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Veterans Day 2013

8:20 am in Veterans, War by dakine01

Today is November 11, 2013. Veteran’s Day. Ninety-four years ago was the first observance known initially as “Armistice Day”:

Veterans Day | Field of poppies

Veterans Day | Field of poppies

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” – officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

Ah yes. The “war to end all wars.” Well, so much for that.

This is from the Census Department with a number of facts about Veterans. While it estimates that there are 21.7M Veterans at this time, this little note a the end kind of puts the lie to that figure:

Note: These estimates include the civilian noninstitutionalized population of veterans 18 years and over living in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. They exclude active-duty military personnel and the population living in correctional facilities and nursing homes.

This from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has some statistics about the incarcerated veterans.

This links to the overall report on Homeless Veterans of which the Incarcerated Veterans is part.

Many folks are unaware of the problems facing women veterans, including homelessness. I became aware of Final Salute, Inc through a cousin who has provided support. Final Salute is trying to help these women veterans and combat the homelessness. The founder of Final Salute, Jas Boothe, was named a “CNN Hero” earlier.

Huffington Post had this from February 2013 on the daily suicide rate for Veterans. Twenty-two per day is not a figure we should be proud of.

The recent cutback in Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits affected an estimated 900,000 veterans. This works out to roughly 4% of all veterans. According to Wiki, the overall SNAP benefits are received by over 15% of the overall US population.

As I wrote last year:

So what is my point with all of this? It is to remind folks that the veteran is the man or woman you grew up with, attended high school or college with. We’re the person who grew up down the street from you or that you saw everyday at the drug store or fast food joint. Most of us had a variety of reasons to sign our names and take the oath of enlistment. We weren’t and aren’t making a big production of our service. We mostly served and came home, no matter the time.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Life in the Safety Net

8:20 am in Economy, Food, Government, Jobs, Politics, Social Security, Unemployment by dakine01

If you have been reading my posts, you know I am among the long term un/underemployed. I was laid off from my then employer in April 2004. I know most economists place the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007 but given their continual “surprise” at how the economy does not conform to their expectations, the reality is a bit different. When I was laid off, I had spent the past seven to eight years working within IT on various State and Local Government social service projects. Unfortunately for me, many states had started cutting back in this area starting around 2001. Declining tax revenues led to cut-backs to contracts led to further declining revenues, etc.
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Over the past nine years, I spent my unemployment benefits (I only received 6 months of unemployment benefits since my layoff preceded the official recession and advent of extended benefits.) I spent my savings. I cashed in my 401K and SEP/IRA (the best benefit there was even with paying the early cash-in penalties, I still got to spend more of the funds on myself instead of seeing the balances swirl down the toilet when the market crashed.) In 2007, I landed a part-time, online job that has been a god send.

I finally swallowed my pride in January of 2012 and applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps). I was approved for benefits of $200 per month from Florida from February 2012 through June 2012 when I would have to be re-certified. I did not re-certify at that time as I was dealing with my late sister’s estate by June and was able to pay myself a nominal salary. Since then, I have moved from Florida back to my home state of Kentucky. After I wrote this post in early July, documenting my soon to be homelessness, a friend from my hometown of Cynthiana, KY offered me a room in her home for Dan’l (my cat) and me. I am paying a nominal rent, my share of the utilities plus helping around the house. I have since applied for SNAP benefits here in Kentucky. I was initially denied due to lack of information, then approved for $159 per month then after a review after the state had received the remainder of my supporting information, the benefit amount was upgraded to $189 per month starting November 1. I do not know if the cuts to the over all SNAP program will affect my benefits but if there is a cut, so be it. I am fortunate enough to know how to cook and purchase food for myself so I can generally live within the benefit. I most likely would have to cut out the occasional treat of cookies or soda.

At this point, I am just trying to hang on until I reach age 62 next June and can apply for early Social Security. According to the SSA, my benefit for Social Security at age 62 is $1,371, a little above the current average overall benefit of $1,271 (as of September 2013.)

I do not have a car any longer. Maybe next year when I start the social security, between that and my small salary from my online job, I might be able to buy something (and pay the taxes and title and upkeep and maintenance and gas and insurance.) Once I am collecting social security, I will most likely no longer qualify for SNAP benefits and that’s OK as I will have been able to use them to stay alive until I reached the “retirement” point.

Through all of this, I know I am still luckier than most. I have received help from family and friends that has kept a roof over my head. I am relatively healthy having had only a bad case of the flu back in early 2005 that I saw a doctor for, a cut on my hand in December 2005 that required an emergency room visit for four stitches (costing roughly $2,000 out-of-pocket as I am uninsured), and an infected tooth pulled at the dentist’s in January 2013 for $175. The dentist gave me a ‘scrip for free antibiotics to clear the infection before he pulled the tooth.

While I have been fortunate in many ways, I also know I am not alone. There are 900K veterans and 5K active military receiving SNAP benefits alone who will be impacted by the upcoming cut to the benefit level.

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Corporate Welfare and the Case for Taxes and Regulation

10:23 am in Economy, Environment, Government, Politics by dakine01

Most everyone knows the most common use of welfare as helping those in danger of being left behind by society. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP although often still referred to as Food Stamps, and Medicaid are the most well known programs available to people. And no, Social Security and Medicare are not welfare programs.

No Regulations - Do as you please!

No Regulations - Do as you please!

But just as there are welfare programs for individuals and families, there are also welfare programs for corporations and the rich and powerful. These are just not given names to make them easily identifiable as welfare programs yet the end result is governments at all levels wind up subsidizing for profit industries at the expense of the taxpayer. Privatizing the profits, socializing the losses in other words.

Let me offer a few examples. WalMart is one of the easiest examples. They are a profitable business yet far too frequently, WalMart employees are forced to use public assistance, i.e., the pretty much textbook definition of the working poor (see here, here, here, here, here, and here). If you check der Google for “WalMart employees public assistance” there are over 900K hits in .34 seconds.

Privatizing the profits, socializing the losses.

Next up are oil and gas companies. Just for last year (2012) the Big Five oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips) had combined profits of $117B (high of $45B for Exxon down to ‘only’ $8B for ConocoPhillips). These are just the biggest oil companies and does not cover the Koch Brothers Amerada Hess, T Boone Pickens, and many other “smaller” oil companies (smaller being a relative term). While the amount of subsidies varies depending on how they are defined, contrary to Forbes magazine’s contention, they do exist. As even an earlier Forbes article concedes (although they paint it as “everybody loves them.”) Christian Science Monitor places the subsidies at $41B a couple of years ago. The Atlantic in March discussed over $38B in Big Oil and gas subsidies identified by the Obama administration for deletion over the next 10 years. This chart shows the annual subsidies for Oil and gas at $10B to $52B per year. You will notice that all of these guesstimates on the amount of annual subsidies are well below the annual profits.

Just these past few weeks we have seen a few more examples of privatizing the profits and socializing the losses. Exxon’s oil spill/pipeline break in Mayflower, AR. Due to a loophole in the law, Exxon will not have to pay into a federal cleanup fund after this disaster. The West, TX fertilizer plant explosion:

“This explosion, I think, surprised a lot of people,” said Senator John Cornyn. “It is no surprise that ammonium nitrate is explosive under the right conditions.”

No one could have anticipated – unless they did.

Tax breaks. Lack of regulations. No inspections. Ka-boom!

I wish I had the answers or the magic wand but I do not have the magic wand and elected officials at all levels do not have the will to find and implement the answers. It might hurt the (un)free market and cost a few cents of profit.

Privatize the profits. Socialize the losses. Avoid the taxes and regulations and let the tax payer pick up the pieces. John Galt would be so very proud.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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