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Not gonna happen
The US House of Representatives, on a party-line vote, broke with tradition by stripping from the farm bill the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). What’s left in the bill is billions of dollars of subsidies mostly for farming conglomerates. The US Senate passed a much more balanced bill last month. The farm bill sets US agricultural, food and resource conservation policy for the next five years.       

Over the past 18 years, our government has doled out an average of $7 billion per year of taxpayer funds to support the livestock and dairy industries. Instead, their products should be taxed to reimburse state and federal governments for the uncounted billions in increased medical costs and lost productivity associated with their consumption. Conversely, a sound national nutrition program based on vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits and nuts can save additional billions in reduced social costs.

I am all in favor of reducing our national deficit, government waste and medical costs. But that’s not going to happen by taking nutritious food from the mouths of 47 million of our society’s least privileged members.


More to come
The numbers of homeless people here in Los Angeles, and elsewhere in this country, have grown markedly in recent years, as the bad economy has torn apart the middle class. It is true that a number of homeless people are mentally ill, substance abusers or alcoholics, and that a number of homeless people are also veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or other medical issues who are not receiving adequate treatment or services.

But a growing block of homeless people are older adults who have been pushed out of the job market due to age discrimination, who have battled lengthy unemployment, and who have lost their homes or apartments, particularly apartments, because they could no longer afford to live in their places — either having to leave on their own, or being forced out by eviction action, often with no place to go.

For many older adults, family members and other relatives who could be of assistance may have either already passed on, or are scattered and live far apart, or they may no longer be in contact with them. So older homeless people often have no family resources to draw on, particularly if they are childless with no grown children of their own, when faced with homelessness.

These are homeless people who are not mentally ill, or alcoholics, or drug addicts. There are also many other financially struggling older adults who are scraping by on meager incomes, who also face unemployment, and who are at high risk of losing their apartments and becoming homeless. These can be couples, and men, but they are often women.

I know of an over-50-year-old unemployed woman who recently lost her longtime apartment to eviction who is now homeless. I know an over-60-year-old woman, who is currently struggling to have enough paying work, who went through a homeless period herself a decade ago, and who is still at high risk of becoming homeless again and losing her apartment. I knew another over-50 woman who was unemployed for some time, who came close to becoming homeless herself.

In looking at the causes of homelessness, my anger grows at all the greedy property management companies who have mostly overtaken individual landlords these days as apartment complex owners and managers, who force out longtime tenants, particularly elderly or low-income tenants, in order to raise rents because they want higher-income tenants, and who do not want to have anything to do with Section 8, or with providing affordable rental housing for low-income people.

For many struggling people who are apartment tenants and have lost income due to unemployment, or from taking lower-paying work, property management companies make it difficult for them to remain living in their apartments.

Along with focusing on homelessness in this country, the high cost of rental housing that pushes out low-income people — the very people who need affordable rental housing because they cannot, of course, afford to buy houses — is another issue, alongside gun control and immigration, where changes are badly needed. Yet property management companies continue to have large apartment complexes of 400 units or more constructed, that will rent at high prices, and in which only those who earn $60,000 a year or more are able to afford, not those who are earning meager wages working at McDonald’s or at Wal-Mart, or who subsist on disability checks.

It is also an obstacle for lower-income people to qualify for a new apartment if they do not meet the requirement that their monthly take-home earnings are three times the amount of the cost of the monthly rent, and if others, including family members, refuse to be co-signers on rental agreements, which property management companies also require.
Expect to find our homeless numbers growing more all the time, along with the possessions they carry around with them, thanks to unemployment, low wages, meager incomes, and the high cost of rental housing.


Re: “By the book,” Aug. 1
Prosecutorial ethics forbid a prosecution without a reasonable likelihood of conviction. The local prosecutor in Zimmerman’s case recognized this and declined to prosecute. The special prosecutor bowed to public pressure and achieved the predictable outcome. The prosecutorial burden under under Federal Law will be greater, and the outcome almost certain to be the same. Mr. Martin’s family has remedies in the civil courts, and the criminal courts should not be subservient to an angry mob, even if rightfully angry.  


Re: “Hybrid haters,” Aug. 1
Being smug has nothing to do with Prius hatred, it’s that Prius drivers tend to drive slower than normal, accelerate slower than normal, and brake earlier than normal, all in the name of “hyper-miling,” and if you are stuck behind one of these Gomers in a car with a manual tranny it can get very frustrating very quickly, because you end up either riding the clutch, lugging the engine, or revving the engine to the same speed as the “smug” Prius ahead of you, so when the time comes to pass we tend to blast by them while looking over our shoulder at the driver while wording “dumass” or other colorful metaphor.


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