† Living In These Mad, Mad, Madoff Times: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s sobriquet, “The Food Stamp President,” for President Barack Hussein Obama, isn’t just campaign rhetoric. Because of the prolonged recession, high unemployment levels and stagnant wages, nearly one out of two Americans are economically insecure or have crossed the line into poverty, reports The Associated Press:
About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That's up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.
The new measure of poverty takes into account medical, commuting and other living costs. Doing that helped push the number of people below 200 percent of the poverty level up from 104 million, or 1 in 3 Americans, that was officially reported in September.
Kansas City, MO Mayor Sly James, who co-chairs a mayors' task force on hunger and homelessness, tells AP that, "People who never thought they would need food are in need of help." He’s not kidding. “The percentage of U.S. households using food stamps more than doubled in six of the nation’s 10 wealthiest counties as more residents find themselves out of work and unable to sell their homes,” reports The Washington Post:
“Sometimes people will come in a Mercedes,” said Gina Davio, program director of social services at Fisherman’s Mark, a nonprofit group in Lambertville, a city of 3,900 on the Delaware River. “Sometimes they come in nothing but Ralph Lauren, but you never know: That may be all they have left.”
† Chevy Volt: An electric Edsel: In an interview with MSN, Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen said that the Chevy Volt will fail; that anybody who buys the Volt, in particular, is an idiot; and that people who buy electric vehicles (EVs) are just members of an “intellectual elite who want to show what enlightened souls they are.” Volt owners are elite: According to GM CEO Dan Akerson, the average Volt owner makes $170,000 per year. These folks can certainly afford to pay an inflated price for a car that no one else seems to want, and though they tell anyone who will listen that they want to pay higher taxes, they enjoy a $7,500 tax credit. But that’s just a tip of the iceberg. Each Volt sold to date has been subsidized by as much as $250K in state and federal loans, rebates, grants and tax credits, according to an analysis by James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports:
The Volt subsidies flow through multiple companies involved in production. The analysis includes adding up the amount of government subsidies via tax credits and direct funding for not only General Motors, but other companies supplying parts for the vehicle. For example, the Department of Energy awarded a $105.9 million grant to the GM Brownstown plant that assembles the batteries. The company was also awarded approximately $106 million for its Hamtramck assembly plant in state credits to retain jobs. The company that supplies the Volt’s batteries, Compact Power, was awarded up to $100 million in refundable battery credits (combination tax breaks and cash subsidies). These are among many of the subsidies and tax credits for the vehicle.
And weak consumer demand for the Volt may be even more anemic than believed. In an interview with Neil Cavuto, Mark Modica, an Associate Fellow of the National Legal and Policy Center claims that the cars are not being sold to consumers but are fleet sales to municipalities and corporations like General Electric. Modica says that Chevy dealers have told him the Volt attracts “gawkers” and not buyers. Ditto the Nissan Leaf, he says.
† Is Obama already a lame duck?: With the Obama administration not lifting a finger to stop Bashar Assad from murdering his countrymen, these Syrian protesters are amongst those who miss President George W. Bush (related article, ninth item on the page):
The Stiletto wonders whether these were the protesters Time magazine had in mind when it named “The Protester” its “Person of the Year.”
† Obama is just about every U.S. president all rolled into one!: Although President Barack Hussein Obama has taken to likening himself to Teddy Roosevelt, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney (R-MA) is having none of it:
[T]he important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes.
In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing – the government.
† Those who can’t teach, cheat: A pervasive cheating scandal that roiled the Atlanta School System (related article, sixth item on the page) also occurred in the Dougherty County School System where, “a new investigative report details a second major standardized test cheating scandal … implicating 49 educators, including 11 principals,” The Washington Post reports:
A key reason for the “disgraceful” cheating, investigators said, was pressure to meet No Child Left Behind requirements.
The probe (see here and here) by the Georgia governor’s Special Investigators team into cheating in the Dougherty County School System concluded that “hundreds of school children were harmed by extensive cheating.” …
The report cites three key reasons for the cheating:
*Pressure to meet the adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, a provision that requires school districts to annually increase the number of students who score at the proficient level on math and reading standardized tests.
*A fear by teachers and principals of being perceived as failures.
*The failure of principals, as well as the system’s administration, to lead. …
A conclusion in the report was this: “Since the enactment of NCLB, standardized testing has become more about measuring the teachers, principals and schools than accurately assessing the children’s academic progress.”
Or, to put it another way, an unintended bonus of high-stakes testing is that it not only measures a teacher’s competence, but also his or her honesty, integrity and professionalism.