Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Monday, December 10, 2012

RANDOM SHOTS - ObamaCare Tax To Start January 1st, USDA Says Rural America Less Relevant, California School District Owes $1 Billion In Loans, and More!

Agriculture Secretary to Rural Americans: You're "Less Relevant"

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has some harsh words for Rural Americans: It's "becoming less and less relevant," he says.

A month after an election that Democrats won even as rural parts of the country voted overwhelmingly Republican, the former Democratic governor of Iowa told farm belt leaders this past week that he's frustrated with their internecine squabbles and says they need to be more strategic in picking their political fights.

"It's time for us to have an adult conversation with folks in rural America," Vilsack said in a speech at a forum sponsored by the Farm Journal. "It's time for a different thought process here, in my view."
"Why is it that we don't have a farm bill?" said Vilsack. "It isn't just the differences of policy. It's the fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it."

OK, so I don't know if Vilsack is just stating his political belief that this administration sees anyone voting Conservative or Republican as their enemy and subsequently doesn't matter?

Or is he calling for Rural Americans to jump on the Democrat bandwagon if they want representation in Washington?

Either way, it sounds as though this jerkweed is saying that rural America is not relevant to the decisions that are going to be made in Washington D.C. - decisions that will effect the lives of most rural Americans like a Farm Bill which touches everything from corn subsidies to organics research to food stamps to rural enterprise development.

So do we have a problem with the Obama administration that goes farther than most in America really understand? Are they neglecting to serve the 49% of the American people who did not vote for them?

Since 60% of rural America voted Republican, does this mean the Obama administration sees no reason to observe the needs of rural America because we did not back him politically?

If that's the case, America should worry.



USDA will allow more meat, grains in school lunches following criticism

The Agriculture Department plans to do away with limits on the amount of meats and grains that students can have in their school lunches, following complaints from parents and lawmakers alike.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote to members of Congress Friday announcing that his department would scrap daily and weekly maximums for the foods.

It comes after lawmakers wrote to his department saying kids weren’t getting enough to eat under the rules, and school administrators complained that the regulations were hindering their ability to plan daily meals.

"This flexibility is being provided to allow more time for the development of products that fit within the new standards while granting schools additional weekly menu planning options to help ensure that children receive a wholesome, nutritious meal every day of the week," Vilsack said in a letter to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

The new guidelines, which took effect in September, were intended to address increasing childhood obesity levels. They set limits on calories and salt and phase in whole grains.

Schools must offer at least one vegetable or fruit per meal. The department also dictated how much of certain food groups could be served.

While nutritionists and some parents have praised the new school lunch standards, others, including many conservative lawmakers, refer to them as government overreach.

The rules triggered a burst of news coverage this past fall regarding students who complained they weren’t getting enough food, and created the parody YouTube video “We Are Hungry,” posted by students in Kansas.

Students and teachers from a high school in Kansas created the YouTube video parody protesting the recent lunch restrictions placed on high school menus, USA Today reported.

The video – titled ‘We Are Hungry’ – came out just a week after students from a Wisconsin high school boycotted their school lunch over the changes.

The student video-makers, who attend Wallace County High School, say the portion sizes of their meals have significantly decreased. Callahan Grund, a 16-year-old football player featured in the video, told USA Today that they’ve cut the number of chicken nuggets in half, and the size of pork cutlets are much smaller than last year.

Even the teachers at Wallace County High School jumped on the bandwagon. Brenda Kirkham, an arts and publications teacher, came up with the idea for the video, while Linda O’Connor, an English teacher, wrote the lyrics for the song.

One of their main concerns was the decrease in protein during lunches.

The new rules now set a daily minimum and weekly maximum meat or meat alternate limit – meaning high school students must receive at least two ounces of protein each day, but they can’t have more than 12 ounces each week

The parody is in response to the new federal guidelines funded by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, dictating what is served in school cafeterias during lunch hour. The legislation was promoted by Michelle Obama, and is designed to improve nutrition standards for food served in schools.

Some of the changes include age-aligned calorie restrictions of up to 850 calories, serving more whole grains and less sugar, and only allowing low- or non-fat milk.

Though broader calorie limits are still in place, the rules adjustment will allow school lunch planners to use as many grains and as much meat as they want.

In comments to USDA, many had said grains shouldn't be limited because they are a part of so many meals, and that it was difficult to always find the right size of meat.

Congress to the rescue!

Last year, after USDA first proposed the new guidelines, Congress prohibited the USDA from limiting potatoes and French fries and allowed school lunchrooms to continue counting tomato paste on pizza as a vegetable.

The school lunch rules apply to federally subsidized lunches served to low-income children. Those meals have always been subject to nutritional guidelines because they are partially paid for by the federal government, but the new rules put broader restrictions on what could be served as childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed.

School kids can still buy additional foods in other parts of the lunchroom and the school. Congress two years ago directed USDA to regulate those foods as well, but the department has yet to issue those rules.

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democratic senator among the lawmakers who wrote to USDA about the rules, praised the move.

"Schools need flexibility to make sure kids get the nutrition they need to focus on their studies," he said.

It is a shame when Congress has to write to the Obama's Department of Agriculture to get them to give more food to low-income children who are hungry.

Maybe, just maybe, the First Lady's phobia of obesity is getting a little out of hand?

Maybe Michelle Obama should worry about her own problem with obesity and not take out her problems with being fat out on children who have needs - especially children whose only real substantial meal is the one they get in school.



Obama Equals Job Loss Or Stagnation

So is job loss and stagnation the new norm under President Obama? That is the gist of one report that came out last week.

Friday's "Employment Situation" report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that 5.4 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force since Barack Obama took office.

The labor force declined by 350,000 in November, despite an increase of 191,000 in our working age population.

In case anyone didn't notice, the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report was terrible. Unemployment didn't go down in November from 7.9% to 7.7% as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, it actually went up.

The true unemployment rate, calculated at the labor force participation rate that existed when George W. Bush left office at 65.8%, increased from 10.7% to 10.8%.

This put the true unemployment rate 1.3 percentage points higher than when Obama's so-called "economic recovery" began, almost 3.5 years ago. But then again, why let facts get in the way of the tale the Obama administration is telling.



Cliff or Not, ObamaCare Taxes To Start Next Month

Even if lawmakers somehow stop the Bush-era tax rates from expiring, taxes are still expected to rise on January 1st.

And yes, you can thank a trio of new fees tied to the federal health care overhaul - aka ObamaCare.

The IRS this past week published rules for some of the first major taxes meant to help pay for the biggest social program in history President Obama’s massive insurance coverage expansion.

Together, they will raise investment and income taxes on top earners and impose a separate -- and controversial -- tax on medical devices.

The bundle of fees has been largely overlooked as lawmakers and the White House bicker over the Bush tax rates, with Republicans demanding they be extended for everyone and Obama insisting rates rise for top earners.

But that same group of earners is already in the cross hairs under the ObamaCare tax rules published this week.

Starting Jan. 1, investment income for individuals earning over $200,000 and households earning over $250,000 will be subject to a new 3.8 percent tax.

Further, regular income above those thresholds will be hit with a .9 percent Medicare surtax. Should the Bush tax rates expire for those workers, those increases will be compounded.

But the rather obscure medical device tax is the one that has stirred the most controversy in Washington and the business community. This week, groups and lawmakers renewed their calls to repeal it as the IRS published its final rules.

"This week, the Internal Revenue Service outlined which medical supplies and technologies will be subject to a tax. Now, everything from latex gloves to pacemakers will become more expensive and in some cases, more scarce," Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., said in a statement.

"The tax on medical devices harms America’s ability to conduct the necessary research and development to maintain our global competitiveness, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and fewer groundbreaking innovations in this field. With millions of Americans unemployed, this simply makes no sense."

The Affordable Care Act imposed the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices with the goal of raising nearly $30 billion over the next decade.

Equipment makers, though, argue that the tax ends up being much higher than that since it’s on gross sales. One industry spokesman estimated earlier this year that the impact on actual earnings is more like 15 percent.

Already, some have warned that the tax will stifle growth. Indiana-based Cook Medical earlier this year announced it was scrapping plans to open five new plants because of the tax.

The Republican-controlled House voted over the summer to repeal the tax, but the Democrat-controlled Senate never took it up.

Not surprising, the Obama administration has defended the provision.

According to the Treasury Department, the medical device companies actually stand to benefit from the law.

Though the 2.3 percent tax hits the industry, the department argues that the millions of new health care customers insured as a result of the law will increase the demand in hospitals to order more equipment -- in turn boosting medical device companies' profits.

That’s not how the industry sees it. Stephen J. Ubl, president of the Advanced Medical Technology Association, said this week in response to the IRS rules that the tax could cost thousands of jobs – and is already causing companies to lay off workers and cut back on research and development.

“While Washington talks about a fiscal cliff, this tax could push us off an innovation cliff, costing as many as 43,000 jobs and hurting the ability of medical technology companies to find tomorrow’s treatments and cures. It should be repealed,” he said.

It’s unclear whether any of the ObamaCare taxes could be reduced or delayed as part of a deal to avert the looming fiscal crisis.

So far, negotiations have centered on the Bush tax rates, overall tax reform and entitlement cuts.

When the Obama administration says "everything is on the table" when discussing cuts - the high cost of ObamaCare is not looked at.

The House Republican counter-offer unveiled this past week did not mention the health care taxes.

Meanwhile, the health insurance industry is already raising alarm about an ObamaCare tax on health insurers taking effect in 2014.

America’s Health Insurance Plans says that cost will be passed onto the consumer, leading to another $2,000 in premium costs over the next decade for the average individual purchaser.

ObamaCare to Raise Prices for Pet Health Too

Not only is ObamaCare going to raise health care costs for consumers, but it will do the same for your pets.

A rule published on Friday by the Internal Revenue Service says a 2.3 percent “device tax” will be slapped on certain medical devices veterinarians use as a result of ObamaCare, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Many companies making the devices are expected to raise prices — passing on the costs to pet owners, who already spend more than $12 billion on pet care every year, the foundation said.

While the devices used solely for veterinary purposes will not be taxed, those considered “dual use” — by both human health care operations and veterinary practices — will be taxed.

These “dual-use” devices, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, include examination gloves, sterile catheters, and infusion pumps, the foundation said.

The IRS rule states:

“Section 4191 [of the Internal Revenue Code] limits the definition of a taxable medical device to devices described in section 201(h) of the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act] that are intended for humans, but does not provide that the device must be intended exclusively for humans.

Under existing FDA regulations, a device intended for use exclusively in veterinary medicine is not required to be listed as a device with the FDA, whereas a device intended for use in human medicine is required to be listed as a device with the FDA even if the device may also be used in veterinary medicine.”

The device tax is expected to raise costs for consumers.

The Heritage Foundation cites a survey of 181 medical-device manufacturers, 52.5 percent of whom said they planned to “pass along some or all of the increased cost [of the tax] to our consumers.”

Among device makers in North America alone, the percentage was even higher — 58 percent — the foundation said.



California School District Owes $1 Billion In Loans

Poway Unified School District in San Diego, California, owes nearly $1 billion on a $100 million Capital Appreciation Bond.

But wait, they are not alone! This is happening right now to nearly 200 other California School Districts.

Poway's financial situation is no different from that of nearly 200 other California school districts, as some districts are on the hook for 10 to 20 times the amount they initially borrowed.

In fact, the superintendent of the Poway School District, John Collins, recently told San Diego’s PBS affiliate that “Poway has done nothing different than every other district in the state of California.”

Imagine that! Is that the type of mentality that is permeated throughout the California Education system.

The Schoold District administrators have this crazy "Don't blame me, they did it, so I did it," sort of childish irresponsible excuse for their actions.

Yes, that's what these so called administrators are using as their reason for getting into this financial mess. And the question isn't how did they get into that mess, or why would supposedly educated people place themselves in this situation?

No, the question isn't even why do they think that that sort of bullshit fly's when it doesn't?

Fact is, because it is considered a sin to question school spending practices in California, this sort of financial irresponsibility does fly.

It works for administrators because finger pointing your way out of problems works when you are involved in California education.

School Districts who over extend themselves know that the Teachers Union has the most political clout in California. They know School Districts will just be forgiven for their debt because they know that the Democrats have a super-majority in California's capital in Sacramento.

In more cases than not, those Democrats owe their position to unions - especially the Teachers Union.

California's State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has determined that nearly 200 school districts in the state have borrowed nearly $3 billion in Capital Appreciation Bonds and are on the hook for a combined $16 billion.

My recommendation: Do not send your kids to California Schools to learn Basics Economics. The folks running California schools don't understand the basic rule that you never borrow more than you can afford to pay back.


Lesson From UK: Tax Hike on Wealthy Lowers Revenue

One side wants to rein in entitlements to deal with the budget deficit. The other side insists that any such moves be accompanied by higher taxes on the wealthy.

That may sound like the ongoing fiscal battle in Washington, but actually describes the situation in Britain.

The difference is that Britain has already raised taxes on the wealthy, with a telling result: The government actually lost revenue.

In the 2009-2010 tax year in Britain, more than 16,000 people reported annual income of more than 1 million pounds (equal to about $1.6 million today). Then in 2010, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a member of the Labour Party, introduced a new 50 percent top income tax rate for high-income earners. After that, the number of people reporting income of at least 1 million pounds fell to 6,000.

"It is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes," The Telegraph reported.

Harriet Baldwin, a Conservative member of Parliament, said: "Labour's ideological tax hike led to a tax cull of millionaires."

Instead of raising revenue, the tax hike cost the U.K. 7 billion pounds ($11.2 billion) in lost revenue — and that in an economy one-quarter the size of America's.

Now the government of Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that it will lower the top rate from 50 percent to 45 percent, a move the Labour Party officials have called a "tax cut for millionaires."

In ongoing budget talks, Conservatives want to freeze out-of-work benefits, which are set to rise with inflation, while liberals in the government "will only allow the benefits freeze if taxes on the rich are increased," according to The Telegraph.

Democrats in the United States might note that since Cameron's government announced the lower top rate, the number of Britons reporting income of at least 1 million pounds has risen to 10,000.



Americans on Food Stamps hit Historic high in September with 47.7 Million Americans

Americans on Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, reached another historic high in September, according to new data released by the United Stated Department of Agriculture.

The most recent data on SNAP participation were released Friday, and showed that 47,710,324 people were enrolled in the program in September, an increase of 607,559 from the 47,102,765 enrolled in August.

The number of households enrolled in the program also increased from 22,684,463 in August to 22,973,698 in September, an increase of 289,235. The average benefit, according to the new data, was $134.29 per person and $278.89 per household.

Texas, California, and Florida were the states with the most recipients, the Agriculture Department reported.

1 in 6

The new numbers mean that an estimated 1 in every 6 people in America were on food stamps in September.

In the 1970s, 1 out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps. Since 2001, spending on the program has quadrupled and doubled in the last four years.

The benefit is intended to supplement a person’s overall food budget.



US Birth Rate Falls to Record Low

The birth rate in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded last year, led by a significant plunge in births to foreign-born women.

The overall birth rate in 2011 was 63.2 per 1,000 women of prime childbearing age, 15 to 44 years.

That is the lowest rate since at least 1920, the earliest year for which there are reliable numbers, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The overall rate peaked most recently in the Baby Boom years, hitting 122.7 in 1957, nearly double today's rate. The rate sagged but stabilized after that, until falling after 2007, the beginning of the most recent recession.

Overall births per 1,000 women declined 8 percent from 2007 to 2010.

The rate for U.S.-born women dipped 6 percent during that period, and plummeted 15 percent among foreign-born women. The birth rate for Mexican immigrants dropped by 23 percent.

Total births in 2010 were 4 million, including about 3.1 million to U.S.-born women and 930,000 to immigrant women. Preliminary data for 2011 indicate there were 3.95 million total births last year.

"This report does not address the reasons that women had fewer births after 2007, but a previous Pew Research analysis concluded that the recent fertility decline is closely linked to economic distress," Pew reported.

States with the largest economic declines were most likely to experience large fertility declines, Pew found.

The number of children born to the average woman in the United States this year is estimated to be 2.06, according to the CIA World Factbook.

That is lower than France, but higher than almost all other European nations. The lowest rate is in Singapore, 0.78. The highest is in Niger, 7.16.

Other findings from the Pew report:
  • Immigrants arriving since 2005 and their descendants will account for 82 percent of U.S. population growth by 2050.
  • Teenage mothers accounted for 11 percent of births to U.S.-born women in 2010, compared to 5 percent for foreign-born women.
  • Among U.S.-born women, the birth rate per 1,000 white women ages 15 to 44 was 57.3 in 2010; for blacks, 61.3; for Hispanics, 65.4; for Asians, 32.
  • Among U.S.-born white women, 30 percent of births were to unmarried women in 2010. The figure among U.S.-born blacks was 78 percent; Hispanics, 58 percent; Asians, 31 percent.
Not very surprising. It has been long estimated that white American low birth rate is one reason why white Americans will be considered a minority soon.

TRIVIA

More than 400,000 jobs in the U.S. auto supply chain have been lost to China since 2000. Another 1.6 million U.S. jobs are at risk unless China's illegal trading practices are curtailed.



Story by Tom Correa

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