Federal Bailout and Stimulus Resources

For those interested in pursuing an in-depth analysis of the federal bailout and stimulus plans and how each is progressing, the Columbia Journalism Review provides a good, solid and reasonably comprehensive review of sources in Bailout! Stimulus! Your Essential Guide.

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 5:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Food Insecurity in America

If you’re interested in learning more about the questions posed in our earlier posts Food Insecurity Rises and Food Stamp Usage Soars, you may be interested in a more comprehensive review of the topic from the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture.

Measuring Food Security in the United States: Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 is a fifty-eight page review of American food security, nutrition and food assistance. The abstract of the document explains its basic thrust:

“Eighty-five percent of American households were food secure throughout the entire year in 2008, meaning that they had access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The remaining households (14.6 percent) were food insecure t least some time during the year, including 5.7 percent with very low food security — meaning that the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food. Prevalence rates of food insecurity and very low food security were up from 11.1 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, in 2007, and were the highest recorded since 1995, when the fi rst national food security survey was conducted. The typical food-secure household spent 31 percent more on food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and household composition. Fifty-five percent of all food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs during the month prior to the 2008 survey.”

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Food Stamp Usage Soars

One of every four American children and one in every eight Americans uses food stamps to meet their nutritional needs, reports the New York Times.

Last week we briefly discussed the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s evidence that rising food insecurity characterizes these recessionary times. Now, the Times supplements this information by reporting that “there are 239 counties in the United States where at least a quarter of the population receives food stamps.” Indeed, in more than 800 counties, the food stamp program “helps feed one in three children. In the Mississippi River cities of St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans, half of the children or more receive food stamps. Even in Peoria, Ill. — Everytown, U.S.A. — nearly 40 percent of children receive aid.”

And food stamp usage is growing at a rapid pace. “There are about 50 small counties and a dozen sizable ones where the rolls have doubled in the last two years. In another 205 counties, they have risen by at least two-thirds. These places with soaring rolls include populous Riverside County, Calif., most of greater Phoenix and Las Vegas, a ring of affluent Atlanta suburbs, and a 150-mile stretch of southwest Florida from Bradenton to the Everglades.”

And yet there are perhaps another 15 to 16 million eligible Americans who do not receive nutritional aid. Nationwide, food stamps reach about two-thirds of those eligible, with rates ranging from an estimated 50 percent in California to 98 percent in Missouri.”

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Haysville: Safest Driving City in Kansas

The Wichita Eagle reports today that Haysville is the safest city in the state for drivers. “The city of Haysville recorded just more than 30 traffic accidents per 1,000 residents from 2004 through 2008,” they aver, “the lowest rate among Kansas cities with 10,000 or more residents. The city recorded no traffic fatalities during those years.” These statistics, secured from the Kansas Department of Transportation, indicate that the next safest city (Gardner) had an accident rate over the five-year span nearly double that of Haysville.

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Decorating the Library for the Holidays, 2

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Decorating the Library for the Holidays, 1

Published in: on November 29, 2009 at 6:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Food Insecurity Rises

The latest edition of the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves publication includes a poignant five page article reporting Food Insecurity Up in Recessionary Times. (For the html version of the article, look here.)

The assessment reports that “the number of U.S. households unable to put adequate food on the table increased sharply during the latest recession, reaching the highest level recorded since USDA began monitoring household food security in 1995.”

Specifically, “the number of food-insecure U.S. households rose from 13.0 million (11.1 percent of all households) in 2007 to 17.1 million (14.6 percent) in 2008. The additional food-insecure households were nearly evenly split between households with and without children, about 2 million in each group. However, the increase was proportionally larger for households with children. Among these households, the prevalence of food insecurity rose from 15.8 percent in 2007 to 21.0 percent in 2008. The corresponding increase for households without children was from 8.7 to 11.3 percent.”

For much more detail, including the methodology of the report, visit the USDA’s Amber Waves.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm  Comments (2)  

Fiscal Challenges Facing Cities

The Brookings Institution has released a 16-page report on Fiscal Challenges Facing Cities: Implications for Recovery.

As the Executive Summary of the report observes, “America’s current economic crisis is not only a national crisis. It is also a metropolitan crisis, and it will soon become a local government fiscal crisis.

“Coping with the worst economic downturn in 50 years, U.S. cities face sizable budget shortfalls for 2009 that are expected to grow much more severe and widespread in 2010 and 2011.

“With the pace of recovery still sluggish, local government budget tightening and spending cuts over the next two years could well impose a significant drag on the nation’s economic performance just as the extraordinary interventions of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) trail off.

“It could be that a deepening local government fiscal crisis—less remarked upon than the one challenging state governments—could hobble the nation’s incipient recovery with several years of layoffs, cancelled contracts with vendors, and reduced services.”

That the impact of this impending fiscal crisis may be of substantial significance is evidenced by the fact that “cities and their surrounding suburbs are important economic agents that not only provide services important to the functioning of regional economies, but also serve as major employers in many metros. Across the 100 largest U.S. metros, for example, local government accounts for some 10 percent of total non-farm metro employment.” And local governments have grown more, not less important as a source of jobs and wages during recent years.

The Brookings analysts summarize the state of affairs by noting that “nearly nine in 10 city finance officers recently surveyed by the National League of Cities (NLC) report difficulties meeting fiscal needs in 2009. In aggregate, these cities face nearly 3 percent budget shortfalls on average this year. And the sense of trepidation is ubiquitous across a diverse range of metros, regardless of which aspect of the national crisis impacts them the most: declining consumption rates and increased property foreclosures; job losses in manufacturing or financial services; or record state budget shortfalls. Yet this is only the beginning of what will likely be a slow-moving crisis. That’s because while income and sales taxes are typically the earliest sources of city revenue to decline as job losses in a community increase and consumer purchases slow, property tax collections — which make up the bulk of city revenue nationwide — decline much more slowly as real property assessments are adjusted to reflect declining housing values. These have only just begun to slump, meaning that cities and other localities will be contending with increasing budget pressure for the next several years.”

Those interested in the implications of this situation will find this report invaluable for their purposes. And while the report quite naturally concentrates attention upon larger metropolitan areas, the implications clearly apply no less to cities as small as Haysville.

For a very quick overview of the report’s substance, see the Executive Summary at the beginning of the report, or review the initial press release for the report from Brookings.

For more information on the National League of Cities survey noted above, see this press release. For more information upon cities’ implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, see this Brookings document.

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kepler — the Opera

Johannes Kepler portrait 1610 (unknown artist)

New Scientist today offers a brief video interview with Phillip Glass concerning his new opera Kepler, performed last week at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, along with a few brief comments of interest.

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Earth from Space

Earth and its Moon as viewed from Galileo spacecraft, 1992 (NASA)

Beginning with the Crescent Earth image from the Rosetta spacecraft we featured a few days ago, Scientific American offers an interesting slideshow of ten images depicting Earth from Space, including the 1966 Lunar Orbiter image of a crescent earth rising over the lunar surface, the Cassini spacecraft view of earth far beyond the rings of Saturn, the intriguing backward view from Galileo depicted above, and several others.

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

FDR’s Deadly Secret

An obviously very ill Franklin D. Roosevelt meets with Churchill and Stalin at Yalta

Slate previews a book due out in January on FDR’s Deadly Secret, by neurologist Steven Lomazow and journalist Eric Fettman. The authors hypothesize that FDR’s final illness was cancer, and that a brain tumor was the cause of the hemorrhage which killed him. Read more about their upcoming book in “Roosevelt’s Last Days.”

Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gazebo Construction 2, Continued

Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 5:04 pm  Comments (2)