Taxpayer Dollars Spent On Food Stamps Has Doubled Since Obama Took Office – 100% Increase – Estimated Cost Over Next 10 Years Is $770 Billion

June 8, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The vast majority of federal spending in the Senate farm bill, which is estimated to cost over $100 billion annually, is going toward food stamps, representing a 100 percent increase since President Barack Obama took office, according to Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions.

“This legislation will spend $82 billion on food stamps next year, and an estimated $770 billion over the next ten years. To put these figures in perspective, we will spend $40 billion federal dollars next year on roads and bridges,” said Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

“Food stamp spending has more than quadrupled since the year 2001. It has increased 100 percent since President Obama took office,” he said.

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High School Students With Jobs At Lowest Level In More Than 20 Years

May 25, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Did somebody say McJobless?

The American job market is no place for students as the number of employed high schoolers has hit its lowest level in more than 20 years, according to new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In 1990, 32 percent of high school students held jobs, versus just 16 percent now. Blame their elders.

Sectors that traditionally have offered teens their first paying gig — fast-food chains, movie theaters, malls and big-box retailers — have now become the last resorts for out-of-work college graduates or older Americans forced back into the labor force out of sheer financial necessity. The resulting squeeze has left students on the outside looking in.

“By definition, teenage workers get the jobs that are left over,” said Charles Hirschman, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who has studied and written about student employment. “When you can’t find someone else to bag your groceries or work construction, often teenagers are the labor force you can count on to pick up that slack for a low wage. But now, with the recession, everybody has moved down. Those jobs aren’t going to teenagers.”

The decline began in the 1990s, but accelerated in the past decade. It has grown worse since the dawn of the Great Recession, analysts say.

Local McDonald’s managers, for example, are no longer forced to accept young workers who can show up after class. They now have the option to hire older employees with more experience and, in many cases, much more education.

“They think, ‘I can hire this old guy instead. He already knows how to work, so we don’t need to teach him,’ ” said Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies. “It’s a real weakness in our labor market right now. We’re going to need a big increase in demand to turn this around in the short run.”

The crunch is also hitting college students. In 2000, 52 percent of full-time college students worked. That number has now fallen to 40 percent, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.

Some may interpret the NCES numbers as a sign that today’s generation of young people simply has grown lazier, but analysts say that’s not necessarily the case. It’s their opportunity to work, not their desire, that has fallen off a cliff.

“Adolescents, like everybody else, like to spend money. If they have opportunities to work, even if it’s at a local fast-food place, a lot of students would still do that so they can afford to buy new music and new clothes,” Mr. Hirschman said.

For high schoolers, the dream of going to college also plays a role in low employment figures, according to specialists. Their desire to get straight A’s and attend a prestigious university can lead them to spend all their time studying. Parents often encourage that type of laserlike focus on studies at the expense of getting that first job.

“Everybody wants to do it. Every positive thing in life is highly correlated with education. Most adolescents know that, and most parents know that,” Mr. Hirschman said.

In the long run, the trend could produce more and more young adults who lack the basic skills, such as how to interact with a customer, gained while working early in life. The longer a young person goes without a job, Mr. Sum said, the less attractive he or she looks to employers.

“There’s only one way you can learn how to work — you’ve got to work,” he said.

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CHANGE: US Home Ownership Falls To Record Lows

April 27, 2012

PRINCETON, NJ – The 62% of Americans who say they own their own home marks a new low since Gallup began tracking self-reported homeownership in 2001.

The current level of homeownership marks a decline from 68% in 2011. For most of the prior decade, roughly seven in 10 Americans reported owning their own home. While the recession and financial crisis took place in 2008-2009, homeownership rates didn’t begin to reflect the bursting of the housing bubble until 2010, when 65% of Americans reported owning their own home — the lowest level recorded before this year.

Fifty-three percent of Americans believe their house is worth more today than when they bought it, down significantly from 80% in 2008 and 92% in 2006. It confirms that many Americans are underwater in terms of the value of the home they currently own.

Houses that were purchased many years ago, well before the collapse of the real estate market, are more likely to be worth more today than when they were bought. Accordingly, older Americans are less likely to say their home’s value has not appreciated since they bought it — 31% of Americans aged 50 and older say this. In contrast, 62% of Americans aged 30 to 49, many of whom likely bought homes closer to the collapse, say their home is not worth more.

Lower home prices combined with continued low mortgage interest rates have 70% of Americans believing now is a “good time” to buy a house. This is about the same as in the past several years, but up from 53% in 2008.

Americans are much more positive about the direction of housing prices this year than they were last year. They are significantly more likely to expect the average price of houses in their area to increase over the next 12 months than to decrease, 33% vs. 23%. Last year, Americans were about evenly split, 28% to 30%.

Today’s housing price expectations differ sharply from those during the housing price boom. In 2005, 70% of Americans expected house prices in their area to increase, while 5% expected them to decrease. Expectations moderated as prices hit record levels in 2006-2007. Expectations became more negative during the recession and financial crisis. In 2010, price expectations were similar to those anticipated today.

Most Americans recognize that now is likely a good time to buy a house. Mortgage rates remain at historical lows and Federal Reserve policy seems determined to keep them low for some time to come. While recent Case-Shiller measurements show home prices declining, about one in three Americans expect house prices to increase over the next 12 months and another 44% expect prices to remain unchanged. Relatively stable prices and low interest rates would seem to make buying a house extremely attractive in many local housing markets.

Part of the explanation for decade-low homeownership likely has to do with today’s broken housing finance system that depends on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA/VA. Potential home buyers can take advantage of today’s low mortgage interest rates only if they can meet significantly more stringent down payment and underwriting standards than was the case prior to the financial crisis.

Further, while record home foreclosures and distress sales resulting in declining house values have also played a role in the declining rate of homeownership in recent years, so has the weakness of the overall economy. Buying a home is the most important purchase and largest financial commitment most people make during their lives. For most Americans, it is hard to feel secure enough to make such a commitment when the economy is growing slowly and they see nearly one in five workers underemployed, that is, unemployed or employed part time but willing to work full time.

Declining homeownership rates suggest some Americans are beginning to doubt that homeownership remains part of the American dream — or at least, an attainable part of it. From an economic perspective, U.S. economic growth needs to be much stronger than it has been in order to achieve the hiring necessary to get unemployment rates to the “normal” levels of the past. This doesn’t seem likely as long as housing activity remains relatively moribund and homeownership rates are declining.

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Economy And Unemployment So Bad Under Obama That Millions Of Illegal Immigrants Are Heading Home

April 24, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Well, that’s one way to stem the tide of illegal aliens streaming across the border from Mexico.

Jack up unemployment rates to near double digits, dunk America into a double-dip recession and put us so deeply into hock with the Chinese communists that it will take generations for us to recover.

After long enough, living and working and trying to eke out bare survival in America becomes even worse than trying to get by in Mexico.

A new study from the highly esteemed Pew Hispanic Center says the millions of Mexicans who risked their lives crossing the desert to get here to the promised land for a better life have given up on the U.S.

This is no small feat. Have you ever been to Mexico? Not the ritzy beach towns with the gated resorts, but Nuevo Laredo? The dusty streets are filled with bony children selling gum and candy for just a few spare pennies.

Desperate as that little trade may have once seemed to us, at least it has the vibe of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during the ‘90s. Nothing like that is going on anywhere on this side of the border.

Remember the axiom of big government bureaucrats: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. When, finally, under the crushing weight of taxes and regulation, it stops moving, subsidize it.

So the Mexicans have quit coming to the hopeless part of North America. Canada is just too far to walk.

Or, at least, the few final stragglers who have not kept up with America’s woes and are still sneaking into the U.S. are balanced out by all the illegal Mexicans already here who are now risking their lives to cross the desert to escape the American “dream.”

Now we know why all the politicians in Washington have finally agreed to beef up security and build a fence along the southern border. They’re desperate to keep all the Mexicans from leaving.

That’s right, who would raise their children and mow their lawns and do all of America’s dirty work if all the Mexicans left?

Authors of the Pew report call the stunning shift in migration patterns historic. Not since the Great Depression, they say, has a shift of this magnitude occurred along the U.S.-Mexico border. Not since the Great Depression?

It’s almost enough to make you pine for the good old days of rampant illegal immigration.

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TSA Created Travel Hassles Currently Cost US Economy $85 Billion And 900,000 Jobs Per Year

March 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S Travel Association and a panel of travel and security experts today unveiled a groundbreaking plan to improve security at America’s airports and reduce the burden on travelers. Among the most notable recommendations are the creation of a trusted traveler program and a requirement that travelers be allowed to check at least one bag at no additional cost to the ticket price as a means to reduce the amount of luggage going through the security checkpoint.

The need for reform was made especially clear by recent research revealing that travelers are avoiding two to three trips per year due to unnecessary hassles associated with the security screening process. These avoided trips come at a cost of $85 billion and 900,000 jobs to the American economy.

The recommendations, the culmination of a year-long analysis to remake aviation security screening, were issued in a report titled “A Better Way: Building a World Class System for Aviation Security,” and call on Congress to own responsibility for improving the current system through effective policy decisions. U.S. Travel and its panel of experts set out to achieve three primary goals:

1.
Improve the TSA checkpoint by increasing efficiency, decreasing passenger wait times and screening passengers based on risk;
2.
Generate greater governmental efficiency and cooperation in executing its security responsibilities; and
3.
Restructure America’s national approach to aviation security by developing and using risk management methods and tools.

“While our government and passengers deserve credit for preventing another terrorist attack like what happened nearly 10 years ago on 9/11, each day in the United States roughly two million air travelers are advised to arrive upwards of two hours before a flight in order to be processed through a one-size-fits-all security screening system,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

“The country that put a man on the moon, invented the Internet and creates daily innovations in manufacturing can and must do better in screening passengers and improving our air travel experience. Air travel is the gateway to commerce and an improved experience is directly tied to job creation and a stronger economy.”

The blue ribbon panel created by U.S. Travel was chaired by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Congressman Jim Turner and Sam Gilliland, president and chief executive officer of Sabre Holdings. The panel consisted of former top officials from DHS and TSA; representatives from the airline, airport, logistics and security technology sectors; and leaders who represent the destinations and other businesses reliant on a functional air travel system.

In helping U.S. Travel introduce the report, former Secretary Ridge said: “A strong aviation security screening system must feature several characteristics, including efficient methods of deterring and interdicting terrorists and criminals; tailored security based upon risk assessment; frequent, clear communication with the traveling public; and cost-effective use of resources.”

Dow acknowledged the complexity of addressing the current challenges, noting solutions will require cooperation, and possibly sacrifices by airlines, airports, the broader travel industry, the traveling public, federal agencies and the Congress, which he said must take responsibility for leading change.

“Dramatic policy shifts undermine the ability of our nation to create a secure and efficient aviation system, and demonstrate a lack of a long-term vision for aviation security,” Dow said. “TSA and its officers often bear unjustified public criticism for simply carrying out the ever-changing policies set by Congress and an unwillingness to date to embrace risk management. If this pattern is to change, Congress must set the tone and take on the responsibility of improving the current system.”

Rooted in the diverse professional and political viewpoints of the panelists, the group did not always find consensus in how to address the difficult challenges. Among the panel’s recommendations in the report:

*
Implement a risk-based trusted traveler program. Congress should authorize TSA to implement a new, voluntary, government-run trusted traveler program that utilizes a risk-based approach to checkpoint screening, with the goal of refocusing resources on the highest risk passengers;
*
Improve preparation of travelers. Industry stakeholders should work with TSA to improve their education and communication on security rules and regulations, targeting locations and sources that travelers are likely to review as they book or prepare for a trip;
*
Encourage fewer carry-on bags. The Department of Transportation (DOT) should issue regulations requiring airlines to allow passengers one checked bag as part of their base airfare and standardize existing rules covering the quantity and size of items that can be carried onto an airplane;
*
Reduce duplicative TSA screening for international arrivals. DHS should enable certain low-risk passengers who are traveling to another domestic airport to forego checked baggage and passenger screening upon landing in the U.S.;
*
Expand trusted traveler programs to qualified international passengers. DHS should expand access to international trusted traveler programs for international passengers entering the U.S., as well as lead efforts to establish a multinational network of streamlined entry procedures for low-risk travelers;
*
Give TSA authority over the entire checkpoint area. Congress should immediately act to clear up confusion over “ownership” of commercial aviation security and authorize TSA to control the entire security checkpoint starting at the beginning of the security lines and ending after a traveler exits the screening area;
*
Develop a comprehensive technology procurement strategy. TSA, in collaboration with technology vendors and the travel community, should develop a comprehensive strategy for implementing necessary checkpoint technology capabilities. Congress should provide multi-year funding plans for TSA to execute this strategy;
*
Implement well-defined risk management processes. The Administration should convene an external panel of experts with appropriate security clearances to review TSA aviation security programs, assess the risk each is designed to mitigate and develop metrics for measuring progress to lessen that risk.

Dow urged Congress and the Administration to seriously considering implementing the panel’s recommendations as quickly as possible, pointing out the current aviation security system is discouraging Americans from flying and contributing to a decline in productivity among those who choose to fly.

According to a 2010 survey conducted by Consensus Research, American travelers would take an additional two to three flights per year if the hassles in security screening system were eliminated. These additional flights would add nearly $85 billion in consumer spending and 900,000 jobs to the American economy.

According to the same research, a large majority of Americans consider today’s security screening system to be “inconsistent,” “stressful” and “embarrassing.”

Dow concluded: “When combining the staggering economic consequences of the current system with the widely held views of the traveling public – and with the American way of life hanging in the balance – the picture becomes clear. We must find a better way and build a new traveler-focused system for aviation security.”

To download the complete report, visit http://www.ustravel.org/betterway.

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Indiana Adds Armed Guards To Unemployment Officers As Residents 99 Week Benefits Expire

November 2, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA — Armed security guards will be on hand at 36 unemployment offices around Indiana in what state officials said is a step to improve safety and make branch security more consistent.

No specific incidents prompted the action, Department of Workforce Development spokesman Marc Lotter told 6News’ Norman Cox.

Lotter said the agency is merely being cautious with the approach of an early-December deadline when thousands of Indiana residents could see their unemployment benefits end after exhausting the maximum 99 weeks provided through multiple federal extension periods.

“Given the upcoming expiration of the federal extensions and the increased stress on some of the unemployed, we thought added security would provide an extra level of protection for our employees and clients,” he said.

Some offices have had guards for nearly two years but those guards were hired on a regional basis, meaning some offices had armed guards while others did not, Lotter said.

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The cost of the armed guards varies dramatically around the state. Lotter said the agency is trying to be more consistent and that it plans to employ armed guards in all 36 offices where unemployment insurance benefits are handled.

The overall cost for the security is $1 million, paid for with federal funds designated for administration of the unemployment system, Lotter said.

Other agency offices that provide job training or are not full-service branches will continue to have unarmed guards.

Lotter said state employees in the affected offices have also recently gone through stress-management training in which they learn how to respond appropriately to angry clients.

“This is a stressful time for people in the economy,” he said. “That’s why we’re not only taking this step (of hiring guards), but we’re also increasing our training for our staff to be able to help people as they’re trying to cope with these changes.”

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Crime In Central Park New York Jumps 45%

November 2, 2010

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – It’s one of the top tourist destinations in New York City and arguably the most famous park in the world.

And now it’s the scene of a spike in crime.

In fact, crime in Central Park is up 45 percent compared to last year.

CBS 2′s Magee Hickey reports on what’s being done to stop it.

Among the 20 million people who visit Central Park each year, many can be potential targets of crime, like one German tourist Hickey saw napping in the sun, or the jogger with earphones or the visitor with a knapsack out of reach. With a 45-percent leap in crimes in Central Park over the last year experts are worried that visitors are too relaxed about their safety.

Specifically, seven rapes have been reported so far this year, compared to none for the same period last year. Robberies are up to 22 this year compared to 18 last year and grand larceny, 56 incidents this year compared to 35 last year — a 60 percent increase.

“The economy, a bad economy doesn’t help. Many more people are using the park. Many are lulled into a false sense of security,” said NYC park advocate Geoffrey Croft.

So Hickey brought a self-defense expert into the park to give some tips on how we can all be safer.

“Stay in populated areas. Don’t take shortcuts,” female awareness expert Gabrielle Rubin said.

Rubin’s other tips include: jog with a buddy, particularly during pre-dawn or dusk hours; change your route daily; make eye contact with passersby, don’t wear earphones or talk on the phone if walking alone and keep personal possession close at hand.

Most welcomed the pointers.

“My mom tells me to do that all the time,” jogger Brooke Kneteman said.

“If you’re going to close your eyes, maybe not a good idea to have headphones on because you lose two senses,” student Max Behr added.

“This handbag is way too easy to grab. Put together is much harder to grab,” Rubin said.

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