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 April 01, 2015 17:40 GMT

ADP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. businesses slowed their pace of hiring in March, a private survey found. The modest gains suggest that harsh winter weather has generated a broader slowdown that caused the survey to report gains of less than 200,000 jobs for the first time in 13 months.

Payroll processor ADP says companies added 189,000 jobs last month.

The figures come just before Friday's government report, which economists forecast will show an increase of 250,000 jobs.

The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and sometimes diverge from the government's more comprehensive report, which includes government agencies.

A burst of hiring in the past year has lifted the number of Americans earning paychecks, yet average hourly wages have risen at a sluggish 2 percent pace.

AUTO SALES

DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. auto sales slowed down a bit in March, but the industry remains optimistic about the market.

General Motors' sales fell 2 percent and Ford and Nissan both saw 3 percent declines compared with last March. FCA -- the parent of Chrysler and Fiat -- says its U.S. sales rose 2 percent, though sales of its top seller, the Ram pickup, were down 2 percent.

The March gains pale in comparison with January's 14 percent increase in and even the 5 percent gain in February.

But analysts point to several contributing factors. Last March saw a surge in sales after an unusually cold February; while this year snow lingered into March and the month had one less weekend than last year.

Analysts say sales remain on track to reach 17 million this year, their best performance since 2005. Low interest rates, low gas prices, the improving economy and hot new SUVs like the Subaru Outback and the Jeep Cherokee are all drawing buyers to dealerships.

CONSTRUCTION SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Commerce Department says construction spending slipped 0.1 percent in February, following a revised 1.7 percent drop in January.

A drop in single-family home building dragged the overall figure down, as spending on apartments and nonresidential construction rose. Economists say the bitter winter weather likely constrained construction, and activity should pick up in the spring and summer.

Last month, the government said that the pace of housing starts plummeted 17 percent in February from January's rate. Home construction slid 56.5 percent in the Northeast and 37 percent in the Midwest, the two regions that endured the brunt of the winter storms.

In today's report, private spending on construction of single-family homes declined 1.4 percent, while spending on apartments was up 4.1 percent. Nonresidential construction spending rose 0.5 percent, led by a 5.5 percent jump in hotel construction and a 6.8 percent surge in factory construction.

ECONOMY-MANUFACTURING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. factories expanded last month at a weaker pace, with orders growing more slowly and hiring essentially flat.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, says its manufacturing index slipped to 51.5 in March from 52.9 in February.

It was the fifth straight drop. Still, any reading above 50 signals expansion.

U.S. manufacturers have faced a drag in recent months from falling oil prices and a rising dollar.

Some drilling rigs have stopped as oil prices have fallen more than 50 percent since June to below $50 a barrel, curbing demand for pipelines and machinery from factories. Simultaneously, the dollar has risen in value against the euro and other currencies, making American-made goods more expensive abroad and cutting into exports.

EUROPE-MANUFACTURING

LONDON (AP) -- A closely watched survey is showing that manufacturers across the 19-country eurozone are getting more optimistic about the future and are boosting hiring.

Financial information company Markit says its purchasing managers' index -- a broad gauge of business activity -- for the eurozone's manufacturing sector rose to 52.2 in March from 51.0 the previous month.

The so-called PMI now stands at a 10-month high, the latest in a string of indicators to point to a step-change in the eurozone's economic recovery.

Markit says Wednesday that growth accelerated across the eurozone, including Spain and Italy, two countries at the forefront of the region's debt crisis over the past few years.

Greece was a laggard as its manufacturers struggle to compete amid the uncertainty surrounding the country's bailout.

RELIGIOUS OBJECTIONS

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- It was just a day ago that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office said he would sign a bill passed by the Legislature to keep state and local governments from infringing upon someone's religious beliefs without a compelling interest.

But now, Hutchinson says he wants the Legislature to recall the bill -- or pass a follow-up measure.

He told reporters that Arkansas is "not going to be a state that fails to recognize the diversity of our workplace, our economy and our future."

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a similar measure into law last week. Pence now says he wants follow-up legislation to address concerns that the law lets businesses discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Hutchinson didn't specifically call for changes that would prohibit the Arkansas law from being used to deny services to someone, but he said he doesn't think that's what it was intended to do.

Hutchinson is facing pressure from the state's top employers, including retailer Wal-Mart, which said the measure is discriminatory and would stifle economic development. Indiana has faced protests and boycotts over its version of the law.

Hutchinson said the issue has become so divisive -- even his son Seth was among those signing a petition asking him to veto the bill.

MCDONALD'S-CHICKEN

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's says it's simplifying its grilled chicken recipe to remove ingredients people might not recognize, the latest sign the company is rethinking its menu to keep up with changing tastes.

The company says it expects the new "Artisan Grilled Chicken" to be in its more than 14,300 U.S. stores by the end of next week, in products including sandwiches, wraps and salads.

McDonald's is fighting to hold onto customers amid the growing popularity of places like Chipotle that position themselves as more wholesome alternatives.

As ingredients become a marketing advantage, McDonald's has been trying to shake perceptions that it serves junk food packed with artificial ingredients.

McDonald's representative Terri Hickey said the new chicken will have 12 ingredients, down from 18. It will no longer use sodium phosphates or maltodextrin.

WAL-MART-INVESTORS

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart is asking suppliers to cut back on advertising spending in its stores as it seeks better prices on goods that it sells to its own customers.

The request comes as the world's largest retailer looks to reclaim its position as the low-price leader and perk up sluggish sales in the U.S.

Historically, makers of consumer products like laundry detergent devote a portion of their budget to market their products at Wal-Mart whether it's online advertising on social media or store displays. Wal-Mart executives told suppliers in February they would rather have them reinvest some of that money.

Wal-Mart's actions were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Deisha Barnett, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, confirmed the strategy and described it as more of a "reinvigorated focus."

GODADDY-IPO

NEW YORK (AP) -- GoDaddy shares are jumping in their market debut after the Web hosting company known for racy TV commercials priced its initial public offering of stock above expectations.

The stock rose $6.15, or 31 percent, to $26.06, well above the IPO price of $20 per share. That marked an increase from the prior high estimate of $19 per share.

Overall, the Scottsdale, Arizona, company is offering 23 million shares and hopes to raise up to $460 million in the offering.

Underwriters have a 30-day option to buy up to an additional 3 million shares.

The lead underwriters are Morgan Stanley & Co., J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and Citigroup Global Markets Inc.

FRANCE-PLANE CRASH: LUFTHANSA

SEYNE-LES-ALPES, France (AP) -- The chief executive of Lufthansa says it will take a "long, long time" to understand what led to last week's deadly crash in the French Alps.

But Carsten Spohr is refusing to say what the airline knew about the mental health of the co-pilot who's suspected of deliberately destroying the plane.

Spohr and the head of Lufthansa's low-cost airline Germanwings visited the crash area today. They laid flowers and then stood silently facing a stone monument to the 150 people who died. The monument looks toward the mountains where the plane crashed. It bears a memorial message in German, Spanish, French and English.

Spohr says the airline is "learning more every day" about what might have led to the crash.

The airline acknowledged yesterday that it knew six years ago that Andreas Lubitz had suffered from an episode of "severe depression" before he finished his flight training. But it said he had passed all of his medical checks since then.

The airline didn't mention the depression episode when questions were raised last week about Lubitz's medical history.

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