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snapjpgA House Agricultural Committee bill would make the poor subsidize the wealthy by reducing food assistance. (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture)


It is hard to imagine anything more perniciously cynical than cutting vital food assistance to the poor to pay for tax cuts to the wealthy, but this is the age of merciless plutocracy. Indeed, the House Agricultural Committee is considering draconian new work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).

As a recent Newsweek article noted, "SNAP is the sole food source for 8.5 million American families -- and roughly 41 million people in America, up 5 million from 2008, who are considered 'food insecure' because they lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food."

Eligibility.com reports on the financial thresholds for SNAP:

The maximum gross monthly income is 130 percent of the federal poverty level, and the maximum net monthly income is 100 percent of the federal poverty level. For instance, if your household only consists of one person, then the gross monthly income to be eligible for SNAP is $1,287 (net $990). For two people, gross is $1,726, net is $1,335. The net income is determined by subtracting all acceptable deductions from your gross income.

The federal poverty line is $1702 for the purpose of calculating eligibility for SNAP benefits in 2018. It is estimated that SNAP covers approximately $1.50 per person per meal.

Clearly, SNAP offers nutritional support to those in extreme need. However, in its war on the poor, the Republicans in the House of Representatives are aiming to place onerous work requirements on SNAP recipients.



JESSE MECHANIC FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT mechanic 5 15 18Last week, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was asked if he supported a new Department of Homeland Security policy that directs every person caught crossing the border illegally to be federally prosecuted. DonkeyHotey

During an interview with NPR on May 10, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was asked if he supported a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy that directs every person caught crossing the border illegally to be federally prosecuted. The change will result in far more children in detention centers, far more charges for asylum-seekers and thus, far more separated families.

The former DHS secretary said policies like this one are the "name of the game to a large degree."

Kelly continued,

Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They're not criminals. They're not MS-13. Some of them are not. But they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society. They're overwhelmingly rural people in the countries they come from -- fourth, fifth, sixth grade educations are kind of the norm. They don't speak English, obviously that's a big thing. They don't speak English. They don't integrate well, they don't have skills. They're not bad people. They're coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. But a big name of the game is deterrence.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018 06:32

Ollie North: A Gunrunner Heads the NRA


BILL BERKOWTZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   berkowitz 5 15 18 jpgOliver North speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C. Gage Skidmore
Lt. Colonel Oliver North, USMC (Ret.) was the military uniform wearing, dashing young lion defending the Reagan administration during congressional hearings on the Iran/Contra scandal in the summer of 1987, perhaps the most television worthy congressional hearing since John Dean had testified in the Watergate hearings years before. Now, North, is taking on a different role, tapped to be president of the National Rifle Association.
North, once one of America’s most infamous gun runners, had significant involvement in illicit arms deals and connections with brutal Latin American dictators, raised millions for a failed run for the Senate, held forth on Fox News for several years, and has a long anti-LGBT record – likening same-sex marriage opponents to anti0-slavery activists -- is going after the Parkland, Florida kids for advocating stricter gun control laws. 


devosfraudjpgSecretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to enable for-profit colleges. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is bareling ahead to cater to for-profit education. She has already exhibited her zeal for education that is run by companies, particularly championing charter schools. Donald Trump in large part chose her, it appears, because of her advocacy of charter schools in her home state of Michigan. However, DeVos is not just an advocate of privatizing primary and secondary public schools, she is also a shill and enabler of for-profit colleges.

Consider, for instance, her enthusiasm for diluting the gainful employment rule promulgated under the Obama administration. The rule was created to force for-profit colleges to be more transparent in disclosing how many of their graduates actually obtained decent-paying jobs. It also limited the student debt ratio of corporate education; otherwise, the companies would be at risk of losing some of their federal loans. DeVos chose to lessen the requirements on for-profit colleges in order to put fewer at risk of non-compliance.

Recently, DeVos also came to the aid of for-profit higher education schools by, in essence, dissolving the Department of Education's (DOE) anti-fraud efforts in regards to for-profit colleges. This will enable these entities to more easily financially take advantage of students. The DOE anti-fraud team had already been reduced to just three staffers under DeVos, and now it is slated for extinction.


Seattle 0514wrp optSeattle skyline. (Photo: Cris Pierry / Flickr)Seattle's socialist city council member Kshama Sawant is leading a local campaign to impose a tax on large corporations that do business in the city. The Employee Hours Tax would be levied against all businesses with an annual revenue of $20 million or more and would be based on the number of hours worked by their employees. This effort is designed to raise $150 million for the construction of affordable housing.

The Seattle City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal May 14.

Recently, both King County and the city of Seattle have declared states of civil emergency due to a massive increase in homelessness. At least 11,643 residents of the county currently have no access to permanent housing. According to the latest one night count, 4,000 people were found sleeping outdoors in Seattle.

The region's homeless population is the third-largest in the US. Only New York City and Los Angeles have more residents without permanent shelter.


Lunch0514wrp opt(Photo: US Department of Agriculture / Flickr)He seems to stand out as the one beloved billionaire among us, a man who admitted he doesn't need a tax cut and promised much of his fortune to charity.

But Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn't paid much in real taxes over the years, choosing to defer $77 billion through the end of 2016. And now the company has taken advantage of the Trump tax law to claim a $23 billion 2017 federal tax benefit, ironically the same amount as the cost of the Child Nutrition Programs, which provide school lunches and other nutritional needs for millions of America's children.

Paying Hypothetical Taxes until the Tax Bill Expires

Berkshire Hathaway has declared nearly $200 billion in U.S. income over the past ten years, but including the 2017 writeoff has paid only $16 billion in current (non-deferred) taxes. The company's annual tax obligation has been announced to shareholders as satisfied by a "hypothetical" tax payment. Now, suddenly, with Trump's corporate tax break, $23 billion of its deferred tax liability just fades away, never to be paid, never to be used for the vital public services that are dependent on tax revenue.


Iran 0511wrp opt(Photo: Beshef / Flickr)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has undoubtedly been sipping champagne these days in celebration of his successful effort to lobby Donald Trump over the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu's crude interventions to change US policy had been rebuffed by President Obama, but in Trump Netanyahu found a similarly singleminded partner who cannot see the long-term security problems that rejecting the nuclear deal will surely bring. Netanyahu praised Trump's decision by saying that "the deal actually paves Iran's path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years' time." But he has yet to say—and cannot say—how US withdrawal will change that assessment.

Trump's rejection of the nuclear deal actually may turn out to be a serious blow to the security of Israel and the entire Middle East.  First, by further embittering Iran's relations with the US and Israel, Trump's decision makes a military confrontation more likely than ever, whether or not Iran proceeds to reactivate its nuclear-weapon program.  Iran might retaliate for Israeli air attacks inside Syria or for Mossad's intelligence missions inside Iran—such as the one that seized documents on Iran's past nuclear program and was used by Netanyahu (and Trump) to make the case for Iran's untrustworthiness.  Netanyahu might now believe he has US backing to attack an Iranian nuclear site—an objective he has sought for some time and which now, at a time when his administration is wracked by a corruption scandal, he might find timely to carry out.

Second, if Iran's supreme leader does decide to restart a nuclear-weapon program, it not only would give Washington and Tel Aviv the excuse they need to attack Iran. Saudi Arabia would also be tempted to intervene on their side—and build its own nuclear weapon in the process, as its foreign minister said on CNN (May 9).  The minister blamed Iran for all the troubles in the region and claimed to have the backing of the other Arab countries.  Thus, we could wind up with a "Sunni bomb" to rival Iran's and Israel's bombs. And there's no evidence that the Trump administration would stand in the way of Saudi Arabia's going nuclear.

Thursday, 10 May 2018 07:08

Gina Haspel and the Perils of Torture

ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT  koehler 5 10 18As Gina Haspel -- "Bloody Gina" -- Donald Trump's nominee to head the CIA, begins her congressional hearing, let awareness of the wrong of torture seize the powerful. Donkey Hotey 

". . . may all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans."

These words freaked out Paul Ryan enough that he tried to get rid of Father Pat Conroy, the House chaplain who uttered this prayer back in November, when the debate on the massive overhaul of the tax system was going on.

What stunned me about this relatively small national controversy wasn't so much the fact that Ryan's action blew up in his face and he wound up having to "unfire" Father Conroy, but the fact that the prayer got to him in the first place -- that he noticed it and had to defend himself (and his ideology) against it.


Thursday, 10 May 2018 06:44

Trump's Newest War on the Poor

JIM HIGHTOWER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT   hightower 5 10 18Trump is launching a war on the poor. Gage Skidmore 

Get ready, America -- here we go... to war! This kind of war is an affront to the values that most of us hold dear, and this war is truly nasty and evil: A war on the poor.

Generalissimo Trump (whose nom de guerre is "El Donaldo," the mucho macho presidente of the USA) is personally directing the hostilities in this assault on -- surprise! -- the U.S. Well, obviously not every American. He's specifically mounting a war on our country's poor people, though he euphemistically calls it a war of liberation. The purpose, he says, is to "free" poor families from food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance and America's other programs that alleviate poverty.

"Welfare," he snarls, as he and his militant lieutenants conduct ruthless slash-and-burn forays to defund and destroy such benefits. Their rationale is that eliminating anti-poverty assistance will not only save billions of tax dollars and reduce the federal budget deficit, but it'll also provide a morally beneficial incentive for poor people to get jobs and work their way up to prosperity. Like El Donaldo and his billionaire buddies did.



Pipe 0509wrp opt(Photo: ilouque / Flickr)A Louisiana judge recently ruled that the state regulators violated guidelines when it issued Energy Transfer Partners' controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline a coastal use permit.

The permit was issued for the last 18-mile stretch of the fracked oil pipeline that would have run through the riverside town of St. James Parish, where dozens of refineries and industrial facilities are already fueling a public health crisis in the mostly African-American community.

The proposed 162-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline would connect the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico.

As noted by the Bridge the Gulf Project, the judge ruled that the permit granted by the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was illegal because it did not take into consideration the impacts the project would have on the town.

In his April 30 decision, made public on Monday, 23rd Judicial District Court Judge Alvin Turner Jr. held, "Once constructed, this pipeline has the potential to impact some of Louisiana's most coveted and ecologically sensitive areas such as the Atchafalaya Basin, as well as other wetlands through Louisiana."

He also wrote, "the permit application does not include an emergency response plan nor does it address potential spills that may occur after construction once the pipeline is operational."

Among other decisions, the court ordered DNR to require the pipeline builders "to develop effective environmental protection and emergency or contingency plans relative to evacuations in the event of a spill or other disaster."

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