Poverty

By Tom Blumer | April 12, 2015 | 4:50 PM EDT

On Saturday, CNN hyped actress and self-appointed "lifestyle guru" Gwyneth Paltrow's participation in the "Food Stamp Challenge." This is the fundamentally dishonest campaign which has been working for at least eight years to convince Americans that benefits provided under the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are inadequate.

As usual, Paltrow has taken up the challenge to get by for a week on a drastically understated amount which does not reflect the program's real provisions. As has almost always been the case with journalists covering politicians, celebrities and others who have taken up the "challenge," CNN's Jareen Imam didn't question the correctness of the weekly amount involved:

By Tom Blumer | April 8, 2015 | 10:39 AM EDT

In an early Wednesday morning report containing an undercurrent of amazement and frustration that Japan's journey into Keynesianism and quantitative easing on steroids somehow hasn't worked, the Associated Press's Elaine Kurtenback wrote that a steep "April 1, 2014 sales tax hike ... triggered a brief recession and growth since has been flat."

The Land of the Rising Sun with the long-stagnating economy should be so lucky. Six days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported something Kurtenbach should have known when she submitted her writeup, namely that the country is once again on the brink of slipping into contraction:

By Tom Johnson | March 29, 2015 | 3:27 PM EDT

In a Sunday blog post on the New York Review of Books site, historian Wills, who’s written extensively about both the United States and Catholicism, rebuked conservative Catholics who’ve “suggested that [Pope Francis] is not truly Catholic,” asserting that such critics of the pope “are right to be in a panic. They are not used to having a pope who is a Christian. They call Francis a radical because he deplores the sequestration of great wealth for a rich few and deprivation of the many poor. But Francis is a moderate. Jesus was the radical.”

Wills, who is Catholic, noted that Francis is hugely popular among rank-and-file Catholics and commented that any “perception of great resistance to the pope in his own church” is “largely the product of noise. Extremists get more press coverage than blander types.”

By Tom Blumer | February 27, 2015 | 9:01 PM EST

The Fiscal Times is a generally strong and informative online publication. That said, it has occasionally exhibits symptoms of what could be seen as either serious leftist bias, quite disappointing ignorance, or both.

One such example arrived in my email box early this morning. It contained the following headline and opening tease for a story about the food stamp program:

By Ken Shepherd | January 29, 2015 | 5:57 PM EST

Hardball host Chris Matthews used a panel discussion about President Obama's attorney-general nominee Loretta Lynch on his Wednesday program as a convenient opportunity to slander conservative Republicans as seeking to repress the vote of Democratic constituencies in major cities.

By Tom Blumer | January 25, 2015 | 11:55 PM EST

As President Barack Obama and Governor Jerry Brown continue to extol the wonders of the alleged economic recovery of nation and the Golden State, respectively, stories of significant growth in homelessness continue to rain on their parades. The latest example comes on the heels of reports on Seattle's burgeoning problem and the city's apparent willingness to allow officially sanctioned outdoor encampments to serve as a "temporary" (yeah, sure) solution.

In a Saturday item in the Los Angeles Times about the expansion of "homeless camps" outside of what had been known as the LA's "skid row," Times reporter Gale Holland apparently learned not to repeat a revealing disclosure she made in a December Times report covering the situation in San Jose. Her coverage was remarkably vague, failing to provide specifics I believe she could have relayed with little effort, especially given that homelessness and poverty is her assigned beat. Excerpts follow the jump.

By Tom Blumer | January 22, 2015 | 11:53 PM EST

A week ago, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a Democrat, called homelessness in his city and the rest of King County a "full-blown crisis."

Based on the numbers presented in coverage of the area's situation, we can certainly add the Emerald City to the list of areas where homelessness has been on the rise. Odds are that many readers here didn't know that, because the national press hardly ever pays attention to homelessness when a Democrat occupies the White House. Now imagine the firestorm which would erupt if a Republican or conservative proposed the "solution," however allegedly temporary, Murray is advancing (bolds are mine):

By Tom Johnson | January 18, 2015 | 1:42 PM EST

Ann Jones has doubts about allegations that America is “crazy,” but adds, “Some people who question me say that the U.S. is ‘paranoid,’ ‘backward,’ ‘behind the times,’ ‘vain,’ ‘greedy,’ ‘self-absorbed,’ or simply ‘dumb.’  Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely ‘ill-informed,’ ‘misguided,’ ‘misled,’ or ‘asleep,’ and could still recover sanity.  But wherever I travel, the questions follow.”

By Tom Johnson | January 15, 2015 | 11:01 AM EST

Esquire’s Pierce deems Ryan “the single biggest fake in American public life” and declares that he “should have no more credibility on [fiscal] issues than does Sarah Palin, his predecessor in the second spot on the [Republican] ticket. Any Democratic congresscritter who seeks to make a deal with him should be drummed out of Washington. Any reporter or pundit who takes his plans for the economy seriously should be reassigned to the custodial staff.”

By Tom Blumer | January 15, 2015 | 12:31 AM EST

At the Lafayette, Indiana Courier Journal, reporter Mikel Livingston, that paper's social policiy reporter, set out to try to pass the Food Stamp Challenge.

The idea, in his words, was to "survive for one week on $29.69," because, he says, that is "what the average recipient of SNAP benefits, commonly called food stamps, receives each week in Indiana." By Day 6, he claimed, "faced with the possibility that eating all my remaining food on the final day would net me just 619 calories, I realized I had failed." What he really proved is that he was well on his way to succeeding with room to spare.

By Tom Blumer | January 13, 2015 | 7:30 PM EST

The latest report out of Venezuela by the Associated Press's Hannah Dreier has a time stamp of 1:15 p.m. today. This means that the wire service has had plenty of time to report, and has chosen not to report, a powerful pastoral letter issued yesterday by that country's Catholic bishops (original in Spanish; full Google Translation) denouncing that country's descent into a system they described as "socialist Marxist or communist."

That decision by AP and apparently other international wire services demonstrates once again that one cannot keep up with the news without at least occasionally going to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, the UK tabloids, and Investors Business Daily. In this case, it's IBD's Monica Showalter who commented on the development Monday afternoon in an opinion piece. She also brought Pope Francis into the discussion (bolds are mine throughout this post):

By Mark Finkelstein | December 10, 2014 | 6:52 PM EST

Two guests on this evening's Ed Show on MSNBC revealed what lies just below the surface for many in the current protest movement: opposition to capitalism.

First up was Rosa Clemente, a "hip hop activist" and 2008 Green Party VP candidate: "Capitalism, I think that is the institution all over this country. It is really the oppressive force." Next, Georgetown Prof. Marcia Chatelain, who said that the current moment has revealed "an incredible critique of capitalism that it isn't just police brutality but the way people are forced to live." Your $40,000/year tuition at work!