sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Guts of the Farm Bill

Yes it's (another) inconvenient truth.

The Farm Bill currently under discussion in Congress is primarily about The federally-funded grocery assistance coupons -- which are issued by states in the form of debit cards under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which used to be known as food stamps.
"Since 2008, the cost of SNAP has more than doubled from $34 billion to $74 billion," according to Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. who said in a recent press release that the Obama administration has allowed food stamp enrollment to explode.
SNAP and WIC (for more information, go to benefits.gov) were designed for the very poorest of the poor - but now we're funding fully 1/7 of the country with them, and a percentage end up for sale, usually for $.50 on the dollar on craigslist and elsewhere. See the Fox News report, cited below, for their take on it.

Many years ago, I was a police officer. Back then, drug addicts sold food stamps openly and used them to buy alcohol and luxury food items all of the time.

Mom and Pop grocery stores frequently ring up one thing as another these days.  Three days ago, I stood in line to buy groceries and a lady paid with WIC to buy steaks, a bottle of Jack Daniels and some hygiene products. My check-out consisted of hamburger, but the government wasn't paying for my food -- I was. 

I don't have problems paying for WIC under these circumstances:
(FDA) The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. 
Unfortunately the fraud, waste and abuse is rampant. 
(Fox News) Food stamps --  are being sold on the online bulletin board as well as auction sites like eBay. FoxNews.com found several offerings at Craigslist sites around the country, where the sellers offered the welfare benefits at large discounts from face value. 
"I have food stamps for sale..... Serious Replies only!!!"- Craigslist ad 
“If you need food. This is not a gimmick or game,” read one posting from Philadelphia. “Please let me know, I have food stamps for sale..... Serious Replies only!!!” 
“I have $500 worth and it costs $350 cash. No I will not do half!” read another posting from the Atlanta area. “I don't need to sell. If you would like to get an extra $150 to $175 in grocery and pay no taxes and can see the benefit that you will still be saving then email me or call me and we can arrange the whole deal as soon as you like.” 
“DO YOU NEED SOME QUICK CASH?? -- $100 (atlanta),” read the title of one such post, under which the buyer offered: "If you get Food Stamps and need some extra cash then hit me asap,” reads the post. 
In another posting from the Trenton, N.J., area, the seller claims that he will have a $100 EBT card available on Nov. 1 for $60.
The Republican controlled House of Representatives is trying to reign in the spending but the Democrats, whose interest is in buying votes, are pushing back with Barack Obama leading the charge.

Saudi - Breach with the US

Barack Obama has spent four and a half years showing Fahd's successor, King Abdullah, that he is not serious or clear-minded or competent when it comes to the Middle East and its many threats. Now the Saudis are redefining their relationship with the US because we are an "unreliable ally".


President Barack Obama made news when he bowed to Saudi King Abdullah. That was when he had the whole magic Muslim thing going on an hope and change was in the air. Today, the Obama Administration's policy dances across the board, wrapped by red lines and insincerity, driven by the latest domestic polling. Saudi Arabia is making a move to distance itself from the United States, and it represents a tectonic shift in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats the kingdom will make a "major shift" in its relations with the United States, according to an unidentified source close to Saudi policy on 22 October. 
Prince Bandar said the US had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011. 
Prince Bandar also that he plans to limit interaction with the US. "Relations with the US have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising," according to the source. Bandar reportedly said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the fighting in Syria.
How Barack Obama always hoped
that history would portray him.
Saudi Arabia refused a seat on the UN Security Council recently as a rotating member, which is shocking but it happened. In announcing this action, the Saudi attitudes towards the US resemble the Iranian hardline clerics who said this week that if the US is encouraged by Iranian diplomacy then the diplomacy is wrong.

Saudi Arabian leaders have been quietly but sternly critical of multiple recent US actions in the Middle East, especially the installation of a Shiite-led government in Baghdad through elections.  The Obama policy setback spotlights that Saudi and US interests are not congruent on the four or five top issues driving instability in the Middle East. In addition, the leaders define the end states of current initiatives differently.

This is particularly true with respect to Iran's nuclear program in that the US is relaxing its longstanding policy position that Iran must halt uranium enrichment. The US appears to be moving to a containment strategy, which it has rejected consistently and as recently as last summer. President Ruhani's election and change of style not substance marks the turning point.

How history will end up portraying
Barack Obama
With respect to Syria, Saudi officials see similar backsliding in the US agreement with Russia to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. Although the US Secretary of State insists President Asad must go, the agreement absolutely depends on the continuation of the Baathist government in Damascus. The US treats Syrian issues as separate from Iranian nuclear issues. The Saudis perceive them as inseparable.

The Benghazi Scandal, the botched hope and change of the Arab Spring can be fairly split between Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, but the Syrian mess (Russian coming-back party) and now the serious split with Saudi Arabia are Obama's own debacle. I'm sure that he will find somebody to blame, but the legacy failure is something that he will end up owning because history tends to do that.