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After SNAP Cuts, More New York City Residents Appearing at Emergency Food Programs

2:01 pm in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

There was an increase of people at emergency food programs in New York City due to the Nov. 1 Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program cuts, according to a latest research brief from the Food Bank of New York City.

There is a need, a real need.

As the brief mentions, this took place as the number of soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City fell by 25 percent under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg during 2007 to 2012. Meanwhile, Congress decided to let five billion dollars in SNAP benefits expire, which were extended under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, expire on Nov. 1, leaving the 47 million Americans relying on SNAP $121 (for a household of one) to $396 (for a household of four) short.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3,185,000 New Yorkers in Fiscal Year 2014 were on SNAP benefits.  Additionally, the state is expected to lose $332 million as a result of SNAP cuts from Nov. 2013 to Sept. 2014. According to Food Bank, out of the more than 8.3 million New York City residents, nearly one in five rely on the program.

The findings of the brief have been shocking and indicate there are major problems still occurring in New York City as nearly one-third of civilians “struggle to afford food.” Three-fourths of food pantries and soup kitchens reported an increase in visitors in Nov. 2013 compared to the previous two months. Just 16 percent of those interviewed stated they had more than 50 percent in visitor traffic than before.

Even worse, compared to Nov. 2012, 85 percent remarked they had an increase of people visiting for food. Just, 20 percent said they had more than 50 percent in difference from the year before. As the organization noted, this was “not attributable to seasonal variation related to the fact that November is a holiday month.”

There was the additional issue of running out of food or almost running out of it for some providers. Nearly one-half said this occurred to them and 26 percent had to turn people away due to this issue. It also affected the size of meals served with 23 percent of those interviewed stating they had to reduce “the number of meals their pantry bag provided.”

It’s significant this brief came out as President Obama is set to make his speech next week for his State of the Union address. Rather than talk about the major income inequality recently highlighted in an Oxfam International report, Obama has decided to talk about the opportunities for low and middle-income Americans that can help them climb the economic ladder. It would be very difficult to imagine him speak about this recent report, let alone the struggle of Americans trying to escape food insecurity.

Still, the White House is using their previous attempts of doing nothing radical to remark it’s not normal for them to talk about income inequality as the Associated Press noted:

The modification in language does not represent a shift from Obama’s underlying economic message, which White House officials note has been a consistent and prominent theme of his political life.

Meanwhile, Congress doesn’t seem to be interested in restoring SNAP and would rather compromise on a bill with austerity. As Maggie Dickinson of The Indypedent wrote in her Jan. 21 piece, just three days before the Food Bank brief, Democrats would accept austerity as necessary in the newest version of the Farm Bill despite the numerous drawbacks millions of Americans would face:

Now lawmakers are fighting over how much more to cut from the program, as the House and Senate attempt to reconcile their separate versions of the farm bill. The Senate’s version contains a $4 billion cut to SNAP, while the House has proposed cutting $40 billion. Recent negotiations haven’t yet produced a compromise, but Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, has reportedly signaled that the Senate could live with a $9 billion cut in order to pass the legislation.

It’s almost shocking to hear Democrats would accept such a proposal with Republicans to decide the fate of the 47 million of Americans who barely have a say into their lives. However, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated the Farm Bill with the SNAP cuts will pass “with some Democratic support.” It seems the Democrats aren’t happy with the cuts, but would gladly accept it to pass the overall Farm Bill.

The House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), meanwhile, rejected the $40 billion SNAP cuts proposed by House Republicans, but seemed open to the $9 billion compromise:

“I look forward to seeing it and how they arrive at that figure and what their timetable is on it,” she told reporters. “I think it is very important that we get a farm bill. I’ve been very concerned about the food stamp and nutrition cuts that are in the bill, but as you know, that’s been closely held.”

Barely any concern is registered with a member of Congress, a place where more than half are millionaires. Pelosi was reported by the Center for Responsive Politics for having an average net worth of $87,997,030 making her the 10th richest person in Congress.

If what’s occurring in New York City is getting worse, then it’s troubling to imagine what’s happening across the nation due to the SNAP cuts. Ohio—where 18 percent or 1,847,000 residents are SNAP recipients—had more than 10,000 people cut off food stamps. They had their benefits cut because they failed to follow the state’s “enforced work requirements.” These work requirements are for adults without children and include “at least 20 hours working, attending class or job training, or volunteering each week” for them to get SNAP benefits.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, believes it can provide benefits to SNAP recipients as his spokesman told The Columbia Dispatch ”Ohio’s economy is improving.”

The program is no stranger to New York City as Bloomberg pushed for it when he was in charge as Dickinson notes in her piece. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio “has signaled that he will accept the USDA’s waiver for unemployed, childless adults, essentially waiving the work requirement for the 76,000 city residents who currently have to work for their SNAP benefits.” Still, it doesn’t solve the issue of increased hunger and worries on food security in New York City.

One in six residents in New York City were found to be “food insecure,” according to a Nov. 2013 report from New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Moreover, they found one in five children were also facing the same conditions. Throughout the state, the number is one in eight residents, which is more troubling.

Dickinson notes this increase isn’t isolated in New York City as she uses the same source to show “food insecurity rose from 10.7 percent of all U.S. households in 2001 to 14.9 percent in 2011.” Typically, the burden rests heavily upon single-parent households compared to two-parent households. A Gallup poll last year found 31 percent of single-parent households with at least one child reported struggling within the past year to purchase food compared to 19 percent of two-parent households.

This isn’t to say two-parent households do an easier job or have it better. It’s shameful for both households to have that in their lives as their representatives barely commit to produce change as millionaires.

With these reports calling for reforms by Congress to fix SNAP or to stop these austerity cuts, it doesn’t seem likely both parties will listen. With midterms close for Democrats and Republicans, they prefer to play it safe and use populist rhetoric where needed to keep them elected.

The reality can be found in what Jon Favreau, Obama’s former speech writer from Jan. 2009 to Feb. 2013, said to the Associated Press in reference to Obama’s shift to focusing on mobility rather than income inequality:

“Any capitalist country has inequality and that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing,” Favreau said. “What most concerned him is mobility.”

It’s a travesty the excuse of capitalism should be used to justify inequality in the U.S., but it’s true capitalism does drives inequality. In fact, economist Richard Wolff discusses this further on his podcast “Economic Update” last week when speaking on global inequality:

From the industrial revolution, 18th century, through to World War II, global inequality worsened. That means the gap in the world between rich countries and poor countries got worse. … The industrial revolution was also the beginning of the dominance of capitalism first in Western Europe and spreading to the rest of the world. In other words, the spread of capitalism was also the spread of global inequality. Capitalism and inequality go together, contrary to the propaganda that sometimes wants us to believe that capitalism is some sort of equalizer.

Wolff also noted this in a Dec. 18, 2013 article on the contradiction between capitalism and democracy:

The lessons of recent history include this: To secure democratic decision-making and the kind of society most Americans want requires moving beyond capitalism. Capitalism’s difficulties (including its crises and inequalities) and its control of government responses to those difficulties keep teaching that lesson. The widening gap between democratic needs and impulses and the imperatives of capitalism is becoming clear to millions in the United States but also in other countries.

To ensure people deserve food stability and don’t need emergency food programs, a transition away from capitalism is needed. The power for that change is not in the hands of Congressional millionaires, but of the public, which have been the recipients of brutal austerity. There is no democracy if even the speechwriter of President Obama admits capitalism produces such inequality that drives people to go to food services only to be turned away. Read the rest of this entry →

Analyzing NYC’s Mayoral Elections: Joseph Lhota (Part III of V)

1:17 pm in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

This is an on-going series analyzing New York City’s mayoral race. To read the introduction, click here. To read on Independent candidate Adolfo Carrion Jr, click here.

Joseph Lhota

Joseph Lhota – Republican candidate

We move on to Joseph Lhota, the former Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from January 9th, 2012 to December 31st. He is the Republican candidate in this election and has experience in numerous offices under major names like Rudy Giuliani.

Lhota echoes a sentiment of being a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, which is a theme all three major candidates build upon.

A few Republican (clueless if I might add) individuals I know of have found de Blasio to be so revolting that Lhota would be the instant candidate for their needs. However, Lhota, currently at 23 percent according to Siena, has failed to do anything of a push against de Blasio’s strategies. In fact, he is the epitome of the New York Republican Party — delusional.

Interestingly, Lhota has appeal based on fear of de Blasio’s policies, rather than of what he is doing. It is a grave mistake Lhota is making and indicative of a campaign fully knowing it has nothing up its sleeves to counter-act de Blasio’s genius run.

In fact, it is comical Joseph Lhota stated de Blasio “is using his family because he has no policies,” despite using his family in the New York Post since “he has no policies.”

To be fair to Lhota, he does have policies, but here is one:

For years, New York has relied heavily on the finance and related industries for job growth. While financial services produce vast wealth and tax revenues, they can also subject the city economy and government to painful contractions when markets fall.  To give New Yorkers access to well-paid jobs and more of them we must welcome and attract new business from a variety of industries.

For an individual who celebrates his time on Wall Street, it brings numerous concerns as to what his agenda might be. If New York will gain jobs, at what point will such jobs go to Wall Street? Are we to expect public works projects by an individual who was an investment banker?

Moreover, an attack-ad by Lhota was, as The Nation’s Leslie Savan points out, filled with mistakes and errors that, once again, represent delusional politics at play.

His support of stop-and-frisk is connected to the fear-based politics, which he believes would work to his favor if elected. He writes in his “Policy Book” his answer regarding stop-and-frisk:

The Supreme Court of the United States held in the landmark case of Terry v. Ohio that police have the ability to stop people upon reasonable suspicion. This technique is used by police departments around the country. Terry stops are an important tool in the prevention of crime, especially gun violence. Police, however, should be free to go into high crime neighborhoods and prevent crimes, including quality of life crimes.

He tries his very best not to say low-income people should be frequently checked and frisked by police, but ends up implying that through statements like these.

He echoed the time when New York was filled with crime and compared it to a de Blasio administration if elected. “We are one bad mayor away from unsafe streets, failing schools and fiscal chaos” he remarks in a new campaign video.

It is as if Lhota did not stop and look at what “fiscal chaos” in this country is already.

He is famous for working in public administrations under Republican Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani is famous for being called “America’s Mayor” after the Sept. 11th attacks.

The reality is he was at the right place at the right time as journalist Rebecca Solnit writes in Paradise Built in Hell:

The spiteful, self-serving, scandal-ridden figure was gone, and in his place was brave, empathetic, inexhaustible, and omnipresent. But the old Giuliani came back soon enough to try to advance his own career on his performance and dismiss or suppress inconvenient facts about that day and his decisions before and after. He often lauded his own preparedness in creating an Emergency Operations Center, though that center was located in 7 World Trade Center and was quickly evacuated on September 11th. The space was leased from a landlord who afterward became a major campaign donor to the mayor. Years earlier, his own advisers had his plan to locate the center at what even then they called Ground Zero.

His time in the MTA has been praised and even used by newspapers to indicate his experience if elected as a mayor. In their endorsement of Lhota, Newsday wrote:

Read the rest of this entry →

Analyzing NYC’s Mayoral Elections: Adolfo Carrión, Jr. (Part II of V)

10:55 pm in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

This is an on-going series analyzing New York City’s 2013 mayoral race. To read the introduction, click here.

Adolfo Carrión, Jr. – Independent Party candidate

I must admit, before October 9th, I had never heard of Carrion before.  Watching him in the debate with only Joseph Lhota did not impress me at all and I decided to view his policies as I felt I was not aware of what he represented.

Let me first begin to say, however, the title of “Independent” is a misnomer for those unaware. Carrion originally was a Democrat until last year where he left the Democratic Party and became an Independent. It must be noted this makes him more suspicious of his policies as he can lie to the public over such policies, while advocating an agenda for the establishment.

Carrion, strangely (I sincerely mean it), did not go the full independent route and attempted to be a Republican contender. However, just a few months later, he flip-flopped to an attitude where he is independent of Democrats and Republicans.

To this day, I do not understand why Carrion would do it if he is saying New Yorkers are smart to know the difference between the two parties. Wouldn’t they also be smart to know he actively wanted to be on the Republican ticket but was overshadowed? Doesn’t it make his candidacy less credible as a result?

I can’t say since 75 percent of New Yorkers don’t know him or probably never heard of him like I did.

A brief history of Carrion should give an image of where he comes from and where he stands in the election so far.

Carrion had the usual upbringing as a servant for the civil life through the public sector, elected to District Boards, elected to City Council, elected to Bronx Borough President and using his status to champion causes and acts he felt were necessary in his tenure. His work to raise awareness of Naval bombings of Vieques, Puerto Rico were right to do and surprisingly had an honest opinion many, including me, would agree with:

“It’s not great to be incarcerated. That’s for sure,” he told WNYC’s Beth Fertig at the time. “And I never imagined that I would. But when you engage in an act of conscience and an act of civil disobedience, you know there’s a price to pay.”

Notably, Carrion was appointed by Barack Obama as Director of the Office of Urban Affairs, which is a part of the executive branch. It ensured, as Obama stated, “focus on wise investments and development in our urban areas that will create employment and housing opportunities.”

This was in 2009 and the situation for millions of Americans, as many articles point out, had not seen anything remotely close to “wise investments” or “development in urban areas.” Yet, he states his work in office had accomplished much as his biography on his campaign site notes:

Carrión’s work at the White House resulted in the establishment of a White House Urban Policy Working Group, as well as a comprehensive interagency review of the federal government’s engagement with urban and metropolitan areas. It was the first review of its kind in 30 years.

He had a scandal in the beginning of his tenure for breaking the law with a “conflict of interest” with another developer who needed help in approving of a project he was doing, which is all related to the real estate industry. This was related to a bribery and corruption probe the New York Department of Investigation conducted with the developer’s company, Boricua Village. He paid a $10,000 fine for what occurred, apologized and has not been further penalized since.

Additionally, he was confirmed by the Senate as the Regional Administrator of the Department of Housing and Urban Development for New York and New Jersey that saw him, as his site notes, “overseeing $6 billion in HUD investments in New York and New Jersey.” He loved housing so much that he left to enter the private industry and created “Metro Futures, LLC, a consulting and real estate development firm.”

It is no surprise that later one of his policies features a revamped model of the FIRE sector for his own campaign based on his experience in the real estate industry.

He then left the HUD in 2012 and left the Democratic Party that same year. Davidson Goldin, someone close to him, told the New York Times:

Analyzing NYC’s Mayoral Elections: Introduction (Part I of V)

10:30 pm in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

Gracie Mansion, official residence of the mayor of NYC

In another usual night at the dinner table with my parents, my father had the television on with the October 9th mayoral debate in New York City featuring Republican candidate Joseph Lhota and Independent candidate Adolfo Carrion, Jr. What was interesting, as was noted, is Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio not showing up to the debate and was criticized not only by the candidates, but others in the media as well.

Polls have indicated that Bill de Blasio holds a commanding lead over likely voters with numbers up to 71 percent. Commentators have stated these numbers would suggest de Blasio is comfortable enough not participating in debates when the numbers are in his favor.

But the debate on October 9th made me laugh since all of the commentators, reporters to candidates, had no clue what to do. What made me frustrated is the ignorance of those in the media, as to be expected, on why de Blasio is making such gains and the reality of his appearance in this race. Therefore, I decided to do an analysis over the three major candidates — Lhota, Carrion and de Blasio — while placing into context the situation in New York City.

The election for the next mayor is on November 5th, 2013, therefore I will post up separate analysis for each of the candidates. I will target:

  • Their background
  • Their policies
  • Their significance in this election

Due to college season of midterms, I cannot guarantee each post will be up every Saturday (my ideal date). However, I will have the five-part series up before the November 5th election.

*

This comes at a time where the United States has 60% of Americans clamor for a third party because Republicans and Democrats are doing a poor job. Moreover, more than four in 10 Americans state that capitalism is not working “working not too well (26%) or not at all well (16%).” Society is failing and the ruling class is closely examining this in order to come up with a solution to their benefit.

This analysis does not come from a perspective of endorsing any candidate. Indeed, none of the candidates, I can personally say, are ones I would vote for in the election.

However, I will place their role among the factors currently occurring not only in New York City, but across the globe. It is possible to see how this impacts debate in the United States as both parties try to re-establish legitimacy in the public’s eye. It is by far an interesting event and a thorough analysis can help explore not only this author’s view, but those who are curious on the election.

This is not an attempt to play sectarian and I will further discuss that in my analysis. Rather, it stems from a genuine interest on this election and why it is occurring with so many events.

This is much to discuss with these candidates and our future. These are individuals that, from what I saw, get a free pass in the media and are not scrutinized to a point where voters can critically think about the system these people are running in.

The next election follows Mayor Michael “Moneybags” Bloomberg and his problems that he left for the city. Whatever the case may be, the successor will have quite the job to take over.