Oct 262013


onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

SNAP Crackles and Pops Again
Forty-seven million residents–about fifteen percent–of the world’s richest country depend on what used to be called Food Stamps, now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The nation’s capital has the highest density of SNAPers–22 percent. A bipartisan majority in Congress agreed to let a temporary boost in these meager benefits, included in the 2009 Recovery Act, expire November 1. This will result in an average reduction of about ten dollars per person per month.

Even more cuts in eligibility for the program–aimed at able-bodied long term unemployed–are being considered on both Federal and state levels. For a while, Missouri’s term-limited Democrat Governor was set to axe thousands of such “takers.” But he ultimately decided that wouldn’t help if he challenges our state’s Republican U.S. Senator next time and so the jobless will continue to eat–smaller portions–for now.

Only fourteen percent of SNAP users are “non-elderly, non-disabled” adults without dependent children in the program. Most of those are either youth or over 40–the demographics with the least prospect for full-time jobs.

Some recipients are in fact working–and still meet the income threshold for SNAP. Most of these are working at fast food franchises or at America’s biggest private employer–Walmart. Through SNAP and Medicaid, tax-payers are subsidizing the exploitation of the working poor. Rather than condemning these workers to hunger how about a poverty tax on their bosses?

Of course, not all of the job-creator class is insensitive to the plight of the hungry. The big Kansas City area Price Chopper grocery chain will suggest needed items you can buy from them that they in turn “donate” to a supplier of community food banks.

More in the spirit of class solidarity is the annual food drive by the postal worker unions, with the letter carriers collecting bags of nonperishable food left on their routes. With the Obama administration’s massive cuts in the US Postal Service some of those workers may soon need nutritional help themselves.

The concept of the Food Stamp program, established in 1964 as part of the War on Poverty that also included Medicaid and Head Start, is fundamentally sound–though always too stingy in application. It is needed even more now and needs expansion to allow a healthy balanced diet for all.

Solidarity at the Gate
UE News reports,

“Exactly one month after GE announced its “intent” to close the Fort Edward capacitor plant, more than 300 people from dozens of unions and the local community rallied in support of UE Local 332’s fight to prevent the closing. The spirited mass picketing went on for two hours, culminating in a rally in which several union and community leaders spoke.

“Locals from across the UE Northeast Region were present – 14 of them – as a result of the region hurriedly moving its fall regional meeting, originally planned for October 18 and 19 in New Hampshire, to nearby Glens Falls. Eight members from Local 506 made the six-hour drive from Erie, PA to support their fellow UE-GE workers. Another major GE local, Local 201 of the IUE-CWA in Lynn, Massachusetts, was represented by seven members including President Alex Brown. Area unions turned out in force, mobilized by the Albany Labor Federation, Troy Labor Council, Glens Falls Labor Council, and the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District.”

Other labor participants included the Ft. Edward Teachers Union, New York State United Teachers, Teamsters Local 294, IBEW Local 97, SEIU 1199, SEIU 200 United, NY State Corrections Officers, National Association of Letter Carriers, International Association of Machinists, Public Employees Federation, Printers, Millwrights, Bricklayers, IUE-CWA Local 81359, NY State Nurses Association, Civil Service Employees Association, International Association of Firefighters, and the Office and Professional Employees International Union. They were also joined by representatives of the Mexican FAT who were in the region for another gathering.

After examining confidential records GE finally coughed up during “decision bargaining,” a respected forensic financial investigator retained by the union declared the company had not made a financial case for moving the plant’s jobs to Clearwater, Florida.

What the Poll Means To Us
My friends at Labor Standard asked me to write something about a recent Gallup Poll that found “60 percent of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed.” You can read my article by clicking here.

Let’s Try to Cure Hubris
On Friday, my wife Mary and I descended deep in to the bowels of Union Station where the Kansas City Election Board is now located. We were greeted by two friendly, helpful employees who seemed gratified with rare human contact. We were there to cast absentee ballots in a special election being held while we will be out of town.

There is only one item on the ballot. It authorizes a half-cent sales tax increase in Jackson County–which includes the majority of the population of Kansas City as well as numerous suburbs–for twenty years dedicated to medical research. It is hinted that the estimated 800 million dollars generated will lead to big breakthroughs–maybe even a cure for cancer. To make us feel like true stakeholders, twenty percent of any profits from resulting commercial patents  will be rebated to the County government. And, of course, they vaguely promise jobs.

Most medical scientists take a dim view of such a relatively small scale, unfocused approach to research. In the best cases there are far more failures than breakthroughs. This regressive tax felt most by the poor is a classic example of socializing risk while mainly privatizing any rewards. Public underwriting of research should be exclusively for the public good–not capitalist profit.

The backers of this scam are counting on a microscopic voter turnout. If you are an eligible voter in Jackson County I urge you to vote no on greedy hubris.

Explaining Our Absence
It’s unusual for Mary and me to be out of town at the same time. It requires pressing friends in to house/cat sitting duties with the added seasonal obligation of dealing with trick-or-treaters.

Especially rare is for my self-employed spouse and me to be away together at the same time. We will be on the road to Arizona and back for over a week for what is mainly a vacation for us. 

But we’re combining it with an invitation for me to facilitate a workshop at the national Alliance for Global Justice Tear Down the Walls Conference in Tucson November 1-3. Labor party supporters in Tucson have asked me to replicate a meeting Labor Party Advocates held over the Labor Day Weekend in Kansas City which combines a showing of the film Labor’s Turning Point, with some introductory remarks about reviving the labor party movement. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have time and location of the workshop. If you are attending this conference I hope we can meet up there.

After one last news update Monday on the Labor Advocate blog the next update to follow, after some recovery and observance of Veterans Day, will be Tuesday, November 12. Look for the next Week In Review around that time as well.

That’s all for this week.


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