National: An End To Food Stamps?

Fox News is currently asking whether the federal food program for people in poverty should be eliminated because of recent data about program fraud. Creating the impression that there is widespread fraud in a federal program is the first step in a messaging war that will be waged as the right-wing prepares to introduce a budget that cuts spending on vital programs in order to pay for a diverse array of tax cuts for the billionaire class that helps keep them in office.

The Washington Post rightly notes that this $70 million in misspending represents just 0.09 percent of the food program’s $70 billion budget — a fairly trivial amount — that is dwarfed by the potential for $125 billion in savings at the Defense Department through efficiencies the Pentagon would prefer nobody actually implement.

Keep an eye on stories like this. The right is attempting to lay the groundwork for a federal budget and tax plan that will help the rich and powerful at the expense of the working poor.

Ohio: News of Possible Legislation

Today’s news provides a few sneak peeks at what may (or may not) be coming in the Ohio legislature next session…

Republicans Uninterested in Fix For Congressional Gerrymandering. Today’s Gongwer Report (subscription required) includes word that incoming Senate President Larry Obhof has little interest in asking Ohio voters to approve changes to the way the state draws Congressional districts. You’ll recall a similar amendment was approved by voters in 2012 to modernize the drawing of districts for the state legislature. But Congressional seats – where gerrymandering gives the GOP a 12-4 advantage and the state no competitive districts – are currently mapped by lawmakers, and Obhof says they want to keep their power:

“I, in general, am reluctant to support anything else that would further abrogate the legislature’s traditional areas of authority.”

That’s not surprising given that the legislature has been itself gerrymandered so much that Republicans hold a supermajority in both the House and the Senate. Looks like we might be going the petition route to get Congressional Redistricting. To stay updated on the issue, follow Fair Districts Ohio.

Republicans Seek Cuts in Services To Address Revenue Shortfall From Cutting Taxes on The Rich

Also in Gongwer, Ohio Senate President outlines his desired approach to plug the revenue hole that is beginning to emerge, thanks to years of cutting taxes on the state’s richest residents. Here’s an excerpt:

After Republicans cut taxes in 11 of the past 12 years, Ohio now has a revenue shortfall. But, to fix this, instead of restoring taxes on those who got the tax breaks (the rich & business-owners) President Obhof outlines his solution:

  • cut services for the poor, and
  • make the income tax—the state’s only remaining progressive tax because it taxes people who earn more a higher percentage—flat and therefore, totally regressive.

This is after the GOP raised the rate of Ohio’s sales tax – the state’s most regressive tax – in the last state two-year budget.

As if to warn Ohio, DailyKos today looks at how Kansas — a state that has been even more aggressive in tax-cutting than Ohio, leading to a revenue disaster — despite its lower tax rates, is underperforming economically:

The budget drops on January 31. All of us need to be ready to fight to preserve vital public services and to prevent more policy-making driven by the wealthy and well-connected.

Other Ohio Legislative News/Previews

Columbus Dispatch: Bipartisan group of Ohio legislators plans new effort to curb payday-loan industry

Dayton Daily News: Ohio hospitals want to overturn price disclosure law 

Interestingly, both of these examples feature Republicans pressing for consumer-friendly reforms which go against their party’s mainstream business-friendly positions.

Opinions Worth Reading

Finally, here’s an editorial on what the legislature SHOULD be doing next term to reduce the cost to taxpayers of paying for a system of mass incarceration:

Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio’s prisons, still bulging 

This is the first in a series, we hope. Let us know what you think of the format.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) is a mostly-daily look at news about state and federal policies that informed progressives need. ICYMI aims to alert and empower current and future activists about the threat of dangerous policies while there’s still time to fight back.