Food Stamps . . . Strictly From Hunger!

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WASHINGTON (DC) — SURPRISE!  Working-age people now make up the majority in U.S. households that rely on food stamps – a switch from a few years ago, when children and the elderly were the main recipients.

Some of the change is due to demographics, such as the trend toward having fewer children. But a slow economic recovery with high unemployment, stagnant wages and an increasing gulf between low-wage and high-skill jobs also plays a big role. It suggests that government spending on the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program – twice what it cost five years ago – may not subside significantly anytime soon.

Food stamp participation since 1980 has grown the fastest among workers with some college training, a sign that the safety net has stretched further to cover America’s former middle class, according to an analysis of government data for The Associated Press by economists at the University of Kentucky. Formally called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or SNAP, the program now covers 1 in 7 Americans.

The findings coincide with the latest economic data showing workers’ wages and salaries growing at the lowest rate relative to corporate profits in U.S. history.

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night is expected to focus in part on reducing income inequality, such as by raising the federal minimum wage. Congress, meanwhile, is debating cuts to food stamps, with Republicans including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., wanting a $4 billion-a-year reduction to an anti-poverty program that they say promotes dependency and abuse.

Economists say having a job may no longer be enough for self-sufficiency in today’s economy.

“A low-wage job supplemented with food stamps is becoming more common for the working poor,” said Timothy Smeeding, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in income inequality. “Many of the U.S. jobs now being created are low- or minimum-wage – part-time or in areas such as retail or fast food – which means food stamp use will stay high for some time, even after unemployment improves.”

The newer food stamp recipients include Maggie Barcellano, 25, of Austin, Texas. A high school graduate, she enrolled in college but didn’t complete her nursing degree after she could no longer afford the tuition.

Hoping to boost her credentials, she went through emergency medical technician training with the Army National Guard last year but was unable to find work as a paramedic because of the additional certification and fees required. Barcellano, now the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, finally took a job as a home health aide, working six days a week at $10 an hour. Struggling with the low income, she recently applied for food stamps with the help of the nonprofit Any Baby Can, to help save up for paramedic training.

“It’s devastating,” Barcellano said. “When I left for the Army I was so motivated, thinking I was creating a situation where I could give my daughter what I know she deserves. But when I came back and basically found myself in the same situation, it was like it was all for naught.”

Since 2009, more than 50 percent of U.S. households receiving food stamps have been adults ages 18 to 59, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The food stamp program defines non-elderly adults as anyone younger than 60.

As recently as 1998, the working-age share of food stamp households was at a low of 44 percent, before the dot-com bust and subsequent recessions in 2001 and 2007 pushed new enrollees into the program, according to the analysis by James Ziliak, director of the Center for Poverty Research at the University of Kentucky.

By education, about 28 percent of food stamp households are headed by a person with at least some college training, up from 8 percent in 1980. Among those with four-year college degrees, the share rose from 3 percent to 7 percent. High-school graduates head the bulk of food stamp households at 37 percent, up from 28 percent. In contrast, food stamp households headed by a high-school dropout have dropped by more than half, to 28 percent.

The shifts in food stamp participation come amid broader changes to the economy such as automation, globalization and outsourcing, which have polarized the job market. Many good-paying jobs in areas such as manufacturing have disappeared, shrinking the American middle class and bumping people with higher levels of education into lower-wage work.

An analysis Ziliak conducted for the AP finds that stagnant wages and income inequality play an increasing role in the growth of food stamp rolls.

Taking into account changing family structure, higher unemployment and policy expansions to the food stamp program, the analysis shows that stagnant wages and income inequality explained just 3.5 percent of the change in food stamp enrollment from 1980 to 2011. But from 2000 to 2011, wages and inequality accounted for 13 percent of the increase.

Several economists say food stamp rolls are likely to remain elevated for some time. Historically, there has been a lag before an improving unemployment rate leads to a substantial decline in food stamp rolls; the Congressional Budget Office has projected it could take 10 years.

“We do not expect income inequality stabilizing or declining in the absence of real wage growth or a significant reduction in unemployment and underemployment problems,” said Ishwar Khatiwada, an economist for the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University who reviewed the Labor and Commerce departments’ wage data.

Full- and part-time workers employed year-round saw the fastest growth in food stamp participation since 1980, making up 17 percent and 7 percent of households, respectively. In contrast, the share of food stamp households headed by an unemployed person has remained largely unchanged, at 53 percent. Part-year workers declined in food stamp share.

Outer Space Zombies Have Sex With Obama Staff!

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Now that we have your attention, we’d like to introduce ourselves.  We are, respectively, Nathan and Tim, two guys from Utah who are fed up with the namby-pamby, panty-waist frolics of political blogs that are afraid to say what they mean, or mean what they say.

We are publishing a blog that will aggregate news and opinion solidly on the side of conservative, Tea Party, ideology.  We also will flay anyone, at anytime, for proving false to the great principles and standards that have made the United States of America a towering beacon of freedom for the entire world in the past.  These standards include, but are not limited to, Christian principles, such as:

TEMPERANCE.

HONESTY.

TRANSPARENCY.

HUMILITY.

INTEGRITY.

PRUDENCE.

COURAGE.

TOLERANCE.

Our purpose is to reignite the determination of our nation to live clean, brave and strong, unyielding in the right, willing to admit mistakes and make amends, and always and forever on the side of viable representative government, and determined that tyrants and political chicanery be banished from the face of the earth.  We are proud of American history, and ashamed and alarmed that so many of our youth are either unfamiliar with it or unwilling to follow its glorious precedent.  Where is the public virtue this nation was founded on?  Who now is dedicated to President Kennedy’s immortal challenge:  “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country?”  Who now remembers the poignant jeremiad of Martin Luther King, when he chanted “I Have A Dream”?

We, as a people, have a long way to climb to reach the heights God meant us to conquer and secure, in our neighborhoods, cities, states, and country.  We hope you will become a regular viewer of our blog, and a regular commentator — for whether you agree with us or not, the Truth is never afraid of controversy or debate.  That’s our stand, and neither Hell nor Democrats will move us one Higgs Boson from it!

Our well-wishers are already responding to this flaming editorial.  Here is what Dan Kelly, the Bulletin Board editor at the Pioneer Press, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, had to say in his email to us:

On Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 2:12 PM, SP Bulletin Board <bb@pioneerpress.com> wrote:

Good luck to you. 

 
(You have slightly misquoted JFK.)

What’s The Matter With Thailand? A Senatorial Response.

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We have received an email from Senator Mike Lee concerning our editorial on Thailand.  We reprint it here, verbatim:

February 3, 2014

Dear Tim:

Thank you for reaching out to Senator Lee regarding Thailand. He appreciates your engagement and knows that input from and dialogue with concerned citizens is critical to creating solutions that will address the problems facing Americans today.

As a new year commences, Senator Lee, through his legislative work, will continue to develop upward mobility for the poor and ease the pressure on the middle class by making education more accessible and affordable. He will introduce legislation that will give the poor a hand up, and advocate for legislation to help the unemployed re-enter the work force. Senator Lee recently gave a major policy speech in which he said: “Today, working families’ take-home pay is flat. But the staples of middle-class security and opportunity – health care, education, home ownership, work-life balance, and children – are becoming harder to afford all the time.”

Senator Lee is moving forward with a positive policy agenda to address the challenges of our time. Partnering with citizens and colleagues on both sides of the isle, he will continue to work to create a better economic climate for our country which will enable his constituents to be more secure, get ahead and realize their American dream.

Best,

Pete Blair

Office of Senator Michael S. Lee
(202) 224-5444

There’s a world of trouble with Thailand.  One of America’s staunchest allies in Southeast Asia, we have a vital interest in that country’s welfare, and so it’s not “sticking our nose in other people’s business” if we comment feelingly on that ancient and honorable constitutional monarchy that most people know only through the movie “The King and I.”  Both India and China have strong historical ties with Thailand that reaches back centuries before America was even a country.  If we’re not proactive, we may see those ancient nations once again in the ascendant with Thailand, to our cost.

If you’ve had the privilege of living in Thailand, as we have, you know that the people are warm-hearted, gentle, tolerant, and wise beyond their years with the stored power of Zen that comes from centuries of studying and implementing the teachings of Buddha.  Their diet is wholesome and so delicious that it’s almost like having sex.  Their beaches stretch for hundreds of miles along the Gulf of Siam and the Andaman Coast, and are cherished by millions of tourists each year, as well as by the Thais themselves.  It is a truly blessed country, which escaped, in large measure, the ravages of the Vietnam Conflict 45 years ago.

The ruling monarch of Thailand is a remarkable scholar, musician, philanthropist, legislator, and peacemaker.  He and his lovely queen have kept their country from the savage bloodbaths that have cursed that region during the past fifty years.  But he is old and ill now, and ready to go the way of all the earth.

And so the political grubs and weevils, the jackals and buzzards, are closing in for their piece of the remains.  No one is quite sure just what happens when the current monarch passes on.  The situation has not arisen for more than fifty years, and the current Crown Prince may not be up to taking the reins and controlling the lusty steeds of Thai culture, tradition, and politics.

We won’t go into the confusing, often contradictory, details of the current political mess in Thailand, except to say that a rather large party of citizens, who feel they have been out of power for far too long, want to get back in power – but not by the election process.  No, they’re afraid that they’ll be outvoted and outflanked by the vast majority of Thais, who, if they do not actively support the current administration, at least do not want to see it torn down in riot and chaos.  This party, which we will call, for convenience’s sake, the Ninnyhammers, feel that the governing of Thailand needs to go back a century or two, when the monarch was an absolute dictator and the rich and cultivated formed an oligarchy that kept the common people down where they belonged – doing corvee labor and forbidden to have a voice in government.

The Ninnyhammers are shutting down central Bangkok even as we write this editorial.  That is how they intend to bring back “the good old days”, to turn back the hands of the clock.

What the Ninnyhammers of Thailand, and of the world, never realize is that while you can turn back the hands on a cheap Timex watch with no damage, if you attempt to turn the hands back on a fine Swiss timepiece you ruin it forever – it becomes irreparable.   And that is what the Kingdom of Thailand has become – a finely wrought piece of culture and government that is balanced delicately between reverence for the monarchy and pride in representative government.  Fool with it in a brutal manner, as the Ninnyhammers are doing, and it will stop working – not just for some, but for ALL people in Thailand!

The United States must make it clear to the Thai Ambassador that we will never recognize a Thai government that seizes power through insurrection and terror, and that wishes to reverse the course of destiny and democracy.  The Ninnyhammers of Thailand are NOT advocating anything revolutionary or experimental – they simply wish to take Thailand back to its barbarian medieval state.  For their own ignorant benefit.  We cannot let them highjack this beautiful land of Ten Thousand Smiles!

Uncle Sam should speak up, President Obama, and support the current Thai Administration, despite its faults and failures.  The alternative would be worse for everyone.

New Poll Shows President Obama Is About As Popular As A Pimple At A Beauty Contest!

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On the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, a new poll fromWashington Post-ABC News shows that fully 63 percent of Americans have either little no confidence Obama will make the right decisions. The public is evenly split on whether Obama is honest and trustworthy, with 49 percent of Americans answering in the affirmative, and 48 percent answering negatively.

bare majority of Americans, 52 percent, feel Obama does not understand the problems of people like them – a shocking downward turn for Obama on an important likeability issue on which he dominated in 2012. A majority of Americans. 51 percent, also believe Obama is not a strong leader. His disapproval rating stands currently at 50 percent, with 41 percentdisapproving strongly – only 23 percent support him strongly. 50 percent of Americans have an unfavorable impression of the president.

For perhaps the first time, Obama’s personal popularity seems to be suffering from his inability to govern effectively. He is not being damaged by the NSA scandal, for example – a solid 59 percent of Americans think Obama either went too far or was just right in how he changed NSA policy in the aftermath of surveillance revelations. Instead, his personal popularity is dropping – a shocking development for a president who has largely relied on that popularity to push forward policy.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

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In a series of articles last week, the writer Megan McArdle asserted that Republicans have about a 75 percent chance of winning the White House in 2016. “Mostly, the White House flips back and forth like a metronome,” she wrote. “Voters just get tired after eight years.”

As other commentators, like Henry Farrell, have pointed out, one can find almost any pattern in presidential results if one looks hard enough. By manipulating the definition of incumbency, the time frame that one examines or the measure of success (e.g., the popular vote or the Electoral College), or by selectively excluding “outliers” or exceptional cases, the potential for cherry-picking and overfitting is high. (In layman’s terms, an overfit statistical model is one that is engineered to match idiosyncratic circumstances in past data, but which is not an accurate picture and makes poor predictions as a result.)

But let’s evaluate a relatively simple version of Ms. McArdle’s claim. What has happened, historically, after the same party has controlled the White House for exactly eight consecutive years?

Since the Republican Party first nominated a presidential candidate in the election of 1856, ushering in the modern two-party system, this circumstance has occurred either 11 or 12 times. The ambiguous case is in 1868. Abraham Lincoln, the great Republican president, had been assassinated and was succeeded by Andrew Johnson, his vice president, who is variously defined as a Democrat; as a member of the National Union Party, which Lincoln temporarily established in 1864; or as having no party affiliation.

Excluding 1868, the incumbent party has won the popular vote in 5 of these 11 cases, and the Electoral College in 4 of the 11 cases. Including 1868, when Ulysses S. Grant won a third consecutive election for Republicans but directly succeeded Johnson rather than Lincoln, the incumbent party’s track record improves to 6-of-12 in the popular vote and 5-of-12 in the Electoral College.

Depending on your definition, then, the incumbent party’s success rate in these elections has been anywhere from 36 percent (4 out of 11) to 50 percent (6 out of 12). Perhaps you could argue that Republicans’ odds of winning in 2016 are slightly better than 50 percent on this basis, but claiming that their odds are as good as 75 percent, as Ms. McArdle does, doesn’t seem to have any justification in this evidence.

However, as Jonathan Bernstein writes, looking at wins and losses in such a binary way is probably not the best way to evaluate the evidence. Many United States elections, as in 2000 and 1960, have essentially been ties, where the most minor variations in the flow of the campaign might have changed the winner of the Electoral College or popular vote. With this in mind, it is better to examine margins of victory.

Incidentally, this is close to a universal principle of statistical analysis. It’s almost always more robust to evaluate the margin by which a given outcome occurs than to look at the variable as black or white, win or loss, hit or miss, on or off.

If we look at these elections by the margin of victory in the popular vote, we see either four or five clear wins for the incumbent party (depending on whether 1868 is counted; the unambiguous cases are 1904, 1928, 1940 and 1988), three clear losses (1860, 1920 and 2008) and four elections (1960, 1968, 1976 and 2000) that were very close. On average, the incumbent party won the popular vote by 0.7 percentage points if 1868 is excluded or 1.1 percentage points if it is included.

Alternatively, we can measure the incumbent party’s margin of victory in the Electoral College. On average, excluding 1868, the incumbent party has won the Electoral College by a margin of 3.8 percent (as a share of the available electors), which is the equivalent of winning today’s Electoral College 279-259. If 1868 is included, the incumbent party’s average Electoral College margin improves slightly to 7.3 percent, roughly the equivalent of a 289-249 win today.

My point is not that the incumbent party actually has an advantage after two consecutive terms in office. (Some statistical models assume that it does, which I regard as just as questionable a claim as Ms. McArdle’s.) Instead, I’d make the more modest assertion that its odds of winning a third term are, on first approximation, 50-50.

This contrasts with cases in which the incumbent party has won just one consecutive term in office. In those cases, since 1856, the incumbent party has won the popular vote in 14 of 18 elections and the Electoral College in 13 of 18, and its average margin of victory in the popular vote has been 8.5 percentage points.

This helps to put President Obama’s win last year into context. How did he manage to be re-elected despite a below-average economy? Well, Mr. Obama’s margin of victory was also below average compared with the most similar incumbents in the past. If the average first-term incumbent wins by eight or nine percentage points, you can have quite a few things go wrong and still win by some margin.

What about when a party has won three or more consecutive elections and seeks yet another term? If Ms. McArdle’s fatigue hypothesis is correct, we might expect the incumbent party to do exceptionally poorly in these cases. (If eight years are enough to tire out voters, then 12 or 16 or 20 certainly ought to be.)

However, the incumbent party’s track record in such cases is not all that bad, historically. Republicans won six consecutive elections from 1860 to 1880 (with some caveats: Lincoln’s term was interrupted, and Rutherford B. Hayes won the Electoral College in 1876 despite losing the popular vote). Democrats won five consecutive elections from 1932 to 1948. On average, the incumbent party has lost the popular vote in these cases, but only by 1.3 percentage points — essentially a tossup.

On first approximation, then, presidential election results have resembled arandom walk, with the important exception that an incumbent party has had a significant advantage when it has held exactly one term in office. I am suspicious of the patterns that people claim to identify beyond that, which may reflect the human bias toward detecting signal in random noise.

That’s not to say there are no further complications.

One major question, for instance, is whether the one-term incumbency advantage pertains to the president himself or to his party. The evidence in Congressional elections, for what it’s worth, mostly points toward the incumbent himself mattering. When an elected incumbent retires from the Senate in a swing state, for instance, the odds of his party’s winning the next election are roughly 50-50 — not much better (as would be the case if there were residual benefits for the incumbent’s party even after the incumbent himself retired) and not much worse (as might be the case if voters were fatigued by having the same party in office).

Also, appointed senators have a fairly poor track record compared with elected incumbents. Perhaps Congressional voting is not quite the same as presidential voting, but the data set is a lot more robust (with hundreds and hundreds of cases as opposed to a couple dozen), so it is worth some consideration — and it, too, points to 50-50 as the right baseline in an open-seat election.

Thinking carefully about these baseline tendencies is important, because in some ways the 2016 election will be unprecedented.

What do I mean?

Presuming that Mr. Obama serves out the remaining three and a half years of his term, he will be only the fifth president prevented by the 22nd Amendment from seeking further terms in office. The other four cases were Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960, Ronald Reagan in 1988, Bill Clinton in 2000 and George W. Bush in 2008. Those four elections resulted in one clear loss for the incumbent party (2008), one clear win (1988) and two very close elections. But these are only four cases and so do not tell us much one way or the other.

It might be said that there was a de facto two-term limit before there was a constitutional one — in other words, that presidents almost always respected the two-term precedent that George Washington established. In that case, we could also look to cases where a president voluntarily retired after two consecutive terms as precedents for 2016.

But this is not really true. From the late 19th century through the ratification of the 22nd Amendment in 1951, many presidents who were able to run for a third term showed some interest in one.

Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for and won third and fourth terms. Grant sought a third term (although not a third consecutive one) in 1880 and was nearly nominated before Republicans chose James A. Garfield instead on the 36th ballot. Woodrow Wilson, some historians now claim, was interested in a third term, but Democrats weren’t interested in nominating him. Theodore Roosevelt ran for a third term in 1912, although as a member of the Progressive Party rather than the Republican Party. Harry Truman, who was exempt from the 22nd Amendment, initially sought a third term in 1952 but withdrew after the New Hampshire primary.

These distinctions matter because, unless a president is legally prevented from running for a third term, there are selection effects to which ones decide to do so. Popular presidents might seek and win another nomination, while unpopular ones might retire or be rejected by their party. It could be that voters react differently to parties seeking third terms in the era of the 22nd Amendment than they did in the years before it, and that the incumbent party’s batting average will wind up being meaningfully higher or lower than 50 percent in the long run. But we have little empirical evidence for this yet.

Instead, some humility is called for when interpreting the evidence. On the eve of an election — when the polls have become very reliable, and we know the identities of the candidates and something about the state of the economy and the mood of the country — it is possible to make relatively bold and precise forecasts about the outcome. But none of this applies three and a half years in advance.

Is This The End Of John McCain?

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Arizona Sen. John McCain has gone soft when it comes to conservative principles. That’s according to his state’s Republican Party, who sent the former presidential candidate a message on Saturday by voting to censure him for his ‘liberal’ voting record.

The Associated Press says the resolution was approved on a voice vote during a meeting of state committee members in Tempe. It said McCain “has campaigned as a conservative but has lent his support to issues ‘associated with liberal Democrats,’ such as immigration reform and to funding the law sometimes known as Obamacare.”

The five-term senator’s bleeding-heart tendencies are “disastrous and harmful” to the state and the nation, the resolution said.

“[We] would gladly embrace Sen. McCain if he stood behind us and represented us,” Timothy Schwartz, the Legislative District 30 Republican chairman was quoted by the AP as saying.

As if to reinforce the message, a prominent Democrat, Fred DuVal, who plans to run for governor, came to McCain’s defense. He called the censure an “outrageous response to the good work Sen. McCain did crafting a reasonable solution to fix our broken immigration system.”

The Arizona Republic says: “Saturday’s censure came two weeks after the Maricopa County Republican Party passed a resolution to censure the senator on a 1,150-to-351 vote. The state GOP party’s censure … has no practical effect, but serves as an attempt to embarrass the senator.”

McCain’s office has declined to comment.

Pay Day Loans; The Scammiest of Scams!

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I wonder if young Shakespeare ever took a payday loan

When he wrote of Shylock, that usurer well-known.

A pound of flesh is just about what you must sure forgo

If you deal with leeches at the local Check-N-Go.

You sign away your livelihood, your auto, and mink stole.

The Devil’s terms are easier; he only wants your soul!

Or you could always rob a bank, because first-time offenders

Are locked away with bed and board, and do not deal with lenders.

Check City battens on the poor and gullible amigo

Who doesn’t realize the rules are worse than in Stratego.

One minute late, one penny short, and suddenly they find

They are in an iron-clad and suffocating bind.

There is no Good Samaritan to help them find relief;

Only legislators who do not give a fig leaf.

Shout this from the mountaintops, but only if you dare

Face the Lender’s Lobby, who have a million bucks to spare.

 

Here’s an editorial response from the office of Spencer J. Cox, Lt. Governor of Utah:

Mr. Torkildson,

Thank you for taking time to share your concerns and to request for more payday loan regulation with Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox.  Statutory changes must be made through legislation and I hope you also contacted your legislators as they have authority to propose changes to the law, the Lieutenant Governor does not.
I checked the legislative website le.utah.gov and my search did not show that any bills have been filed for this session dealing with payday loans.  Again, I would suggest you contact your legislators.

Lynette Erickson

Executive Assistant to Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox