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 September 17, 2014 17:29 GMT

CONSUMER PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer prices edged down in August, the first monthly drop since the spring of 2013, as gasoline, airline tickets and clothing prices all fell. It was the latest evidence that inflation remains under control.

The Labor Department says consumer prices edged down 0.2 percent last month following a tiny 0.1 percent gain in July. It was the first decline since a similar 0.2 percent drop in April 2013. Core prices, which exclude energy and food, were unchanged in August, the first time there hasn't been an increase since October 2010.

Over the past 12 months, overall prices and core prices are both up a modest 1.7 percent. These gains are well within the 2 percent annual increase for inflation that the Federal Reserve considers optimal.

BUILDER SENTIMENT

US homebuilder confidence soars in September

U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the market for new, single-family homes surged this month to the highest level in nearly nine years.

The brighter outlook reflects growing optimism that sales will rise over the next six months, spurring growth in home construction.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose this month to 59, up four points from August. The index has risen four months in a row.

The latest reading is the highest since reaching 61 in November 2005, before the housing bubble burst.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor.

Builders' view of current sales conditions for single-family homes, their outlook for sales over the next six months and traffic by prospective buyers each increased in the latest survey.

CURRENT ACCOUNT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. current account trade deficit narrowed slightly in the April-June quarter, reflecting gains in exports of oil and civilian aircraft and a bigger surplus in Americans' overseas investment earnings.

The Commerce Department says the deficit in the current account shrank to $98.5 billion in the second quarter, down 3.5 percent from the revised $102.1 billion deficit in the January-March period.

It was the smallest current account deficit since an imbalance of $87.3 billion in the final three months of last year. The lower deficit reflected a variety of factors including gains in U.S. exports and a larger surplus in earnings by Americans in their overseas investments.

The current account is the broadest measure of trade, covering not only the flow of goods and services but also investment flows.

EARNS-FEDEX

FedEx 1Q profit, sales top expectations; company to add 50,000 seasonal jobs

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- FedEx plans to hire more than 50,000 extra workers to handle another record year for holiday-season package deliveries.

That's up from last year, when FedEx announced it would hire 20,000 seasonal workers.

FedEx announced its hiring plans Wednesday on a conference call with investors.

Rival UPS says it will hire up to 95,000 seasonal workers. Both companies are benefiting from growth in online shopping.

FedEx Corp. says its net income in the fiscal first quarter is up 24 percent from a year ago, thanks partly to a strong performance by its ground division.

Its results beat analysts' estimates.

FedEx shares have risen nearly 8 percent since the beginning of the year and 41 percent in the last 12 months.

HOLIDAY HIRING-KOHL'S

NEW YORK (AP) -- Kohl's Corp. says it will hire more than 67,000 seasonal workers nationwide for the holiday shopping season, about a third more than last year's 50,000.

The department store operator expects to hire an average of 50 associates per store, up 25 percent from a year ago. Kohl's, based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., operates 1,163 stores in 49 states. It also expects to hire 9,300 people for jobs at its distribution centers and 670 people for seasonal positions in its credit operations.

A retailer's hiring plans can indicate its expectations for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for 20 percent of the retail industry's annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

FAMILY DOLLAR-DOLLAR GENERAL

MATTHEWS, N.C. (AP) -- Family Dollar is telling shareholders to reject an unsolicited, $9.1 billion takeover bid by its rival, Dollar General.

Family Dollar is currently trying to arrange a sale to another bargain chain, Dollar Tree.

After repeated rejections by Family Dollar Stores, Dollar General Corp. last week appealed directly to shareholders of Family Dollar Stores Inc., offering them the same price for their shares.

Family Dollar accepted an $8.5 billion buyout offer from Dollar Tree Inc. in July.

Shares of Family Dollar, based in Matthews, North Carolina, are trading close to all-time highs, as are shares of Dollar General, based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

PENTAGON CYBERATTACKS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate investigators are blaming China for almost a dozen successful hacker break-ins of computer networks belonging to Pentagon contractors.

A yearlong investigation announced Wednesday by the Senate Armed Services Committee identified at least 50 intrusions since 2012 against unspecified contractors working for the U.S. Transportation Command, or Transcom. It said at least nine break-ins were highly sophisticated and blamed those on China's government.

Investigators said China's military was able to steal emails, documents, user accounts and computer codes. They said it compromised systems aboard a commercial ship contracted by Transcom for logistics routes, and hacked into an airline the U.S. military used.

The newly declassified Senate report says defense contractors have generally failed to report to the Pentagon hacker break-ins of their systems as required under their business agreements.

CHEMICAL SPILL-SETTLEMENT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal bankruptcy judge in West Virginia has approved a $2.9 million settlement to benefit 300,000 people whose water was contaminated in a January chemical spill.

Judge Ronald Pearson filed the order Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charleston. A U.S. District Court judge's approval is also needed.

The proposal relies on insurance proceeds from bankrupt Freedom Industries. The spill spurred a tap-water ban for days. Freedom filed for bankruptcy eight days later.

The settlement would let a yet-to-be-determined panel pick public interest projects to fund, potentially including long-term health monitoring or more water testing.

The company whose water supply was contaminated opposed the deal. West Virginia American Water said the settlement would keep thousands of creditors from recovering anything on bankruptcy claims.

The Charleston Gazette first reported the order.

MEIJER-RECALL PENALTY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Midwest retailer Meijer (MY'-er) Inc. will pay $2 million to settle charges that the firm knowingly sold and distributed hundreds of recalled products.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says Meijer distributed at least a dozen different recalled products -- from toys to vacuum cleaners -- through a system it operated with a third-party contractor. It's against the law to sell or distribute products that have been recalled.

Among the recalled goods: Fisher-Price toddler tricycles, high chairs by Graco Children's Products, Hoover vacuums and box fans by Lasko.

In agreeing to the settlement, Michigan-based Meijer neither acknowledges nor denies the CPSC charges.

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