Tag Archives: SNAP benefits

Thank You For Your Service, Sort Of…

To all the flag-wavin’, flag-clutchin’, flag-wearin’, flag-supportin’ members of the the GOP,  and this includes senatorial candidate Dean Heller,  here’s some unsolicited advice on how to truly be supportive of our Armed Forces and veterans. Some of these don’t translate well into bumper stickers or shouted slogans, but they just might be more effective.

#1. Let’s start with NOT separating from service members of the military and reservists who happen to be immigrants on a path to citizenship. [USAT]  For crying out loud, these people are VOLUNTEERS.  They have volunteered to place themselves deliberately in harm’s way to protect the safety and security of the rest of us.  Aren’t these exactly the kind of people we want to join us as citizens of these United States?

#2.  Let’s stop creating deportation issues for some 11,800 members of our military families [MilTimes] and let’s stop deporting the spouses of our veterans [NBC].  Where, please, are the voices of our members of the US Senate — yes, Senator Heller, this includes you — and the voices of our Representatives in the House?  And, yes, Rep. Amodei (R-NV2) this means you as well.  Please don’t try to convince me of your love and respect for active duty personnel and veterans while you allow them to worry about the deportation status of their spouses — and the mothers and fathers of their children.

#3.  Let’s start paying members of the military what they are worth rather than beginning the calculation with what we think is the least amount we can pay and still meet budget restrictions. For example, the pay increase for member of the US military for 2017 was 2.1%, and granted that’s above the “austerity years” previously, but the inflation rate for 2017 was also 2.1% so our members of the armed forces didn’t actually get a raise in terms of real purchasing power.  The latest bill includes a 2.6% pay raise. Will this cover inflation rates? [Mil.com] [FedPay] Can I get an “Amen!” from Senator Heller? From Representative Amodei?  I’m not hearing anything…

#4. And, while we are discussing purchasing power… Remember back in April 2018 when the White House floated a proposal to cut SNAP benefits? [Mil.com]  Those cuts would effect members of the US military. [Mil.com]  That argument was still going on as of July 5, 2018. [SanAntonioC] How about we decide not to have this argument at all. How about paying members of the US military enough so SNAP benefits are unnecessary, or if they must be then making sure military families have sufficient resources to put food on their tables? This would seem to be a very supportive thing to advocate? Yes? Senator Heller? Yes? Representative Amodei?

Meanwhile, what’s happening in the current legislation headed to the Oval Office [USNI]  on Basic Housing Allowances? Whenever Senator McConnell says things including the phrase “more opportunity,” I begin to wonder Whose Opportunity to do what.  On Tricare? On dental treatment plans?

In short, let’s stop talking about “thank you for your service,” and “support the troops,” and DO something that allows them to be thankful they joined the US Armed Forces.  If we truly appreciate their service then we ought to be willing to pay for it.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, Immigration, Military pay, Nevada politics, No Child Left Behind, Politics

So, What About the Children?

child poverty rate

Should the Nevada Legislature care to address some issues other than those espoused by the gun-happy among us, there is one which should attract more attention than it’s getting.  23% of the children in this state are living in households at 100% of the official poverty line. [datacenter]  That’s an increase from the 2009 rate of 18%. In fact, the rate has been increasing – from 18% in 2009, steady at 22% in 2010 and 2011, up to 24% in 2012, and leveling at 23% as of 2013. [datacenter] The percentage in 2013 in Congressional District 1 was 36%, in Congressional District 2 – 18%, Congressional District 3 – 13%, and Congressional District 4 – 24%. [datacenter]  The numbers didn’t get any better in 2014.  Nevada’s 23.4% of children living in poverty was higher than the national average 22.6%. [LVRJ]

This has some significant implications for those ‘education reformers’ who are touting accountability in the public schools because the income/achievement gap was grown significantly in the last three decades.  And, this matters because, “By the early part of the 21st century, racial inequality was much lower (although far from eliminated) in terms of wages, health disparities, and residential segregation. Meanwhile, economic inequality reached historic highs (Saez, 2012). Although both remain high, economic inequality now exceeds racial inequality in education outcomes.” [ASCD] (emphasis added)

Wait, there’s more:

“The fact that the income achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten—and does not grow substantially during the school years—suggests that the primary cause of the gap is not unequal school quality. In fact, the data in Figure 2 show that schools may actually narrow academic achievement gaps, rather than widen them. The data show the gap narrowing between the fall and spring of the kindergarten and 1st grade years—periods when students were in school—and widening in the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade—when they were not in school. Although we can’t assume that the same pattern holds in later grades, the ECLS-K data do suggest that schools may reduce inequality rather than widen it.” [ASCD] (emphasis added)

Isn’t it convenient to blame low test scores on ‘failing schools’ without looking at the impact of poverty on the kids who are entering those schools in kindergarten and first grade?  Rather than railing on about ‘failing schools’ and children not reading at grade level, it might be more useful to take a harder look at the conditions from which those children are coming.

There is a “language gap” which has nothing to do with English or Spanish, but with the vocabulary to which youngsters are accustomed in low and high income households.  We have about 50 years worth on research on this topic: [see also: ASCD, NYT, Stanford]

“…five-year-old children of lower socioeconomic status (SES) score two years behind on standardized language development tests by the time they enter school. In fact, a March 2013 study (link is external) by Fernald and colleagues titled, “SES Differences in Language processing Skill and Vocabulary Are Evident at 18 Months,” reported that signs of the vocabulary gap are evident before a child is even two-years-old.”

In short, by lumping all schools in a test-score matrix with bench marks for ‘success’ which don’t factor in poverty, we’re getting only half the picture.  How does one classify a school as failing when a significant number of kids entering it are already two years behind?  Further, if a significant number of kids attending ‘Moose Moon Elementary School’ are already behind before the doors open to them – then perhaps if the kids are reading only 1 level below ‘grade’ in the 3rd grade then we should call that success?

Poverty isn’t only a matter of vocabulary, nutrition plays a role as well.  One study conducted in Canada is instructive:

“These findings demonstrate an independent association between overall diet quality and academic performance among grade 5 students in Nova Scotia, Canada. Dietary adequacy and variety were identified as specific aspects of diet quality important to academic performance, thereby highlighting the value of consuming a diverse selection of foods in order to meet the recommended number of servings from each food group.”

There are all manner of research reports on the relationship between nutrition status and educational achievement.  [USDA, NCBI, GenYouth, NMichU]  However, we also know that, as the headline asserts, “Poverty drains Nutrition from the Family Diet.”  What tends to happen is that carbohydrates (cheap) tend to be a higher portion of the family diet as opposed to fresh fruit and vegetables (more expensive) or proteins in meat and fish.   Makes sense when we figure that Mac/Cheese comes to about 90 cents per box, with about 3 servings per box, that works out to about 30 cents per serving.  Compare that to broccoli at about 63 cents per serving, or fresh spinach at about 52 cents per serving, or even the orange at 34 cents [mdand]  and we can see where this is going.  Then there’s the lard, which can be purchased for about $5.88 for 64 oz.  The commodity markets are showing butter at about $1.61 for 16 oz.  48 oz of cooking oil go for about $2.50.  In sum, if a family is trying to make it on SNAP benefits those dollars and cents will go further on Mac/Cheese than on salmon and broccoli.

It just might be more constructive, in terms of educational achievement, to stop mocking, and rolling back, school lunch nutrition requirements – even if the little darlings aren’t that fond of veggies; and to look at increasing SNAP benefits to families with children so that a few heads of broccoli and more meat and fish proteins were included in the family diet.

It often seems that families in poverty can’t win no matter what they do – Should they try to purchase more books for the kiddies they can be chastised for not spending the money on better food.  If they add a bag of oranges to the grocery trip then they can be taunted for not making the most economical use of their grocery dollars.  Heaven forefend they should add some raw spinach or broccoli to the grocery bag.   I can almost hear it now, “I was at the grocery store and the lady in front of me was buying Kale, KALE! with food stamps!”  No matter that Kale is one of the more nutritious  veggies available.

Sadly, as long as the I Got Mine Now You Try To Get Yours attitude prevails amongst legislators at the state and national level, we’ll have a “language gap” because we’ve not addressed the paucity of time and resources available for lower income working families. How easy it is to ‘save money’ by reducing the hours or staff at the public library!  And, we’ll have achievement gaps because kids are filled (or unfilled) with carbohydrate laden diets because that’s the way to stretch the grocery funds.  Even notions about increasing the minimum wage are met with vehement protests that we are creating a Nation of Takers, and speak to a Living Wage and the air fills with dire warnings of moral hazards.

What IF we tried thinking of children as an investment rather than a line item expense?  What IF we thought of them as assets in need of maintenance and care?  What IF we recognized that their poverty will be a factor in their educational achievement?  What IF we rewarded the schools which helped close the language, achievement, and nutritional gaps in their lives? Children aren’t abstractions, slogans like “freedom” don’t mean much on an empty stomach; they aren’t philosophical constructions, pronouncements on “entitlements” don’t mean much when the parents are working three or four minimum wage jobs to keep up.  We should save the sermons for the pulpits and invest in reducing the number of Nevada children who are falling into language, achievement, and nutritional gaps.  One in four is unacceptable.

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Filed under education, nevada education, Nevada legislature, poverty

Welfare Royalty and Nevada Taxpayers

There’s good economic news for northern Nevada – Tesla’s coming to town.  What might not be so delightful is the $1.25 billion tax deal Nevada gave to the corporation to get the factory. There’s a 20 year sales tax abatement ($725 million), a 10 year property tax abatement ($332 million),  another $120 million in transferable tax credits, $75 million in transferrable job tax credits, $27 million in modified business tax abatement for 10 years, and $8 million in discounted electricity for 8 years.   [RGJ]  A bit of quick calculation shows that if the plant generates 6,500 jobs and the tax abatements and credits cost, say, $1.2 billion, then the price tag for each job was about $184,615.  Granting that these costs are spread over a 10-20 year period, it’s up to the view of the beholder as to whether this is a bargain. What’s not a bargain are the other corporate subsidies Nevada is handing out every day to the New Welfare Queens.

For example, there are 4,281 Wal-Mart stores in the United States,  and the retail giant operates 30 stores, 2 discount stores, 11 neighborhood markets, and 7 Sam’s Club stores in Nevada. Its associates are paid an average of $13.59/hr.  for full time workers.  [WM]  That wage figure yields annual wages of approximately $27,180 per year.  The federal poverty line for a family of four is $23,850.  133% of that number is $31,720, the percentage is important because that’s the eligibility line for adults qualifying for Medicaid. [NVM]  Thus, the average worker with an average sized family is qualified for Medicaid coverage, and Nevada Check Up coverage, in this state.  Our average worker ($13.59) would receive about $2,174 per month, the SNAP gross income eligibility line is $2,498 per month. [NDW]

This doesn’t make Wal-Mart in Nevada unique, in fact as of last November it was reported that Wal-Mart employees made up the single largest block of Medicaid recipients.  [Bloomberg]

This state of affairs doesn’t make Wal-Mart unique among low wage paying employers.  The fast food joints, currently in the news for being the target of employee picketing, aren’t any better.  The median annual wage for a counter attendant at your local burger establishment is $18,930. [DETR] If the Wal-Mart employees are eligible for Medicaid, Check Up, and SNAP benefits, those counter attendants are truly in the eligibility category.  Additionally, let’s get rid of some silly myths about minimum wage jobs in the fast food industry.

The most common myth is that there’s no reason to worry about wages for fast food employees because most of them are teens earning their first paychecks, and working for pocket money.  No.  Half of all fast food workers are over the age of 23, and about 30% of all fast food establishment personnel are between the ages of 16-19. 36.4% are between the ages of 25 and 54.   [CEPR pdf]

The second bit of malarkey coming from the corporate lobbyists is that the picketing for higher wages is just a screen for union organizing.  Indeed, there are some labor union organization efforts going on – and why not? If workers are being paid minimal wages and aren’t seeing any prospects of advancement (only about 2.2% of fast food workers hold managerial positions) then organizing is an obvious option.   It’s an especially appealing option when the corporate financial statements are taken into account.

Your local McDonald’s franchise is part of a corporation with a $91.31 billion market cap, with an enterprise value of $103.09 billion.   It has a 19.48% profit margin, and a 30.12% operating margin.  To date it has reported revenue of $28.30 billion.  The corporation boasts a 35.19% return on equity. [YahFin]  Its top institutional shareholders are Vanguard, State Street, BlackRock ITC, Bank of America, Massachusetts Financial Services, Bank of NY Mellon, FMR LLC, Northern Trust, BlackRock Fund Advisors, and Wellington Management LLP. [YahFin

The point of serving all those burgers – composed of whatever they might be – is to enhance shareholder value.  What would better enhance ‘shareholder value’ than keeping costs as low as possible, including the cost of preparing and serving the Happy Meal?  If the taxpayers are willing to pick up the tab for the  employees’ health care and basic needs for food and shelter, then so much the better for those institutional shareholders who retain some 64.6% of the corporation.

It’s important to differentiate between welfare recipients – people who are trying to clothe, feed, and shelter their families – from the Welfare Queens who are trying to enhance the incomes of their institutional investors and keep those shareholders satisfied, while the taxpayers of the state have to subsidize their employees, provide their streets, roads, communication infrastructure, and their police and fire protection.  Nice deal, if you can get it?

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Filed under Economy, Nevada economy

Nevada Jobs and Corporate Welfare Part 2

NV low income jobs fam 4The list in the chart above shows jobs in Nevada which are projected to have 5,000 or more persons employed as of 2020, and the average wages assuming full time employment at 40 hours per week for 50 weeks per year.   All information comes from Nevada’s DETR.

One other assumption is that the family of four includes a head of household wage earner, and three dependents.  The optimists among us may assume that if there are two wage earners the family will avoid being eligible for SNAP (pdf) and other benefits.  However, this rosy view doesn’t take into consideration the possibility of a single parent family.  Nor, does it assume the “pro-family” ideal of the male head of household being able to support his family on the proceeds of a single job.   In short, of the common jobs available — or projected to be available by 2020, ten of the categories show average wages which are insufficient to keep an average family of two adults and two children above the income level at which they would be eligible for SNAP benefits.

One glance at the chart should demonstrate why there is conversation about increasing the minimum wage to $15.00.  Notice that those occupations in which individuals can earn $15.00 or more per hour don’t fall into the generalized category as eligible for SNAP (food stamp) benefits.

Obviously, there are two ways to cut the SNAP benefit rolls.  The first is simply to slash the funding, raise the requirements, and tell potential and current beneficiaries to wing it as best they can.  Ideologues may cheer the removal of government support which in turn should induce the “Lazy and Shiftless” to take on more work and seek “economic freedom” from “government intrusion.”   However, as evident in the chart, a single income from a low wage job is insufficient to put food on the table for an average family at present.  Two low income jobs (fast food work, stocking shelves, etc.) may serve to maintain minimal living standards — are the Ideologues recommending three or more jobs?  At this point we’re perilously close to Janis Joplin’s rendition of the lyrics “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

The second option is to raise the minimum wage to $15.00.   There’s an economic benefit to this: “Economists generally recognize that low-wage workers are more likely than any other income group to spend any extra earnings immediately on previously unaffordable basic needs or services.” [EPI]

The economics of this are simple — as lower income families spend more for goods and services previously unattainable the DEMAND for those goods and service increases. The greater the aggregate demand, the more hiring to satisfy that demand — remembering the First Rule of Human Resources: The only reason to hire additional personnel is because  staffing is inadequate to satisfy current demand with an acceptable level of customer service.

Even the Chicago Federal Reserve offers modest applause for this thinking: “We are skeptical that minimum wage hikes boost GDP in the long run,” Aaronson and French wrote. “Nevertheless, we do find evidence that putting money into the hands of consumers, especially low-wage consumers, leads to predictable increases in spending in the short run.”  In fact, an increase in the minimum wage to $9.00 was projected to add an overall 0.3% increase in the GDP. [MMA]  In short, we can see some economic growth by raising the minimum wage, or we can continue to offer public assistance to the employees of highly profitable corporations so that their “shareholder value” (bottom lines) are at record levels.

“New research shows more than half of low-wage workers at fast-food restaurants rely on public assistance to survive – a rate double that of the overall workforce. According to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, low wages in the fast-food industry cost American taxpayers nearly $7 billion every year – that’s more than the entire annual budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A companion report by the National Employment Law Project found McDonald’s alone costs Americans $1.2 billion annually by paying its workers insufficient wages. Last year the top 10 largest fast-food companies alone made more than $7.4 billion in profits.”  [DN]

Then there are the landscapers, the stock clerks, the dishwashers, the customer service clerks, the security guards, and the retail sales clerks.  A 2009 ASPE study tells us a bit more about these people.   As of 2001, approximately 58.9% were female, only 17.3% of all low wage workers were under 20 years old, and 64% were White.  Only 14.4% were divorced or separated, 39.1% were married, 46.5% had never married. {Exh.2}

The bottom line concerns the bottom line.  If free market capitalism is the way we are supposed to be conducting business, then public assistance subsidies would be unnecessary IF the private sector paid wages which enabled the generation of sufficient aggregate demand to grow the economy.

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Filed under Economy, Politics

Who Shouldn’t Be Eating?

The right wing is fond of this verse: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”  2 Thessalonians 3:10

So, …..

Congress UnproductivePew Research full article.

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Amodei’s Tour: Questions and Questionable Answers

Amodei 3Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) answered questions from constituents in Winnemucca on a recent tour of the hinterlands [SilverPinyonJ] — sort of. He’s in favor of immigration reform legislation…just not comprehensive immigration reform. He’s afraid the Affordable Care Act will eventually lead to a single payer system of health insurance, “a system lends itself to “political stuff instead of market stuff” as was seen most recently with the debate on food stamps.” [SilverPinyonJ] Whatever “stuff” may mean.  He went on to explain that the recent farm bill, which slashed SNAP funding while maintaining subsidies for corporate farming, was part of “too much absolutism with some members fighting about taxes and some fighting about cuts” — And, where does Representative Amodei stand on this battlefield?  Crickets?

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