Economy · Nutrition

First Grader Was Told ‘Guess What, You Can’t Have Lunch’ Because His Family Was In Debt

Xavier, the first grader who was denied a lunch | CREDIT: Q13 FOX NEWS

Think Progress

First grader Xavier says that when the lunch lady at his Snohomish County School District school was recently handing out bagged lunches to all the students, she told him, “Guess what, you can’t have a lunch.”

His father says Xavier is on the school lunch program, but he was sent home without eating and with a slip saying he had a negative lunch balance.

A school spokesperson told Q13 Fox News that if a student’s account goes $20 or more into the red, he should still get a cheese sandwich, a drink, and unlimited fruits and vegetables. But Xavier says he didn’t get anything to eat, and his father argues that this shouldn’t apply to his son anyway since he gets federally funded lunches. “My question was never answered as to why he was denied,” he said.

“It happened to me as a child and I can still feel that hurt and I can only imagine what he went through,” Xavier’s dad said. “It made me feel really bad for him. That’s not right. That’s like saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have your book bag so you can’t have your education.’ You can’t do that. Feed them. They need to eat. They need to concentrate. They can’t concentrate without eating. I just don’t want this to happen to any other kid. It’s hurtful.”

But these kinds of incidents are not uncommon. A school in Utah threw out about 40 elementary students’ lunches because their parents were behind on payments. A school in Texas threw out a student’s breakfast because his account was 30 cents short. Those who get free lunches have also been humiliated, as students in a Colorado school who had their hands stamped in front of better off classmates. A Congressman even floated the idea that students who get free meals should be made to earn them by sweeping school floors.

Some school districts are taking a different approach that could do away with hunger problems, public shaming, and fights over account balances altogether. They’re participating in a federal program that allows them to give all students in the district free breakfast and lunch, regardless of income. So far districts in Boston, Chicago, Dallas,Indianapolis, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina have signed up, and New York City has explored the idea. The change reduces paperwork for parents and for schools, which reduces costs, while it also helps parents who had originally fallen just outside income eligibility limits.

It also addresses the hunger crisis in America’s schools. Three-quarters of the country’s teachers say they have students regularly showing up to class hungry. More than one in five children live in a food insecure household. Hunger has a particular impact on the young, as it can hamper their cognitive and social development and puts them at greater risk of mental illness. If more students got free breakfast, it would mean a significant boost to test scores and graduation rates and a drop in absences.

In districts that haven’t enrolled in the federal meals program, however, some private citizens have stepped in. A man in Texas paid off students’ balances so they could keep eating full meals. A first grade teacher in New Mexico started a program to send students home with backpacks full of food.

Economy · President Obama

Obama Makes His Pitch for the Middle Class

From what I caught of the speech, it was pretty good…

Atlantic Wire

This afternoon, President Obama gave a speech on the middle class and the economy from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He outlined six cornerstones of bolstering the middle class — and insisted Congress wouldn’t stand in his way. You can read the whole speech here.

As expected, the speech focused on the middle class. The president noted the traditional role it has played in economic growth and how economic growth during the past decade has primarily benefited the most wealthy Americans. In order to reverse that, the cornerstones: job growth in expanding industries, affordable education, home ownership, secure retirement, healthcare reform, and community — in that order.

In the words of the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, it was “a lot of hype for very little policy.” Most of the cornerstones weren’t accompanied with policy proposals. Perhaps because of the other focus of the speech: how Obama could get anything done without going through a hostile Congress. He called Republicans out for failing to offer ideas. He called them out for their Obamacare repeal votes. He called them out for failing to advance immigration reform. The president didn’t deviate much from his script, but when he did it was usually to bash his opponents.

At the end of the speech, Obama declared that improving the middle class was his top priority for “every minute of the 1,276 days remaining in my term.” And then he bashed Congress again.

Continue here to read the “Live Updates” as they happened..

Dodd-Frank · Economy

Journalist explains how utter lack of expertise in Congress is ruining America

Robert Kaiser

I’ve wondered how so many politicians could be as uninformed in just a general knowledge of high-school civics and economics.

The Raw Story

For his new book, journalist Robert Kaiser intensely researched the political maneuvering surrounding the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. His conclusion? Most members of Congress don’t understand what they’re arguing about.

Speaking on PBS, Kaiser said Wall Street reform only occurred in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse thanks to the unique talents of former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

Unlike the rest of Congress, Frank and Dodds had an actual grasp on the financial situation and understood the need to act. Frank provided the brainpower, while Dodds’ political skill was necessary for financial reform to pass.

“But it was upsetting to me as a citizen to realize how few members understood the issues they were dealing with,” Kaiser remarked. “These are, of course, extremely complicated financial matters, how banks work, how they’re regulated, so on.”

“Not everybody can know this, but at the end, I concluded that you could fit the number of experts in Congress on financial issues easily onto the roster of a Major League Baseball team,” he added. “That’s 25 people. I think that is the max.”

Kaiser also said the lack of expertise was resulting in a deadlocked Congress. Rather than trying to craft meaningful legislation to aid the country, most lawmakers were more interested in scoring partisan political points.

“You don’t really engage on issues in this Congress,” he explained. “What you engage in is political warfare, partisan bashing, one or the other. And the result is that serious policy issues, as we have seen again and again, get very short shrift.”

Watch video, courtesy of PBS, below:


Economic Inequality · Economy

Would A $15 Minimum Wage Work?

Jobs Cityscape   -

Seems there’s no real concern for “the people”…just “the corporations”.  Ask the SCOTUS Justices who voted to allow Citizens United.

Mario Piperni

Diana McGinness believes so.

“Cut, cut, cut entitlements!”

“Reduce the debt!”  We need to broaden the base (i.e more taxes on the 47%)!

“Reduce the size of government!”

Turn on any cable news network and that’s all you’ll hear.

And the only answers the politicians have are:  raise more taxes and/or cut entitlements (not defense, of course) or both.

We hear the GOP wants to cut food stamps and other programs that help the poor.  That something must be done with SS and Medicare because they’re going broke and Medicaid needs to be cut back, too, because we just don’t have the money.  And the Democrats refuse to let these programs take a hit.

People are tired of paying taxes to help the “lazy 47% who don’t pay taxes, is the complaint.

The economy is too sluggish, it’s not growing!

So we’re in gridlock as usual with no answers that either side is willing to accept.

Is there an alternative?  Maybe.

What if we could add  $169,260,000,000 to the economy?

Add $25,389,000,000 to the treasury each year in the form of taxes (without increasing anyone’s taxes.  Over 10 years, that’s $2.5 trillion add to the Treasury that could be earmarked to reduce the debt/deficit.

Reduce the costs of programs providing food stamps, housing vouchers, and the big one – Medicaid?

Collect $10,494.120,000 more annually in FICA premiums to shore up Social Security and Medicare.  That’s over $1 trillion in 10 years, that would surely strengthen each of these programs for the coming years without making major changes in the program.

How, you ask?

Increase the minimum wage to $15.00.

Using 2010 numbers, the poverty level for 1 person under 65 was $11,344.  That’s someone making $218.15 per week, or $5.45 an hour.  The working poor receive assistance in the form of housing vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid and pay little, if anything in the form of federal taxes.

Using the federal minimum wage in 2010 of $7.25 and the then number of working people making poverty level or less in wages of 10,500,000 you can extrapolate those numbers as follows:

10,500,000 x $7.25 per hour for 40 hours @ 52 weeks = $158,340,000,000 in wages annually. FICA at 6.2% for these workers would contribute $9,817.080.000 to SS/Medicare. Of course, some of these are part-time jobs, so this is merely an example.  But for every person who can be removed from government assistance, that’s less tax dollars needed to support them.

And if you think a person flipping burgers doesn’t deserve $15 per hour, consider how much of your tax dollars are going to subsidize their wages so they can be paid $7.25 to flip those burgers.  One way or the other, the consumer/tax payer is paying a considerable amount to get that burger flipped.

Now change the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour and extrapolate the numbers:

10,500,000 x 15.00 per hour 40 hours @ 52 weeks = $327,600,000,000 in wages annually.  FICA would be a contribution of an additional $10,494,120,000.  Over 10 years that would be over $1.4 Trillion dollars.

With a 15% tax rate, those wages would contribute $25,389,000,000 annually in revenue to the Treasury and could be targeted to directly reduce the debt.  Over 10 years that would be a $2.5 Trillion deduction, in addition to the reduced expenditures for food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid.

Add an additional $169,260,000,000 increased purchasing power to the economy.

Increasing the minimum wage would also add to the treasuries of states in the form of sales tax, income tax, among other taxes these dollars would generate.

A two-person working household could generate $30 per hour providing them income to save and possibly purchase a home.

The counter-argument will be that increasing the minimum wage will reduce jobs.  There are many studies that disprove that argument. There are several papers (links here) that refute that argument.

The other counter- argument will be that the cost of everything will go up and the jobs will move overseas.

First, these are service industry jobs…now 7 out of 10 in the U.S.  – it’s going to be hard to ship them overseas.  Are you going to order your burger from the McDonald’s in China and have it flown over to the pick up window?  I think not.  Nor is the Wal-Mart worker going to be shipped over there either so you can restock the shelves yourself.

As for the cost…two things to consider.  Are you going to pay $15-30 for a McDonald’s Big-Mac?  I think not.

Prices are determined based on the floor (the lowest price a seller can sell a product for) and the ceiling (the highest amount a consumer is willing to pay), and on competitor pricing.

And while the prices may go up — if the consumer is willing to pay and competitors are not competing — the consumer/taxpayer is already paying.  If the end game allows your taxes to be reduced and you, the consumer, have the freedom to choose where you will make your purchases — based on competitive prices and your willingness to pay and the fact that you have more money to spend then haven’t we all won?

When you look at the trillions of dollars that are currently not being invested in our economy via our workers, but are sitting on the shelf waiting to invest…the only question I have is is – who better to invest in than the workers and our economy?

An interesting idea but my concerns would be the impact a $15 minimum wage would have on American competitiveness in global markets. Diana addresses this point.

Yes, that is an argument for manufacturing jobs – but most of those are gone already – some are coming back because, in part, the Chinese are demanding higher wages.

But the service industry jobs are what I’m referring to – they can’t take those overseas.  And with so many of our jobs now in that category (7 out of 10) and these being the lowest paying jobs out there, it’s a place to begin.

Your thoughts?


10 things you need to know today: October 10, 2012

The Week

Romney says he won’t pursue abortion laws, Toyota recalls 7 million cars, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

POSTED ON OCTOBER 10, 2012, AT 8:13 AM


Toyota has recalled more than 7 million cars because of malfunctioning power window switches that could cause fire.  Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images


Mitt Romney said Tuesday that he would not pursue any abortion-related legislation if he were elected president. “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda” ,  he told the The Des Moines Register. Romney did say, however, that he’d reinstate a policy banning nongovernmental organizations from using federal money to pay for abortions. Romney’s campaign team immediately sought to downplay the remarks. “Gov. Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life,” said spokeswoman Andrea Saul. [Associated Press]

Toyota Motor Corp. announced a massive recall of more than 7 million cars on Wednesday due to malfunctioning power window switches that could pose a fire risk. The recall affects nearly 2.5 million vehicles in the U.S. The recall is on a variety of models over multiple years, including the Yaris, Corolla, and Camry. No accidents, injuries, or deaths have been reported, and the windows can be fixed in about 40 minutes, said the Japanese company. [Reuters]

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been sentenced to 30 to 60 years behind bars for the serial molestation of young boys. Judge John M. Cleland said the punishment guarantees Sandusky, 68, will be in prison for the rest of his life. The disgraced coach gave a rambling speech declaring his innocence. “We’re in the fourth quarter,” he said. “In the fourth quarter, you find out who will stand by you. For those standing up for me, we will continue to fight.” [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Four more deaths are being attributed to an outbreak of meningitis linked to contaminated steroid shots, bringing the number killed in the U.S. to 12. Lawmakers are calling for stricter regulation of pharmaceutical companies. The number of those infected has climbed to 121, and health officials say as many as 13,000 received the tainted injections. The Massachusetts company that produced the steroid has closed voluntarily and has recalled its product. [Reuters]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, hoping to take advantage of high favorability ratings, announced that he would hold elections in early 2013 instead of October of next year. Netanyahu argued that an early vote was necessary because his coalition government cannot pass a national budget. “It is impossible to pass a responsible budget,” Netanyahu said. “Facing two upheavals around us, economic and security, it is my obligation to put the national interest above all else. Therefore, I have decided that the good of the state of Israel requires holding elections now.” [Wall Street Journal]

Americans Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka won the 2012 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work showing how body cells respond to stimuli. Their work has helped the development of more effective drugs, said the prize committee on Wednesday. [Reuters]

A 14-year-old girl in Pakistan who blogged about life under the Taliban and the need for girls’ education was shot by gunmen as she was coming home from school. The extremist group took responsibility for the attack  that left Malala Yousafzai wounded in the head and neck. A Taliban spokesman declared, “This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter.” Pakistani lawmakers have condemned the attack. [Associated Press]

The fastest growing religious group in America is actually those with no religion at all, according to a new Pew survey. Approximately one in five people said they are not affiliated with any religion, up 25 percent from five years ago. Thirty-three million Americans say they aren’t religious, with 13 million in that group identifying themselves as atheist or agnostic. [CNN]

One member of the activist punk band Pussy Riot was freed from prison on Wednesday after the three jailed members asked a Moscow court to overturn their two-year sentence for protesting against President Vladimir Putin. The court left the sentences in place for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, and issued a suspended sentence  for Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30. The trio argued their performance outside a cathedral was a criticism of politics, not religion. [Associated Press,Reuters]


Sarah Palin writing a book about getting fit? You betcha. The former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate told Peoplem agazine that she and her family want to educate America about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “Our family is writing a book on fitness and self-discipline focusing on where we get our energy and balance as we still eat our beloved homemade comfort foods!” she said, adding, “We promise you what we do works.” [People]


40 Economists Say The GOP Has Abandoned Economic Reality

This is serious and the delusional, dim-witted GOP in Congress think it’s a joke…all in the name of bringing the POTUS down.  They look more like idiots than statesmen.

Think Progress

survey of forty economists from across the ideological and partisan spectrum has concluded that on some of its most cherished issues, the Republican Party has simply taken leave of economic reality. For instance, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers noted that one of the results from the survey — run by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which is hardly known for a left-wing slant — is an overwhelming agreement that the 2009 Recovery Act (i.e. the stimulus) brought down unemployment. But GOP leaders have spent years roundly denouncing the stimulus as a failure:

And while there was a bit more disagreement as to whether the benefits of the stimulus bill outweighed its costs, the bulk of the economists surveyed came down in the “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” camps. Other points from the survey’s respondents worth noting:

The nation needs new revenues. Contrary to nearly every Republican, the economists overwhelmingly agreed that the federal budget deficit cannot and should not be closed without increased tax revenue.

No gold standard. They roundly rejected the belief that a return to the gold standard would stabilize prices or lower unemployment. Enthusiasm for the gold standard made a significant comeback in Republican circles during the presidential primaries.

The “Laffer Curve” won’t help. Virtually all of them rejected the notion that cutting income tax rates would actually increase total tax revenue in future years.

Rethink the drug war. The respondents were also generally in favor of softer approaches to the nation’s drug problem.

While there were a few survey results that could be interpreted as hard on progressive causes as well, none struck at their heart in the same way as the positions taken on core Republican beliefs.

Economy · Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman: We’re In Big Trouble If Romney Elected

I believe that Nobel Prize winner for economics, Paul Krugman has been right since the beginning of the Obama administration regarding this country’s path toward economic recovery.

At that time, Krugman warned Obama in an editorial, that his stimulus was too small and would only slow down the country’s economic comeback.  As it turned out, he was right and he’s right about the country being in trouble if Romney is elected.

The Huffington Post

If Mitt Romney is elected president, the U.S. will experience an economic disaster the likes of which have been recently seen in Ireland, according to Paul Krugman.

“Ireland is Romney economics in practice,” the Nobel-Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist said on the Colbert Report on Monday. “I think Ireland is America’s future if Romney is president.” (h/t Politico.)

“They’ve laid off a large fraction of their public workforce, they’ve slashed spending, they’ve had extreme austerity programs, they haven’t really raised taxes on corporations or the rich at all, they have 14 percent unemployment, 30 percent youth unemployment, zero economic growth,” Krugman said.

Romney, the likely Republican nominee for president, recently suggested that the government should lay off more firemen, policemen, and teachers, according to CNN.Romney’s campaign website says that if elected president, Romney would aim to slash federal spending at least 18 percent by the end of his first term.

Conservatives like Romney loved Ireland’s economic program before the country fell into a depression, in part because it had “the lowest corporate tax rates,” Krugman said on the Colbert ReportIreland fell into recession again at the end of last year.

After Krugman finished his criticism of Romney’s economic plan, there was a pause as Colbert tried to think of a good retort. “Well the Irish can handle it, OK? The Irish do very well in bleak, depressing times,” Colbert said. “They’ve got those jigs and everything that they do.”


Indiana Senate Candidate: Obama Deserves All Blame For Bad Economy, No Credit For Its Improvement

I have to ask, is there an extra chromosome that conservatives have?  I mean honestly, is there a “stupid” gene that they possess  in which we progressives are thankfully, not privy to?

Think Progress

Since President Obama took office in January 2009, Republicans have been quick to heap blame on him for every bit of poor economic news, no matter how large or small. In recent months, however, with jobs numbers improving and signs that the economy is rebounding becoming more evident, the same Republicans haven’t been as quick to praise the president.

Richard Mourdock, the insurgent Republican Senate candidate in Indiana who is locking in a primary contest against Sen. Richard Lugar (R), took a similar tack this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, telling ThinkProgress that while Obama’s policies were responsible for making the economy worse early in his term, the recent improvement has occurred in spite of Obama’s policies:

KEYES: If the economy does continue to improve over the next few months, is that something you’d be willing to give President Obama credit for, or not?

MOURDOCK: The American economy is incredibly resilient because Americans are incredibly resilient. It won’t be because of President Obama when we see recovery, it will be in spite of President Obama. He wants to add more and more layers of government, more and more government sector unions. Those are killing our economy. And while it’s possible we might see some recovery, it would be doing a whole lot more if we were rolling back the size of government.

The Mourdock stance is common in the GOP — presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a similar view following the January jobs report, as did House Speaker John Boehner.

The facts, however, tell a different story. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, despite Republican claims, has been a success, and since its implementation, the economy has added jobs for 23 consecutive months. The auto bailout, another favorite Republican target, hasalso worked, saving thousands of jobs and returning American automakers to profitability for the first time in a decade.

If anything, the economy is improving in spite of the best efforts of the Republicans Mourdock is trying to join in Congress. Republicans have targeted positive economic programs that benefit the less fortunate — like food stamps and unemployment insurance — for spending cuts, all while blocking other Obama proposals — like the American Jobs Act — that experts say would have had a positive effect on the nation’s economic recovery.

Economy · GOP Dirty Tricks · Tea Party

Mission accomplished: Tea party Republicans took the economy hostage and killed job growth

Mission accomplished, indeed.  Now it’s up to Obama and his economic team to wrestle us out of this mess in the next 12 months.

Daily Kos

It may have taken a few months for Republican economic policies to take effect, but when they finally did, SPLAT:

Jobs Growth

Thousands of jobs created per month in 2011 (data source)

Gee, it feels like Bush all over again. Thanks for nothing, tea party!

Update: I added timeline labels to the chart. You can see the original chart here

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