Hunger Increases in U.S.

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American households that faced food insecurity sharply increased in 2008, and Oklahoma remains a state that continues to struggle with hunger issues, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report, which shows an 11.1 increase in food-insecured households over 2007, concludes:

In 2008, 85.4 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. Food-secure households had consistent access to enough food for active healthy lives for all household members at all times during the year. The remaining 14.6 percent (17 million households) were food insecure. These households, at some time during the year, had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. The prevalence of food insecurity was up from 11.1 percent (13 million households) in 2007 and was the highest observed since nationally representative food security surveys were initiated in 1995.

Those with very low food insecurity also increased to the highest number since food surveys were established. According to the report:

About one-third of food-insecure households (6.7 million households, or 5.7 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security, up from 4.7 million households (4.1 percent) in 2007, and the highest level observed since nationally representative food security surveys were initiated in 1995.

In Oklahoma, 14 percent of its households faced food insecurity from 2006-2008 while 5.9 percent faced very low food insecurity, according to the report. The state has consistently ranked in the top five or ten of all states when it comes to hunger. In addition, Oklahomans are now seeking food assistance from the Department of Human Service at record levels.

I wrote about the hunger issue last summer in the Oklahoma Gazette. I mentioned how difficult it must be for people to function with an empty stomach.

What choice does any hungry person have but to find food to relieve the pangs of an empty stomach? What else can a hungry person do but put aside everything else and seek basic sustenance?

Food pantries can help hungry families, but many people can’t find them near where they live. According to the report:

A large majority (80.4 percent) of food-insecure households, and even of households with very low food security (73.4 percent), did not use a food pantry at any time during the previous year. In some cases, this was because there was no food pantry available or because the household believed there was none available.

The hunger problem in Oklahoma and across the nation remains a pressing issue that has reached crisis proportions. Unemployment remains high as well. The two issues show the lack of any real economic recovery from the national recession.

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Civil Rights Group Criticizes Inhofe

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U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is drawing criticism from a Washington, D.C. civil rights organization for threatening to filibuster a judge nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Inhofe’s action contradicts his earlier stance against judicial filibusters, according to a statement released by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The judge is David Hamilton, who has the support of his home-state U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, the most senior-ranking Republican senator.

According to the statement:

Four years ago, in supporting the so-called Nuclear Option (which would have changed Senate rules to prohibit the use of filibusters against judicial nominees), Senators James Inhofe and Tom Coburn both took the position that it was unconstitutional for Senators to filibuster a President’s judicial nominees. In arguing against judicial filibusters, Inhofe stated that “I don’t think [the filibuster] should be used where it is contrary to the Constitution.” (Tulsa World, May 22, 2005). Senator Coburn said: “If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent. hat means you got to have a vote if they come out of committee.

Apparently, that was what the Constitution said then, this is now, at least in the mind of Senator Inhofe. According to published reports, Senator Inhofe is planning to lead a filibuster of President Obama’s first judicial nominee, David Hamilton, a highly regarded federal district court judge in Indiana who has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and has been rated unanimously as “Well Qualified” by the Standing Committee of the American Bar Association, the highest possible rating. He was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee more than four months ago.

Inhofe continues to draw attention to himself in a series of political stunts—most revolve around his rejection of climate-change science—that have little meaning to regular Oklahomans. Hamilton is a “well-qualified” judge who has solid support, according to LCCR.

The statement argues:

Geoffrey Slaughter, President of the Indiana Federalist Society, has also endorsed Judge Hamilton’s nomination, stating that “I regard Judge Hamilton as an excellent jurist with a first-rate intellect. He is unfailingly polite to lawyers. He asks tough questions to both sides, and he is very smart. His judicial philosophy is left of center, but well within the mainstream, between the 30-yard lines.”

Inhofe’s move is another partisan gesture that does nothing to help Oklahoma or its national image. Inhofe and Coburn have become caricatures of obstructionism on the national level, and this is not good for the state, although they are celebrated by the corporate media here. As the state suffers through a devastating budget crisis, Inhofe and Coburn play games in Washington. Inhofe should allow the nomination to go through.

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Armadillo Crossing

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Here are some excerpts from recent Okie Funk posts:

The news here is this: Although President Barack Obama's approval ratings have fallen, the GOP has failed to rebuild its broken infrastructure after a stinging defeat in the 2008 elections. The numbers also show the GOP remains out of step with the majority of the country. Unless it can offer more to people than anti-Obama hatred, the ludicrous claims of “socialism, communism, fascism,” and borderline violent rhetoric, the party will probably remain in the minority on a national level after the 2010 elections.

Oklahoma, which has a growing Republican political base, is a bastion of the anti-Obama movement. If the GOP tanks again nationally in 2010 and Oklahoma Republicans make big gains, and this is a real possibility, will the state be further isolated from the national discussion over important issues?
Poll Shows National GOP Decline, October 21, 2009

The health insurance industry has lobbied against the public option, but a new poll shows that 57 percent of Americans favor it. Some possible forms of the public option would allow states to opt out of it and/or limit the people who could qualify for it. The wiser move would be to pass what some people are calling the “pure” public option, which would be available to anyone.

If people like their existing insurance plan, then they can keep it. If not, they could choose the public option. The government plan would have less overhead costs and could negotiate lower prices because of its size and clout.

The health care system in this country is broken. Most Americans are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Rising premiums and co-pays prevent many people from seeking care and often a minor medical problem can turn into serious illness. Millions of Americans are uninsured, and many end up seeking care at hospital emergency rooms, which drives up overall costs.
Public Option Makes Sense, October 23, 2009

The state is facing true financial hardship. Revenues are 26 percent below budget estimates for the first fiscal quarter and most agencies are facing 5 percent cuts each month. Henry has said the state will likely have to use the Rainy Day Fund to balance next year’s budget and to repay loans for this year's budget, but he hasn’t called for a special session to deal with current cuts.

If legislators met in a special session, they could protect vital programs, such as the nutrition program, from disastrous cuts. They could look for deeper cuts in other areas, target priority areas for less cuts and then allocate Rainy Day Fund money. It’s understandable some state leaders wanted to wait as long as possible to tap into the fund, but the situation is now dire.

According to NewsOK.com, the cuts could mean some seniors will “go home hungry” on Sunday when the cuts take effect.

What does it tell you about a state that has $600 million in a savings account, but won’t use a relatively small amount of it to help prevent major cuts in an important food program for seniors?

The Tulsa World recently published an insightful story about the effect of the budget cuts.
Special Session Time, October 28, 2009

It’s vitally important, as Garrett suggested, to ensure teaching positions are not cut during this financial downturn. Teacher layoffs, if widespread, would obviously hurt student-learning outcomes. School children would lose out. Oklahoma already has underfunded schools, which has helped create low college graduation rates here. More cuts would be absolutely devastating. That’s not hyperbole

As I wrote in my previous post, the Oklahoma Legislature could meet in a short special session to deal with anticipated revenue declines, protecting, as much as possible, education, health programs and social services from deep cuts. State leaders could craft a new budget strategy for this year, taking a proactive rather than reactionary stance. The legislature could also use some of the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help shore up the finances of vital institutions, such as the state schools. As it stands now, the legislature will not meet until February.

Declining energy production tax revenues and recent tax cuts passed by the legislature that primarily benefited the state’s wealthiest citizens have created a real budget crisis for the state. Obviously, tax hikes are out of the question in Oklahoma because of its conservative politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, but at the very least state leaders could come up with a more specific and targeted plan to meet the current crisis.
Teacher Protection, October 30, 2009

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