November 28, 2008

Thoroughly Debunked ‘Food Stamp Challenge’ Just Won’t Go Away

FoodStampMontageHere we go again.

It has been 19 months since Mona Charen and yours truly obliterated the legitimacy of the basic premise of the “Food Stamp Challenges” that began popping in various parts of the USA last year. The false premise is that the USDA’s calculated benefit for recipients is all they have to buy food.

It has been over a year since Colorado couple Ari and Jennifer Armstrong proved they could live even on the artificially low “Challenge” amount (which at the time was $21 per person per week).

Nonetheless, Maggie Thurber at Thurber’s Thoughts tells us that the bogus “Challenge” is back in Ohio’s Lucas County, home of Toledo.

Maggie notes that this time the “Challengers” are throwing in a new wrinkle (second bold is mine):

The idea is to ‘challenge’ various elected officials and media to live (i.e., buy food — Ed.) on $23 during a one-week period of time. The $23 is the average supplemental support that families on food stamps get – per person.

….. When this bogus challenge was issued last year, bloggers and media rightly debunked it (predominantly bloggers — Ed.), showed it as a lobbying effort disguised as outreach and demonstrated how it was possible to live on this amount, even though no one – repeat NO ONE – has to live on this dollar amount a week when they are on food stamps.

So what’s a group to do in light of these facts? They add a twist. In light of the undeniable facts, they say you can live on this amount of money, but not healthily.

Maggie’s link is to a column by Toledo Blade reporter Kate Giammarise, who chronicled her attempt to buy food on $23 a week. As you will see, that is much lower (43%) than the program’s actual benefit levels for those who have no other resources.

In hopes of feeding the info-undernourished “Challengers” some facts, I’ll add a “twist” to my presentation.

From the USDA’s site, these are the much higher Maximum Monthly Allotments (i.e., benefits) for varying household sizes, effective October 1, 2008, followed on the right by the weekly costs per persons of various ages of what the USDA calls its Thrifty Meal Plan:


How totally unsurprising that the two sets of numbers line up so well, in fact erring a bit on the side of generosity (especially considering economies that can be achieved when buying for multiple household members).

I should also note that the Allotment amounts listed above are an average of 8.5% higher than the previous year. That’s because their increases are pegged to an index that measure inflation in food costs, not overall inflation.

As has been explained frequently, the $23 per person per week the “Challenges” are using is less than the amounts in the Maximum Monthly Allotment table because the program is means tested, as the USDA also clearly states on the page containing the allotments table (bold is mine):

The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household’s allotment. This is because food stamp households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food.

As to nutrition — If you go to the USDA’s “Cost of Food at Home” page and click on the PDF for October, the most recent month available, you’ll see that the table’s first footnote says the following (bold is mine):

The Food Plans represent a nutritious diet at four different cost levels.

What about that sentence is so hard for the “Challengers” to understand?

What I said back in March, with minor updating, still holds:

Those who have a problem with benefit levels need to tell us what, if anything, is wrong with the formulas that reduce Maximum Allotments, and work with federal legislators to change them. But instead of doing that constructive work, politicians and advocates have spent over a year taking part in media-grandstanding “Food Stamp Challenges” and other silly exercises, all based on the bogus assumption, without providing any proof, that the net benefit is “all that participants have for food.” By insisting on (excuse the expression) feeding us this garbage, they’ve squandered their credibility. If they really believe that Food Stamp recipients are being shortchanged, they have, by posturing on a false premise, helped to perpetuate that situation, and have done nothing to alleviate it.

I’ve just set up “Food Stamp Challenge” as a Google News Alert.  Despite the thorough debunking, it’s obvious that new “Challenges” are going to continue to periodically pop up, annoy, and deceive. It’s also obvious that many media members will continue to swallow their disinformation.

Cross-posted at

Pelosi-Obama-Reid Accountability for the Economy Goes Back to June 1

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:35 am

Note: This article originally appeared at Pajamas Media on Wednesday under the title “Obama Has Already Helped Wreck the Economy.”

After an awful week in the stock market, Team Obama sent its acolytes out to the Sunday morning shows to let everyone know that the president-elect’s campaign promise to impose tax increases on higher-income earners as quickly as possible probably won’t kick in until at least 2011.

By doing so, Obama and his inner circle finally, if only tacitly, acknowledged what they refused to recognize during the presidential campaign, namely that economic expectations matter in the here and now.

This opens the door to the incoming administration’s next required admission — that their candidate, their party, and the expectations they created during the presidential campaign, have been mostly responsible for the steep dive in the equity markets, and, nearly six months ago, put the economy into what will probably officially be declared a recession after this year’s fourth quarter. Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid did this in the areas of energy, taxation, and, with heavy assistance from Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, bailouts. With the exception of forcing, with the help of public opinion, a temporary lifting of the Outer Continental Shelf offshore drilling ban, there is little George Bush or the Republican minorities in Congress have been able to do to stop them, or to manage expectations.

The recession, once it becomes official, will thus richly deserve designation as the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Recession. Further, Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s performance on the economy must be benchmarked from June 1, 2008 — not Election Day; not Inauguration Day; and not, as traditionally has been the case, from October 1 of the new President’s first year in office.

Evidence of the POR Triumvirate’s virtually unilateral damage to the economy began appearing as early as the fourth quarter of 2007, the first quarter of negative growth in six years . The POR Recession itself began in June. The historically steep downward revision in second-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth from an annualized 3.3% to 2.8% in the government’s final September announcement was more than likely due to deterioration that occurred in the final month of the quarter.

It’s not at all a coincidence that June was the month in which it became crystal clear that despite sky-high oil prices, Pelosi, Obama, and Reid were hostile to the idea of drilling for more oil — offshore or anywhere else. Pelosi insisted that “We can’t drill our way out of our problems.” In the Speaker’s world, this means that you don’t drill at all. Reid declared that we have to stop using oil and coal because “it’s making us sick .” Obama seemed pleased that gas prices were so high, saying only that “I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment ” instead of the sharp spike. What a guy.

As would be expected, the country’s businesses, investors, and consumers, never having witnessed a political party dedicate itself so completely to starving its own national economy, reacted very negatively to all of this. I said at the time that “Businesses and investors are responding to their total lack of seriousness by battening down the hatches and preparing for the worst.” Subsequent events have validated that observation.

Even as fuel prices have plummeted, the siege mentality in America remains. That’s because, until Sunday’s minor bow to deferring them, the POR Economy’s architects seemed determined to ram massive Social Security and other tax hikes down the throats of the most productive 5% of Americans in the name of creating handouts (oh, I’m sorry, “refundable tax credits”) for millions of others. Americans know that you don’t increase taxes on anyone in a slowing economy, unless your goal is to slow it down even more. Until Sunday, that seemed to be what Pelosi, Obama, and Reid intended. But deferral is totally inadequate, both short-term and long-term. Instead of putting off tax hikes until the economy can supposedly “afford” them, what we need right here, right now, is another across-the-board tax cut. This would quickly free up money for capital investment, and lead to stronger growth when recovery comes.

The cascade of bailouts finished the job of establishing recessionary conditions. These too can be laid at the feet of Pelosi, Obama, Reid, and Democrats in previous Congresses. The summer implosions at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — enterprises that were run into the ground by Democratic cronies who established irresponsibly lax lending rules that ultimately ruined the mortgage marketplace — exacerbated financial-sector problems elsewhere, and led to the SUCKUP (Seemingly Unlimited Cash Kitty Under Paulson) in late September.

Other POR Economy agenda items loom ominously in the background: “windfall” profits taxes on energy producers, unionization of the unwilling through secret ballot-ending “card check” legislation, and a plethora of economy-choking environmental initiatives, to name just a few.

Collectively, these factors have weighed down the economy for nearly half a year. In recognition of when they began doing what they have done, Team Obama’s and the POR Economy’s performance must therefore be benchmarked against where things stood on June 1, 2008, as follows:

  • Inflation (June 2007 through May 2008) — 4.2%.
  • Unemployment — 5.5% (as of the May report ; currently 6.5% ).
  • Prime Rate — 5.0%.
  • DJIA — 12638 (down 36% as of the November 21 close).
  • S&P 500 — 1400 (down 43% as of that same close).
  • NASDAQ — 2523 (down 49%).
  • Quarterly GDP growth before the June-related adjustment — 3.3%.

Positivity: Student, 88, wins Berlin doctorate denied for 65 years

Filed under: Education,Positivity — Tom @ 7:04 am

From Berlin:

Dimitri Stein submitted his thesis on electrical engineering in 1943 but university officials refused to grant him an examination because of his Jewish ancestry.

Berlin — Berlin Technical University has awarded a doctorate to an 88-year-old man whose studies were obstructed by the Nazis, according to the weekly newspaper Die Zeit.

Dimitri Stein submitted his thesis on electrical engineering in 1943 but university authorities refused him an oral examination because he had Jewish ancestry.

His professor arranged a hiding place for him and he survived the Second World War, emigrating to the United States where he worked as an academic and engineer and went into business.

Stein said he asked in the 1950s if could be examined but received a rude rejection. When he asked again in 2006, professors were embarrassed and set to work to right the old wrong before it was too late. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.