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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

 
Hunger games

by digby

I wrote yesterday about the looming cuts to food stamp benefits, and this story by Nat Resnikoff at All In fleshes the issue out substantially. Here's just a small piece of it, about just one person who's trying to get by:
[Food Stamp] cuts may be a political winner for a few politicians, but for people like Winsome Stoner, they could be devastating.

Stoner was among those to start collecting food stamps during the post-crash era. She was unemployed at the time, and her husband’s salary as a security guard was not sufficient to pay the rent and feed their five children. Now working full-time at the Bed-Stuy Coalition Against Hunger food pantry in her neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Stoner still collects $640 per month in food stamps. Even that, combined with her income and her husband’s income, is not enough.

“It does cushion me a bit, it helps,” she said. “But we still run out of food by the end of the month. The middle, sometimes.”

When there’s no more food left, and no more money to buy new groceries, Stoner and her husband go to food pantries. At the Bud-Stuy pantry, the largest emergency food pantry in New York City, Stoner is both an employee and a regular client.

Visiting food pantries is a common practice for those who can’t stretch their food stamp money, also known as SNAP benefits, until the end of the month, according to Lisa Davis, senior vice president of government relations for the national food bank network Feeding America.

“Right now SNAP benefits are not overly generous,” Davis told MSNBC.com. “They average out to be about $1.49 per person per meal, and we know from our food banks that many of the clients coming to them are those who are receiving SNAP, but the benefits aren’t getting them through the entire month.”

For Stoner’s seven-person household, a monthly SNAP benefit of $640 per month translates to about $1 per meal, assuming everyone in the family eats three meals a day. Thanks to the expiration of the stimulus package’sfood stamp provisions, Stoner has already received word that she might soon receive even less—and without knowing how big the cut will be, she’s terrified.  
“I don’t know if we’re going to get anything,” she said, her voice rising in agitation. “We’re not sure if we’re on it. I’m really worried, I really am.”
Winsome Stoner stocks the pantry’s refrigerator. Both Stoner and her husband work, but they have to use the food pantry themselves because their incomes don’t cover all their family’s monthly food expenses.
So, here you have someone who is working --- and her husband is working --- but they still don't have enough money to pay for food for their children. And yet the right wingers are still accusing them of being lazy and dependent and are determined to cut this program even more. And sadly I have no idea if the progressives in congress will get their act together to stop it. (They reluctantly voted for these cuts last time because it was the only way they could pay for healthy school lunches. That's what it's come down to.)

Meanwhile, just for kicks, let's take a trip across town and see how some of this lady's fellow New Yorkers are doing:
To determine the highest-earning hedge fund managers and traders of 2012, we examined hedge fund returns and worked to understand the fee and ownership structure of a wide array of hedge fund firms. Hedge funds generally reap fees equal to 20% of profits and 2% of assets, but we found all sorts of variations on this theme. In addition, our earnings figures include the personal gain or loss of each manager’s interest in their funds. Our figures are pretax, account for firm expenses and profit-sharing arrangements, and exclude gains or losses stemming from ownership in the hedge fund firms themselves or from investments held outside the managed investment pools...

The most surprising comeback was staged by Philip Falcone. His Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund firm, which at its peak managed $26 billion, blew a ton of money on LightSquared, a controversial attempt to convert satellite radio frequencies into a new cellular service that filed for bankruptcy protection. The Securities & Exchange Commission has brought a pending enforcement action against him that he is fighting. But Faclone’s hedge funds performed very well in 2012 after LightSquared bonds recovered and shares in his publicly-traded Harbinger Group, in which his hedge funds have a big position, soared. Since a big percentage of the assets managed by his hedge funds belong to him, Falcone made $250 million.
See? It's not all bad news ...

This is the problem in a nutshell.  We have working parents unable to pay for food for their children. And we have Wall Street titans scarfing up all the money and complaining that poor people aren't paying their fair share. It's always been this way to some extent.  But up until now the big money boyz haven't felt the need to subvert democracy to the point that people must literally starve. In their own city.

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