American Elephants

The Richest Nation — With Starving People? by The Elephant's Child

There’s been an annoying commercial on the radio often in the last year. A young woman says that she lives just down the street, you go the same PTA meetings, and your children play together, but you don’t know that their family is suffering from — hunger.

It is annoying because she doesn’t live just down the street, she’s a well paid voice for radio commercials. But we worry about hunger. Is it true?  There are so many people unemployed.  We’re the richest nation on earth, are children and their families going hungry?

The United States government spends nearly $1 trillion a year to provide cash, food, housing, medical care and services to poor and near-poor people. About $111 billion is spent on food by federal and state programs. With all that money invested, is it possible that people are still hungry?

Heritage Foundation researchers Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield asked that very question. According to Census Bureau data for 2009 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) of the almost 50 million Americans classified as poor, 96% of the parents said their children were never hungry.  Eighty-three percent of poor families said they had enough food to eat, and 82% of poor adults said they were never hungry at any time in 2009 due to a lack of food or money, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Nationally, one out of four school children received a free lunch in 1970.  Today two out of three school lunches are free or nearly free. Some schools serve breakfast, and there is talk of offering dinner as well. On the other hand, reports of Los Angeles kids’ refusal to eat school lunches that conform to the new Dept. of Agriculture guidelines and rules, as promoted by Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” campaign, have been major news. Anyone who has visited a school during lunch period has probably been shocked by the amount of food that goes into the trash bins. Most of the kids aren’t really hungry.

Stories appear fairly regularly about items purchased with food stamps. A receipt for  many lobsters and a porterhouse steak purchased with food stamps was found in a grocery store parking lot in Wisconsin, widely circulated on the internet, and confirmed by Snopes. It’s not that people feel that food stamps should be used to purchase only beans and rice, but many of us who have never used food stamps have also never bought 7 or 8 lobsters and a porterhouse steak all at once. When the budget gets tight, we opt for good old reliable tuna casserole, or macaroni and cheese, instead.

Lyndon Johnson’s original food stamp program was fairly conservative, but the stamps are now a credit card (alleviating any stigma) and most constraints (save liquor) have been removed.  Fraud remains a major problem.The person who bought all the lobsters and the porterhouse for free, resold them to someone for half the price, got caught and went to jail. Many restaurants and fast food chains would like to be included. The solution would seem to be some form of work requirement.

Americans are a generous people. They don’t want anyone to go hungry, but they don’t want to be ripped off either. The taxpayer dollars that support feeding programs represent a lot of hard work on the part of American families, and a lot of tuna casseroles as well.

FDR and the New Deal Love Fest by The Elephant's Child

Professor Burton J. Folsom Jr. is author of two books on Franklin Delano Roosevelt: New Deal or Raw Deal and with Anita Folsom: FDR Goes to War. Here is a speech he delivered at Hillsdale College on FDR’s energetic experimentation that did so much damage to the economy in the 1930s. The great myth has always been that FDR saved us from the Great Depression, and then it was ended by World War II. Wrong.

I have recommended Amity Schlaes The Forgotten Man.  It is a new history of the Great Depression, and a wonderful book, with a fascinating cast of very real characters, that reads like a novel.

President Obama constantly compares his problems to the Great Depression. To indicate how big the recession he “inherited from George W. Bush” is (not his fault) but he flatters himself. The comparison lies not in the extent of the Depression [ July 1927: Unemployment 3.3%; Sept 1931; Unemployment 17.4%;  Nov. 1933: Unemployment 23.2%;  Nov. 1934: Unemployment 23.2%;  July 1935: Unemployment 21.3%;  Jan. 1938: Unemployment 17.4%; Jan. 1940: Unemployment 14.6%] but in the misguided efforts to make big government heal the economy.

FDR’s plan to make people dependent on government was a clear effort to garner votes for the Democrat party [see approximately minute 35.00 on the video]. Obama is making the same effort to make people dependent on Big Government in his campaign for a second term.  I think most of us would prefer to see a recovering economy and recovering employment.  The video is very worth your time.  A lack of understanding of history may doom us to repeat it.

Chevy Dealers Aren’t Bursting With Enthusiasm for Volts. by The Elephant's Child
January 30, 2012, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Global Warming, Science/Technology

All is not well in the electric car business. Apparently there are more charging stations than there are cars. Some Chevrolet dealers are turning down the Volts that General Motors wants to ship to them.

In New York City, GM allocated 104 Volts to 14 dealerships in the area.  Dealers accepted just 31 of them. The same group of dealers took more than 90% of the other vehicles they were eligible to receive. Customer interest is declining.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating the fires in three battery packs last year following government test crashes.  GM has announced a repair aimed at protecting the battery pack, and NHTSA announced that they have closed their investigation and concluded that the battery pack poses no significant fire risk. Dealers are waiting for thing to settle down.

GM’s 2011 target was 10,000 units, and they sold only 7,671.  They didn’t begin a full rollout until this past autumn.  Industry people are paying close attention to the market demand for electric vehicles. Several other automakers are set to launch EVs this year.  Many dealers have seen big drops in customer interest.  The cars are pricey.

There appears to be a lot of government pressure to install charging stations, and for state and local governments to buy EVs for their auto fleets. The charging station parking slots at the mall here never seem to be occupied, but that probably doesn’t mean much of anything. The western states have long driving distances with few gas stations, let alone charging stations.

With range between charges at about 40-45 miles, long trips are for the adventurous, and require some real planning.  Will the decline in concern about carbon dioxide and global warming play a part?

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