2010-09-09 / Columns


Keeping an Eye on Our Representatives in D.C.

Jobs for Vets

REPRESENTATIVE John Hall and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are teaming up to help find work for veterans. According to the congressman’s office, the unemployment rate for veterans in New York is an astounding 20 percent.

Rep. Hall and Senator Gillibrand announced that they would work toward extending the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which is set to expire at the end of this year, and was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or the “stimulus bill”). According to Rep. Hall’s office, the tax credit “encourages businesses to hire recentlyreturned Iraq and Afghanistan vets in exchange for a 40 percent credit of the first $6,000 paid to a veteran.”

According to Rep. Hall, “More than 500 veterans here in New York have been hired already using the tax credit.” Rep. Hall is worried that as the war in Iraq begins to draw down, thousands of returning veterans will be unable to find employment in New York, and that “[e]xtending this tax credit is a critical step towards helping these veterans acclimate to civilian life.”

“Too many veterans are still coming home to a very bad job market and struggling to find work,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “They fulfilled their duty to our country, and now it’s time for us to fulfill our duty to them by making sure they have access to a good-paying job.”

Rep. Hall and Senator Gillibrand made the announcement that they would work together to extend this tax credit at the National Purple Heart of Honor in New Windsor, New York.

Deficits and Costs

RECENTLY, former Senator Alan Simpson told a reporter, “The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess.” Senator Simpson from Wyoming, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s deficit reduction commission, made this comment from the perspective of strictly looking at the monetary cost veterans pose to taxpayers, and without paying attention to the sacrifices that veterans made to this nation with their service.

Rep. John Hall, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, was outraged by Senator Simpson’s comment.

“I recognize the need to bring deficit spending under control but cutting funding for those that have helped to build and protect this nation and its ideals is unacceptable,” Rep. Hall said in response. “If he thinks the way to balance the budget is to cut health care benefits for disabled veterans whose diseases were caused by exposure to toxic chemical during service they were drafted into, then I call for President Obama to replace Mr. Simpson with someone better capable to serve him and the nation.”

Senator Simpson, himself a veteran and the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, was picked by the president to be the co-chair of the deficit reduction committee.

Schumer v. Coffee

NEW YORK’s senior senator this week took aim at coffee exporters, particularly those nations that produce the largest amount of exported coffee— namely, Brazil and Vietnam. Vietnam, according to Senator Charles Schumer’s office, is contemplating “a scheme to stockpile up to 200,000 tons of the crop in order to keep global prices rising.”

What has caused Senator Schumer to get involved is that this potential move comes at a time when “coffee bean prices [are] hitting a 12-year high.” By stockpiling the agricultural product, coffee growers in Vietnam would effectively leverage the prices, causing them to rise even higher for consumers around the world. Assuming demand remains constant, stocking up on coffee, as opposed to selling it to consumers, would cause the supply to be short. In effect, this move would cause the prices to rise for all consumers. Brazil is reportedly considering following the same plan initially proposed in Vietnam.

“Some fluctuation in coffee prices is normal, but this high is historic and it could have staying power. It shouldn’t break the family bank for Americans to get their coffee fix,” Senator Schumer said, regarding his plan to combat the potential of an even higher cost of coffee. “We need to pressure these countries to start playing by the rules of the game again. They would be acting like the OPEC of coffee.”

Senator Schumer’s plan to pressure Vietnam and Brazil not to carry out their price gouging plan is to, in turn, pressure the United States Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, into doing something. Schumer hopes that Kirk will raise this issue at this month’s International Coffee Organization meeting.

For the record, the current high price of coffee is not a result of stockpiling coffee. Instead, according to reports, South and Central America, both large exporters of coffee, had abysmal coffee crops, and looming storms threatening the world’s growers have driven up costs.

Gillibrand Takes Credit

THE STATE DEPARTMENT last week announced that the Pakistani Taliban (also known by its official name, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP) had been added to the list of international terrorist organizations.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand heralded this move, saying, “America must take all steps necessary to contain and eliminate Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. In addition to the attempted bombing in Times Square, this terrorist group has been implicated in domestic terrorism in Pakistan for years and has been repeatedly linked to al Qaeda. America’s foreign policy must reflect the danger that this group poses to Americans and innocent people around the world.”

In a press release, Senator Gillibrand took partial credit, for this decision by reminding reporters that “ In June, Senator Gillibrand joined with New York and New Jersey Senators Charles. E. Schumer, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Mendendez to announce legislation to add the TPP [sic] to America’s formal list of terrorist organizations.”

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Weekly Quotation

‘No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.’ ~Hal Borland