

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (RUH'-tuh) is telling Greece: We can only help you if you want to be helped.

Rutte, who's attending an emergency eurozone summit in Brussels today, says he's extremely somber about "the question of whether Greece really wants to come up with proposals, with a solution."

The eurozone's top official says Greece would make a proposal to tap Europe's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, as soon as tomorrow.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem (YER'-oon DY'-sel-bloom) says Greece needs more than a short-term financial fix.

SURVEYMONKEY-GOLDBERG

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) -- SurveyMonkey has named a Hewlett-Packard Co. executive to take over for CEO David Goldberg, who died in May while vacationing in Mexico.

Goldberg was married to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Bill Veghte, who was chief operating officer at HP, will become SurveyMonkey's CEO on Aug. 1. He most recently led HP's enterprise group and has held executive posts at Microsoft Corp.

On Monday, SurveyMonkey named Sandberg to its board of directors. Her husband had been CEO at the Palo Alto, California, company since 2009.

SurveyMonkey operates an online survey platform.

CUBA-CARNIVAL CRUISES

UNDATED (AP) -- Starting in May, Carnival Corp. plans to offer trips from Miami to the Caribbean island nation.

Carnival says it would become the first American cruise company to visit Cuba since the 1960 trade embargo. The trips will be through its new brand, fathom, which focuses on trips where passengers sail to a destination in order to volunteer there.

The weeklong cruises will be aboard the Adonia, which carries 710 passengers. The ship is relatively small for the industry; ships sailing under the company's namesake line carry nearly 3,000 passengers.

Carnival is expecting high demand for the voyages, prices start at $2,990 per person plus taxes and port fees.

ISRAEL-RYANAIR

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Europe's low-cost airline Ryanair says it will start its first cheap flights in and out of Israel in November.

The Irish budget airline says it will offer twice-weekly flights between Israel's Ovda airport near Eilat and Budapest, Kaunas, and Krakow. The company plans to serve 40,000 customers each year.

Ryanair says its first Israeli flights will go on sale Thursday. The November and December flights will be available for two days at a special price starting at $32, or 29.99 euros.

Israel will be the 31st country Ryanair serves. The company, which is trying to expand to other Middle East destinations, said it is continuing to negotiate with Israeli authorities to add more routes.

FARMERS INSURANCE-SETTLEMENT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Farmers Insurance Group will pay $84.4 million to settle a 2002 lawsuit that said Texas policyholders unknowingly paid higher premiums for less coverage.

The settlement involves state claims of violations of the Texas Deceptive Practices Act and the Texas Insurance Code.

Attorney General Ken Paxton says he's pleased that Texas consumers will finally have closure. The Texas Department of Insurance was also part of the lawsuit alleging Farmers Insurance Group engaged in discriminatory practices.

A settlement administrator has been assigned to handle restitution. Notices will be mailed within 60 days to people who may be eligible for a refund.

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