Saturday, November 30, 2013

Noem, protecting school lunches, but not the farmers that provide for them.

This thanksgiving, I was able to reflect a lot of what I have to be thankful for.  I have two wonderful boys, a beautiful wife, I enjoy my job, I have a great group of young students on the debate team, wonderful neighbors, and so much more.  As I was partaking in my grandmother's turkey, stuffing, and gravy, I was thankful to be able to share such wonderful food with family.  Many people were unable to do so, thanks to Kristi Noem and the GOP, because they believe that people that are hungry must prove that they need assistance and drug test to prove that they do not abuse the good taxpayers money.
Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said, “Loopholes and fraud … have led to federal spending on SNAP to increase” (Noem has received $503,000 in farm subsidies).
What she did not tell you is that those requirements may be good for SNAP participants, but not for those that receive crop insurance.  
One subsidy lawmakers want to revise is crop insurance—a program designed to protect farmers and ranchers from volatile weather and market forces. Unlike traditional farm subsidies, however, crop insurance is not subject to means testing, payment limits, and conservation requirements, but reformers think it should be. 
None of this may matter since it appears that Kristi is failing on another promise to be a major player and getting that pesky Farm Bill done on time.  She is trying to shift focus to making the USDA changes in the requirements for meat and grain for school lunches permanent.  
The bill, "Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act," Noem said, gives flexibility to schools to help ensure kids get the nutrition they need to be healthy. 
Though specifics on the bill are not yet available, it is supported by another school lunch critic, the National School Boards Association. 
Broadly, the bill is expected to make the USDA's temporary easing of the meat and grain requirements permanent, allowing schools more flexibility in serving meats and grains while still staying within calorie maximums, and give administrators flexibility on some of the rules that have increased costs for school districts.
This is a good idea in my opinion.  I am glad that she is helping push for this, but it does not trump a Farm Bill that will have a much larger impact on hungry children.  The cuts that she wants in the program will have a much larger impact on children's hunger.  The cuts by the sequestration have had a much larger impact on helping feed children.  She is silent on those issues.  

She may be quiet in part because it looks like she has failed to deliver on a farm bill again this year.
Congress left Washington on Nov. 22 for Thanksgiving without reaching agreement on a new farm bill, leaving in question whether the bill will be finished before the end of the calendar year. 
The four principal negotiators — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who is chairing the conference, House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Senate Agriculture ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., met three times on Nov. 20 and 21, and there were signs of an agreement, but they finally gave up for the week.
 I am thankful for the hard work our farmers do.  I am thankful that my children have food to eat.  It is time that both farmers and our children have a Congressperson that will work to actually get something done for them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Pledge To Avoid Real Problems

It seems that the Sioux Falls School District has ended up in a fine mess when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance being said during school.  So many people are getting into an uproar because the school district doesn't demand that they force students to be patriotic.  So how do these so called patriots show their American spirit?  They leave hate messages and death threats against those they disagree with.  
Todd Thoelke said he received death threats by phone among the more than 100 phone calls and 100 emails from all over the country. One said they would come to his home and “eliminate” him and his “un-American family.”
Nothing says America like death threats to scare little children.  

Our politicians have jumped on the bandwagon.
The uproar has caused some state lawmakers to take action. State Rep. Hal Wick said last week he plans on bringing legislation next session to require all South Dakota students, at public and private schools, to recite the Pledge every day they are in school. 
I would like to know how Mr. Wick plans on monitoring every single student to make sure that he or she is faithfully reciting the pledge.  Will this include exchange students from other countries?  Will we need to spend less time on math or literature to make sure that every students is versed in the pledge?  How will this help students succeed in school?  I doubt I could get a real answer on the issue.

There are more important issues that Mr. Wick and others could focus on in the Sioux Falls district that would better impact the lives of students.

Fighting Homelessness
The number of homeless children identified by the school district's Homeless Education Office has risen sharply from 471in the 2004-05 school year to 1,049 in 2010-11. 
Because a student that says a pledge doesn't need to worry about where they will be sleeping that night.

Making Sure a Child has Food to Eat
Nearly 40% of the state’s school-aged children qualify for free and reduced meals. 
Because saying "I pledge allegiance to the flag..." is more important to a ten year old than getting supper when he gets home.

Preventing Child Abuse
currently in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties of South Dakota over 210 children are the "subjects" in open abuse & neglect cases. 
Because it is more important for a child to cover his or her heart in the pledge than to cover his or her bruises.

So, Representative Wick, I can understand that you don't have time to spend in dealing with trivial issues like homelessness, food security, or abuse because you need to worry if a student is being forced to say a pledge.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Clock is Ticking for Kristi Noem and the Farm Bill

It has been a long time since I have had a chance to post.  Between debate, papers, and family, posting gets to take a backseat.  The only thing that seems to have changed since I have lasted posted is my facial hair (Celebrating Mo-vember).  One thing that hasn't changed is Kristi Noem reminding us that she has no real voice in Washington.  To me it seems that one of the biggest issues for her reelection chances is the passage of a Farm Bill.  

Kristi seems optimistic that something will get done, but that is not the first time that she believed that a farm bill would pass.  She spoke with ranchers already suffering from Noem's inability to push her good buddy John Boehner to get farm bill passed and told them, just wait longer, I am sure this time I can pass something...maybe...possibly...

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-.S.D., told reporters Nov. 14 that farm bill conferees could reach an agreement as soon as a week or two. That bill, if it can muster the votes in Congress, would provide livestock indemnity payments or disaster aid to producers who lost livestock. 
The Senate version would provide 65 percent of the market value of cattle lost, while the House bill has a 75 percent figure. Noem said she expects the program to be included in the final farm bill. 
Even though the conferees might agree on a package fairly soon, it still would have to be approved by both the Senate and the House, which could take much longer but might be done by the end of the year.
It appears that not everyone thinks that a farm bill will get passed.  Just ask Senator Thune:
Thune said he is hopeful about completing a new farm bill by year’s end, but he does not share Noem’s optimism. 
“There’s a lot of skepticism around here that it can happen,” Thune said. 
It not only seems like Congress is going to fail for another 2 years without farm bill reforms, but this could be the last farm bill we ever see.

If Congress fails to pass a new bill, a second extension is likely, Flinchbaugh said.
"There is some talk we will do that for two years because we don't want to be messing with this during an election year," Flinchbaugh said. "Or, we implement the permanent legislation."... 
Given the impasse on this farm bill - which traditionally has had bipartisan support - some farm analysts are suggesting this could be the last farm bill, ending 80 years of U.S. farm policy designed to protect farm price and income. 
"If we remove food and nutrition bills from the farm bill this is the last one," Flinchbaugh said. "If we keep the consumer-farmer coalition together there will be future farm bills." 
"There are 400 urban districts in the House of Representatives and 35 rural districts. When you're a minority like farmers - granted they are a potent minority because they produce food - but you remove nutrition and food stamp programs from the farm bill, the leverage is over.
Kristi reminds me of the blanket comments from my novice debaters who, unsure of what they are doing and lack a complete understanding of the topic, claim that they are undefeated and have won every round that they debated.  Here is hoping that Kristi can be right for once on the passage of a farm bill.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Scandals Follow Mike Rounds

Cory Heidelberger has been going into great detail about the newest scandal surrounding Senate candidate Mike Rounds.  However, this is not the first time Rounds has been immersed in scandal.  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reminds us many of the problems associated Rounds.  Issues like fighting tooth and nail to against government transparency
The state’s annual, invitation-only pheasant hunt brings state leaders together with major business interests to showcase South Dakota’s investment opportunities.6 Although the hunt is state-organized, Gov. Rounds has refused to release the list of invitees and has even gone to court to keep the information secret.7 
Gov. Rounds vetoed a popular transparency bill during the 2008 legislative session.8 The legislature failed to override his veto by two votes.9 In the next session, Gov. Rounds signed South Dakota’s first disclosure measure into law.10 Open records advocates have noted that the statute maintains exclusions and loopholes, including exemptions for official correspondence and internal memoranda.11  
And who can forget about Mike Rounds belief that the state's planes were for his personal use.

In 2005, a review of the state’s air travel logs revealed that Gov. Rounds routinely used state aircraft for non-official travel.12 During the 2004–2005 high school basketball season, Gov. Rounds used state planes to ferry himself, family, and friends to five of seven of his son’s road games.13 Gov. Rounds also acknowledged using state planes to attend Republican Party political functions; a certified pilot, he has frequently flown the planes himself. 14 Under state law, the governor is not barred from using state planes for personal use.15 He has, however, reimbursed the state for his personal travel with political contributions from his Governor’s Club; this private fund has raised serious legal questions, including possible breaches of federal policy pertaining to third party financing.16 A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation, however, found no violations of federal regulations.17 Following the revelation of Gov. Rounds’s personal use of state aircraft, South Dakota residents voted by referendum to restrict state aircraft use to official purposes.18 
This could become a huge problem for Rounds.  Maybe Bob Mercer had some deep down feeling when he wrote back in July
Let’s assume a worst-case scenario for Rounds in 2014: He is in a three-way race, just like the 2002 primary for governor, and he gets 44.4 percent again. That would mean a Rhoden or a Nelson or a Bosworth would need to get 44.4 percent plus one to place ahead of Rounds. Short of some immense scandal or unforgivable misstep by Mike Rounds, there isn’t any reason to expect he would get less than the 44.4 percent again in 2014.
It may be a bit difficult to collect all the information surrounding the EB-5 scandal thanks to loopholes and other issues surrounding South Dakota law as David Montgomery reminded us in February:
South Dakota’s open records law specifically excludes “correspondence, memoranda, calendars or logs of appointments, working papers, and records of telephone calls of public officials or employees.” 
So, remember that if you want a candidate that prefer to operate in the dark and known for his scandals, than you can vote for Rounds, but if you want a candidate that is straight forward and has nothing to hide, you should cast your vote this fall for Rick Weiland.