Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, June 7, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster,

Squeezing the Poor I
It never ceases to amaze me—how innovative capitalism is in getting the last drop of life blood out of the poorest. Selling to Poor, Stores Bill U.S. for Top Prices describes how boutiques have been set up to sell nothing but food approved by the federal government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. WIC serves nearly two million infants in the first year of life, plus 5.7 million pregnant women, new mothers and children age 1 to 4. Family income may not exceed 185 percent of the poverty level. For a family of three, the maximum income is $28,990 a year.

Because of regional price variations, mothers are given vouchers for specific quantities of approved foods—such as infant formula, juice, eggs, milk, cheese, cereal and dried beans—rather than fixed dollar amounts. WIC customers are not always made to feel welcome in regular grocery stores so they can appreciate the lack of hassle in these outlets that cater only to them. But these specialty stores charge a hefty premium for their “service.” In California WIC-only outlets charge, on average, sixteen percent more than grocery stores.

Since congress authorizes a fixed amount of WIC subsidies these higher prices threaten to exhaust available funds earlier than need be—leaving some mothers and kids hungry. There is talk in congress about establishing some kind of ceiling on this price gouging.

But the WIC boutiques are resisting. Their lobbyists include John W. Bode, an assistant secretary of agriculture in the Reagan administration, and Mickey Ibarra, a White House aide to President Bill Clinton.

Squeezing the Poor II
Trade Theory vs. Used Clothes in Africa describes how indigenous textile and garment industries are failing in sub Sahara Africa because of imports—of used clothes from the U.S. In Uganda, discarded souvenir T-shirts and the like account for 81 percent of all garment purchases. One man’s trash is a cockroach capitalist’s treasure.

We Said Be Careful What You Ask For
A lot of opponents of the war/occupation in Iraq have called for “U.S. Out—UN In.” We seem to be nearing the fulfillment of at least half of that goal. The UN appears poised to give the U.S. government cover for staying in Iraq. The first action of the new “sovereign” regime in Baghdad, blessed by the movers and shakers in the UN, was to ask Bush to keep GIs doing what they are doing for the foreseeable future.

Out Now Actions Planned
United For Peace and Justice, US Labor Against the War, and others supporting the demand of Bring the GIs Home Now, are calling for local actions during the June 26-27 weekend. These are timed to take place just before the phony “hand over of sovereignty” in Baghdad. In Kansas City, the Iraq Task Force monthly rally on Sunday, June 27, 4PM, at the Plaza Fountain, will tie in to these nationally coordinated events.

Thanks For the Correction
I thank all of you who pointed out the incorrect date in last week’s announcement of the Labor Party Labor Day Picnic. Labor Day this year is of course on September 6, not 7.

Two Passings
Victor Reuther, the last survivor of the three Reuther brothers who played a central role in the development of the United Auto Workers (UAW), passed away this week with scant attention from the media.

You can’t avoid, however, hearing ad nauseam, all the glowing tributes to Ronald Reagan. Both Bush and Bush Lite have suspended their election campaigning until after the biggest state funeral since LBJ rested in the Capitol rotunda.

Granted, Reagan’s terms were action packed. PATCO; privatization; supporting dictators in civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador; supporting the contras in Nicaragua—in part by making illegal deals with Iran, followed by an exposed cover up; invading Grenada; slashing social programs while running up the biggest budget deficits in history—the list of his accomplishments goes on and on.

I don’t really have any personal comments to make about his departure. My mother taught me that if you have nothing good to say about the dead best say nothing at all.

Check Us Out Daily
Most of the material in these weekly reviews is based on stories appearing in our Daily Labor News Digest, updated Monday-Saturday by 7AM Central.
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