Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

More than one in every five households in Oregon depends on food stamps.

Just so you don’t miss the point here, I repeat: MORE than ONE in EVERY FIVE households in Oregon depends on food stamps. Depends. That is more than any other state and nearly double what it was in 2008. Double.

Are we clear?

Think of 10 families you know. The Census Bureau figures, statistically, two of them are getting outside government assistance to keep eating. We’re talking “families” here. Suppose each family is five people. Now we’re talking 10 individuals. Ten out of every 50 of us. And if you don’t think that applies to anyone you know, then someone else knows even more folks using food stamps just to get by. So the ratio in your neighborhood could be even higher.

Dig further down in those numbers and you’ll find the large majority of assistance went to people in rural areas. Maybe in your small county, it was more like two of every five families. Or three.

I am sick of the blatant ignorance that says the majority of food stamp go to (1) lazy Democrats or (2) lazy blacks or Hispanics who won’t work or (3) deadbeats or (4) anyone who doesn’t look like the speaker or live in his neighborhood! Pick one. Pure B.S.! It’s on the I-net daily – spread by “dittoheads” who won’t do their homework. Well, here’s the homework!

When all but three Republican members of the House of Representatives vote to cut $40 billion out of the food stamp budget, chances are you knew a few families who’d have an even harder time trying to buy necessary basics.

And here’s something else to consider about that shameful vote. In all the history of the annual farm bill vote – 50 years more or less – its always been a total package. Always. Billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers or corporations – even a few members of Congress – AND the food stamp assistance program. It’s always been that way. Until this year.

With their majority in the House – and driven by a suicide-like urge to appease their old, white political base in the farm states – Republicans split the bill. Kept the billions rolling out to the farmers – private and corporate – killed the billions to feed people needing help. The rich get richer and the poor go hungry. The vote in the House was so blatantly purely political that even newspaper editorialists in a number of farm states pounded Republicans they traditionally praise.

Here’s one cretin who voted to slash help for the hungry. GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. Asked by a constituent at a town hall session why he voted to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program, his response couldn’t have been more direct. Or more shameful.

Said Kramer, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

Now you might want to consider something that idiot obviously didn’t know. About 76% of food stamp households – 76% – include a child, one or more elderly or someone who’s disabled. Those households receive about 84% of all food benefits.

Out here – in rural Oregon – food banks are being hit with record demand for help. We’re not talking all those fru-fru’s on your grocery list – paper towels, ice cream, potato chips, pot roast. The need is for bread and milk and flour and beans and canned goods of all sorts. The kinds of things people require in a very, very basic diet. Churches are trying to help. Service clubs, too. Backpacks with more of those basic foods go out each Friday for hundreds of kids in our area who won’t have a meal – any meal – until school on Monday. Shelters for abused families are asking for more assistance because they’re serving more battered – and hungry – people.

Now, some S-O-Bs making $174,000 a year, have decided to cut $40 billion from a most basic survival government assistance program while keeping the federal goose laying large golden eggs for their rural, well-fed political base. The $50 or $75 or $100 a week for families that can’t afford groceries will take the hit. So will the food banks and the churches and the service clubs and others running to keep up with the hunger demands.

It’s extremely unlikely this piece of crap will ever get out of the Majority Leader’s desk drawer in the Senate. People who have no other options for basic survival will continue to be served. For now. But the sequester is about to make a huge cut with no one taking any more action. Anyone!

But it would do them well – and all the rest of us – to keep that Republican vote in the House in our minds come election day 2014. If Republicans prevail in 2014 – like that idiot Kramer – millions already suffering hardship could be faced with the loss of the most basic source of survival. Food.

That blatant political self-service along the Potomac deserves nothing more than starvation at the ballot box.

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Rainey

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

When all the media “air” is used on the story of the day, even if major, just as government shutdown or health insurance websites, we tend to miss a lot of other things. In Idaho right now, a lot of people probably are missing something important to their future: The Columbia River Treaty.

This is a story still in development, and it won’t come to fruition until next year at the earliest, and maybe later. But it will have a good deal to do with how much water Idaho will have in years to come.

You may not have heard of the treaty, which would be testimony to its long-running quiet usefulness. The United States and Canada began discussions about the Columbia – its main stem originates in Canada – in the early 40s, after the New Deal construction of massive dams along the river on the south side of the border, and in a time when flooding was still a significant problem. In 1948 the then-second-largest community in Oregon, called Vanport (located near Portland), was wiped out by a Columbia River flood. Canada had river issues too, including requests by the United States to build dams in that country for flood control purposes, and negotiations began.

They were not easy. The treaty was not written and ratified until 1964, Since then, various developments agreed to (including more dam construction) has been undertaken. The treaty doesn’t have an expiration date, but it does say it can be renegotiated after 50 years. Early talks are underway, led on each side by an organizational combine called the Entity (sorry if this is sounding like a sci-fi movie). The U.S. Entity includes executives of the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Entity has been seeking public comments, and has held public meetings around the region, including one in Boise on October 3. That round of hearings is over, though more may be held. Or not; the last requests for comments drew (as of October 18) only 20 from the whole region. (There’s a web site at http://www.crt2014-2024review.gov/.) The Entity is scheduled to deliver a proposal for the United States position on the treaty to the U.S. Department of State before the end of this year.

Both the Entity and the Canadian negotiators are looking at a number of possible alterations to the treaty, including some involving ecosystem restoration and increases of fish runs. That could affect the requirements for how much water flows through the Columbia system, requirements that both nations would have to live with.

As would the states south of the border that contribute to the river.

The Columbia River does not, of course, flow through Idaho. But the Columbia’s largest tributary, the Snake River, certainly does, and so do all of the smaller rivers in northern Idaho (such as the Spokane and the Coeur d’Alene), and all of those contribute to the Columbia’s flow. If requirements change for how much water has to flow through the Columbia south of the Tri-Cities in Washington, where the Snake and Columbia merge, that will undoubtedly affect Idaho.

Coming at a time when Idaho is wrapping up its massive Snake River Basin Adjudication, which has had the aim of specifying who can get what when the comes to the river basin’s water, the treaty should be under the Idaho magnifying lens.

One of those many reasons not to get too distracted by the story of the day.

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