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Archive for September, 2013|Monthly archive page

Tonya Lewis Lee Talks Balancing Motherhood, Healthy Living & New Film

In Black in America Past and Present, Health on September 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Food Stamps Again a Vivid Symbol in Poverty Debate

In Money and Finance on September 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

by The Associated Press Sep 21st 2013 8:29AM
By CONNIE CASS and MARY CLARE JALONICK

food stamps and groceries

WASHINGTON — Food stamps have figured in Americans’ ideas about the poor for decades, from President Lyndon Johnson’s vision of a Great Society to President Ronald Reagan’s scorn for crooked “welfare queens” and President Bill Clinton’s pledge to “end welfare as we know it.”

Partisans tend to see what they want to see in the food stamp program: barely enough bread and milk to sustain hungry children, or chips and soda — maybe even steak and illicit beer — for cheaters and layabouts gaming the system.

Those differences were on display Thursday when the House voted to cut almost $4 billion a year, or 5 percent, from the roughly $80 billion-a-year program.

The House bill would tighten eligibility standards, allow states to impose new work requirements and permit drug testing for recipients, among other cuts to spending. A Senate bill would cut around one-tenth of the amount of the House bill, or $400 million a year.

Republicans argued that work requirements target the aid to the neediest people. Democrats said the swelling rolls — more than 47 million people are now using the food stamps, or 1 in 7 Americans — show that the program is working at a time of high unemployment and great need.

A look at the history and future of food stamps:

No more Stamps

These days, people in the nation’s largest food aid program pay with plastic.

These special debit cards are swiped at convenience store or supermarket checkouts to pay for groceries. The cards can’t be used for alcohol or cigarettes or nonfood items such as toothpaste, paper towels or dog chow. Junk food or high-priced treats are OK.

The first food stamps were a temporary plan to help feed the hungry toward the end of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The government subsidized the cost of blue stamps that poor people used to buy food from farm surpluses.

The idea was revived in the 1960s and expanded under Johnson into a permanent program that sold food coupons to low-income people at a discount. Beginning in the 1970s, food stamps were given to the poor for free. Benefit cards began replacing paper in the 1980s, a move designed to reduce fraud and ease the embarrassment food stamp users felt at the cash register.

Food stamps aren’t the government’s only way to feed those in need. There are more than a dozen smaller programs, including the one for Women, Infants and Children, and free and reduced-price school lunches.

In 2008, food stamps were officially renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Most people still know the name that’s been familiar since 1939.

One in Every 7 Americans

In a nation of 314 million people, more than 47 million are eating with food stamps each month.

Who are they? Children and teenagers make up almost half, according to the Agriculture Department. About 10 percent are seniors.

The vast majority don’t receive any cash welfare. Many households that shop with SNAP cards have someone who’s employed but qualify for help because of low earnings.

The average food stamp allotment is $133 a person per month. The monthly amount a family gets depends on the household’s size, earnings and expenses, as well as changing food prices and other factors.

Households can qualify for help with earnings up to 30 percent higher than the federal poverty level, making the limit about $30,000 for a family of four this year. These households are limited to no more than $2,000 in savings, or $3,250 if there are elderly or disabled residents.

In addition, most states allow people to qualify automatically for food stamps if they are eligible for certain other welfare programs, even if they don’t meet the strict SNAP standards. Although food stamps are paid for with federal tax dollars, states administer the program and have some choices in setting requirements.

Language in Clinton’s 1996 welfare overhaul required able-bodied adults who aren’t raising children to work or attend job training or similar programs to qualify for food stamps after three months. But those work requirements across most of the nation have been waived for several years because of the high unemployment rate.

People who are living in the United States illegally aren’t eligible for food stamps. Most adults who immigrate legally aren’t eligible during their first five years in the country.

Rising Like Yeast

The cost to taxpayers more than doubled over just four years, from $38 billion in 2008 to $78 billion last year.

Liberals see a program responding to rising need at a time of economic turmoil. Conservatives see out-of-control spending, and many Republicans blame President Barack Obama. While seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, Newt Gingrich labeled Obama the “food stamp president.”

Some of the growth can be attributed to Obama’s food stamp policies, but Congress’ budget analysts blame most of it on the economy.

The big factors: •The SNAP program is an entitlement, meaning everyone who is eligible can get aid, no matter the cost to taxpayers.
•Millions of jobs were lost in the recession that hit in 2007. Unemployment is still high, and many people who have jobs are working fewer hours or for lower pay than before, meaning more people are eligible.
•Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus temporarily increased benefit amounts; that boost is set to expire on Nov. 1. Time limits for jobless adults without dependents are still being waived in most of the country.
•Food stamp eligibility requirements were loosened by Congress in 2002 and 2008, before Obama became president.
•Fluctuating food prices have driven up monthly benefit amounts, which are based on a low-cost diet.
Fewer to Feed?

The number of people using food stamps appears to be leveling off this year, and long-term budget projections suggest the number will begin to fall as the economy improves.

Why is it taking so long? Although the jobless rate has dropped from its 2009 peak, it remains high, leaving a historically large number of people eligible for food stamps. Since the recession began, a bigger portion of people who are eligible have signed up for food stamps than in the past.

Many people who enrolled during the worst days of the recession still qualify for SNAP cards, even if they are doing a little better now. For example, they may have gone from being laid off to working a low-paying or part-time job.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts in about a decade the number of people using food stamps will drop to 34 million, or about 1 in every 10 people.

Food and Fraud

Abuse was a worry from the start. The 1939 food stamp program was launched in May and by that October a retailer had been caught violating the rules.

There’s been progress along the way, especially after the nationwide adoption of SNAP cards, which are harder to sell for cash than paper coupons were. The government says such “trafficking” in food stamps has fallen significantly over the past two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to a penny per dollar in 2008.

But many lawmakers say fraud is still costing taxpayers too much. Some people lie about their income, apply for benefits in multiple states or fail to quit the program when their earnings go up. Recipients must tell their state agency within 10 days if their income goes over the limit.

Some stores illegally accept food stamps to pay for other merchandise, even beer or electronics, or give out cash at a cut rate in exchange for phony food purchases, which are then reimbursed by the government.

Food and Farms

In Congress, it’s a marriage of convenience.

Food stamp policy has been packaged in the same bill with farm subsidies and other agricultural programs since the 1970s. It was a canny way of assuring that urban lawmakers who wanted the poverty program would vote for farm spending. That worked until this year, when conservatives balked at the skyrocketing cost of food stamps.

In June, a farm bill that included food stamps was defeated in the Republican-led House because fiscal conservatives felt it didn’t cut the program deeply enough.

In response, GOP leaders split the food and farm programs in two. The House passed the farm version in July and the food stamp version on Thursday. Both passed with narrow votes.

The House and Senate versions must be reconciled before the five-year farm bill can become law, and that won’t be an easy task.

Food stamps remain in the farm bill passed by the Senate. That bill made only a half-percent cut to food stamps and the Democratic-led Senate will be reluctant to cut more deeply or to evict the poverty program from its home in the farm bill. Obama supported the cuts in the Senate bill, but has opposed any changes beyond that. The White House threatened to veto the House food stamp bill.

What Now?

The current farm and food law expires at the end of the month.

If the two sides can’t agree by then, a likely scenario, Congress could vote to extend the law as it is, at the expense of many planned updates to agricultural policy. There won’t be much urgency to do that until the end of the year, when some dairy supports expire and milk prices could rise.

Other farm supports won’t expire until next year, but farmers have been frustrated with the drawn-out debate that has now lasted two years, saying they need more government certainty as they manage their farm operations.

SNAP benefits would still be available for now. While farm bills set food stamp policy, the money is paid out through annual appropriations bills that so far have left benefits intact.

Fed to See More Change Next Year Than Just a New Chief

In Money and Finance on September 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

No matter who winds up heading the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank will see some big changes — and even bigger challenges — next year.

Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen, vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve’s board of governors.

by Kiplinger Sep 22nd 2013 9:10AM
Updated Sep 22nd 2013 10:14AM

By Jerome Idaszak

Look beyond the battle to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Front-runner Janet Yellen, vice chairman for the past three years, comes well qualified, but she faces challenges no chairman has ever faced.

Just ahead is a rare wave of new faces joining the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, which consists of the seven governors and the presidents of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks. The voting members of the FOMC include, in addition to the chairman and vice chairman, the five other governors and five of the regional bank presidents — the president of the New York Fed and four others who rotate into voting positions each year.

One of those governors’ spots is vacant now. Another might as well be: Sarah Raskin skipped the recent meeting in light of her pending departure to take a top spot at the Treasury Department. Bernanke will leave by Jan. 31. Two others are likely to exit in 2014: Jerome Powell, whose term expires at the end of January, and Jeremy Stein, who will return to his tenured professorship at Harvard by late May. Including the four rotating regional bank president slots, that means nine new faces among the 12 voting members next year — or 10, if Yellen doesn’t get the nod as chairman and departs.

Historically, the governors fall in line behind the chairman. They’re usually picked on the basis of expertise in bank regulatory issues, consumer credit policies or other technical work that the Fed carries out. But they cast votes on monetary policy, and their allegiance to the chairman can’t be taken for granted and will be closely watched over the next few months. Regional bank presidents more frequently break ranks and question the chairman’s direction.

All this new blood will make it harder for financial markets to gauge the effectiveness of the new chairman’s leadership, adding volatility to long-term interest rates. And until the newcomers settle in, rates are likely to be a bit higher than they otherwise would have been.

That matters. Although the bond market moves in small increments, just a quarter-point increase in interest rates can add thousands to the cost of a home buyer’s mortgage and hundreds of thousands to the price of financing a business merger or acquisition.

Recent history clearly demonstrates the sensitivity of financial markets to uncertainty about the Federal Reserve’s direction. The 10-year Treasury yield has nearly doubled since spring, rising from 1.6 percent then to nearly 3 percent now. Much of the increase came after an FOMC statement last June. Financial markets interpreted it to mean that Bernanke and company were signaling a sooner-than-expected boost in the federal funds rate. The stock market took a tumble, and interest rates rose in Europe as well as in the U.S. Bernanke hastened to make clear that no such signal was intended, and volatility eased. But the increase in rates hasn’t reversed.

The markets want to see where a new chairman will lead the FOMC and whether dissent emerges. Some new FOMC members will want the central bank to focus more on the goal of holding inflation in check, arguing that even though prices are not surging now, the Fed is drifting off course. That sets the stage for a clash with Yellen, who thinks the focus should be on the other half of the Federal Reserve’s two-pronged mission: managing — in this case, reducing — unemployment.

Billionaires Dumping Stocks, Economist Knows Why

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm

By Newsmax Wires

Despite the 6.5% stock market rally over the last three months, a handful of billionaires are quietly dumping their American stocks . . . and fast.

Warren Buffett, who has been a cheerleader for U.S. stocks for quite some time, is dumping shares at an alarming rate. He recently complained of “disappointing performance” in dyed-in-the-wool American companies like Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and Kraft Foods.

In the latest filing for Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been drastically reducing his exposure to stocks that depend on consumer purchasing habits. Berkshire sold roughly 19 million shares of Johnson & Johnson, and reduced his overall stake in “consumer product stocks” by 21%. Berkshire Hathaway also sold its entire stake in California-based computer parts supplier Intel.

With 70% of the U.S. economy dependent on consumer spending, Buffett’s apparent lack of faith in these companies’ future prospects is worrisome.

Unfortunately Buffett isn’t alone.

Fellow billionaire John Paulson, who made a fortune betting on the subprime mortgage meltdown, is clearing out of U.S. stocks too. During the second quarter of the year, Paulson’s hedge fund, Paulson & Co., dumped 14 million shares of JPMorgan Chase. The fund also dumped its entire position in discount retailer Family Dollar and consumer-goods maker Sara Lee.

Finally, billionaire George Soros recently sold nearly all of his bank stocks, including shares of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Between the three banks, Soros sold more than a million shares.

So why are these billionaires dumping their shares of U.S. companies?

After all, the stock market is still in the midst of its historic rally. Real estate prices have finally leveled off, and for the first time in five years are actually rising in many locations. And the unemployment rate seems to have stabilized.

It’s very likely that these professional investors are aware of specific research that points toward a massive market correction, as much as 90%.

One such person publishing this research is Robert Wiedemer, an esteemed economist and author of the New York Times best-selling book Aftershock.

Editor’s Note: Wiedemer Gives Proof for His Dire Predictions in This Shocking Interview.

Before you dismiss the possibility of a 90% drop in the stock market as unrealistic, consider Wiedemer’s credentials.

In 2006, Wiedemer and a team of economists accurately predicted the collapse of the U.S. housing market, equity markets, and consumer spending that almost sank the United States. They published their research in the book America’s Bubble Economy.

The book quickly grabbed headlines for its accuracy in predicting what many thought would never happen, and quickly established Wiedemer as a trusted voice.

A columnist at Dow Jones said the book was “one of those rare finds that not only predicted the subprime credit meltdown well in advance, it offered Main Street investors a winning strategy that helped avoid the forty percent losses that followed . . .”

The chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor’s said that Wiedemer’s track record “demands our attention.”

And finally, the former CFO of Goldman Sachs said Wiedemer’s “prescience in (his) first book lends credence to the new warnings. This book deserves our attention.”

In the interview for his latest blockbuster Aftershock, Wiedemer says the 90% drop in the stock market is “a worst-case scenario,” and the host quickly challenged this claim.

Wiedemer calmly laid out a clear explanation of why a large drop of some sort is a virtual certainty.

It starts with the reckless strategy of the Federal Reserve to print a massive amount of money out of thin air in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

“These funds haven’t made it into the markets and the economy yet. But it is a mathematical certainty that once the dam breaks, and this money passes through the reserves and hits the markets, inflation will surge,” said Wiedemer.

“Once you hit 10% inflation, 10-year Treasury bonds lose about half their value. And by 20%, any value is all but gone. Interest rates will increase dramatically at this point, and that will cause real estate values to collapse. And the stock market will collapse as a consequence of these other problems.”

See the Proof: Get the Full Interview by Clicking Here Now.

And this is where Wiedemer explains why Buffett, Paulson, and Soros could be dumping U.S. stocks:

“Companies will be spending more money on borrowing costs than business expansion costs. That means lower profit margins, lower dividends, and less hiring. Plus, more layoffs.”

No investors, let alone billionaires, will want to own stocks with falling profit margins and shrinking dividends. So if that’s why Buffett, Paulson, and Soros are dumping stocks, they have decided to cash out early and leave Main Street investors holding the bag.

But Main Street investors don’t have to see their investment and retirement accounts decimated for the second time in five years.

Wiedemer’s video interview also contains a comprehensive blueprint for economic survival that’s really commanding global attention.

Now viewed over 40 million times, it was initially screened for a relatively small, private audience. But the overwhelming amount of feedback from viewers who felt the interview should be widely publicized came with consequences, as various online networks repeatedly shut it down and affiliates refused to house the content.

“People were sitting up and taking notice, and they begged us to make the interview public so they could easily share it,” said Newsmax Financial Publisher Aaron DeHoog.

“Our real concern,” DeHoog added, “is the effect even if only half of Wiedemer’s predictions come true.

“That’s a scary thought for sure. But we want the average American to be prepared, and that is why we will continue to push this video to as many outlets as we can. We want the word to spread.”

When The Checks Food Stamps Stop Coming In: Ohio To Cut Aid For Able-Bodied Adults Without Kids

In Top This on September 7, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Bossip

No more free Randy!

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Toronto: ’12 Years a Slave’ makes a devastating impression, with Oscar nominations a certainty

In Black in America Past and Present, What People are Watching on September 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Retailer Apologizes for Forcing Job Applicants to Dance to Daft Punk

In What the ?????? on September 7, 2013 at 4:02 pm

NewsFeed

When Alan Bacon learned he had a job interview with a franchise of Currys, he didn’t think publicly jamming to Daft Punk would be a required skill. He was wrong.

The UK electronics retailer is apologizing after one of its stores apparently broke job applicants up into teams and had them to engage in a dance off as part of a team building exercise.  “I think everyone initially thought it was a joke,” Bacon, who was not ultimately offered a job, told the BBC, “but they were serious.”

And while the activity might have been meant to build group unity, it appears the task was more successful at humiliating applicants who had spent the week preparing themselves for a serious interview.  “I just felt so embarrassed and uncomfortable” said Bacon.  “I ended up dancing to ‘Around the World’ by Daft Punk, doing rubbish robotics in my suit in…

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‘Defined Lines’ Is The Robin Thicke ‘Blurred Lines’ Parody That Trumps All Others

In Top This on September 5, 2013 at 7:21 pm

The Huffington Post | By Emma Gray Posted: 09/03/2013 3:09 pm EDT | Updated: 09/05/2013 4:22 pm EDT

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” may have been unofficially declared one of the songs of the summer, but we’re happy to end the season with this amazing parody of the decidedly sexist hit.

In response to the criticism surrounding “Blurred Lines,” an Auckland University student group, the Law Revue Girls, created “Defined Lines.” The parody reverses the original video’s gender roles in an attempt to “define those supposedly ‘blurred lines'” and declares: “What you see on TV / Doesn’t speak equality / It’s straight up misogyny.” We could not love it more.

“The message really is just that we think that women should be treated equally, and as part of that, we’re trying to address the culture of objectifying women in music videos,” Olivia Lubbock, one of the women featured in the video, told the AAP.

The Independent reported that “Defined Lines” was removed from YouTube briefly on Monday after being flagged for “inappropriate” sexual content, but has since been restored. Lubbock called the video’s removal a “massive double standard,” since the models in Thicke’s original video are arguably far more sexualized.

“It’s just funny that the response has been so negative when you flip it around and objectify males,” Lubbock told the AAP.

We’re glad YouTube put “Defined Lines” back up. This is one music video the masses should see.

Published on Aug 30, 2013

The Law Revue girls want to define those supposedly “blurred lines”. Enjoy our parody of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. Lyrics below. Follow and support us at https://twitter.com/LawRevueGirls.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ casts Dakota Johnson and Charlie Hunnam

In Celebrity Life on September 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Mo Money: The Highest Paid Black Actors’ On Television (And Some Notable Others)

In Black in America Past and Present, Celebrity Life on September 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Bossip

Black actors might demand big checks for work on the silver screen, but for TV, not so much…

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