Personally, I eat more beef than Dr. Atkins trapped in a meat locker, so this is not encouraging news from Businessweek. But it’s news nonetheless, especially considering Indiana’s strong ties to the pork industry:
U.S. food costs will rise 3 percent to 4 percent this year, unchanged from February’s estimate, according to the Department of Agriculture. The increase would be the fastest since 2008.
Forecasts were raised for meat, eggs, vegetables and fats and oils. Prices for pork may climb as much as 7 percent, the biggest gain in any category, the USDA said today in a report. The department also raised its projection for food consumed at home by 0.5 percentage point, to a range of 3.5 to 4.5 percent.
“Recent food-commodity price increases, along with grocery-store price increases over the past few months,” have pushed up forecasts, Ephraim Leibtag, a USDA economist, said in a note accompanying the report.
Global food prices rose 25 percent last year and set a record last month, according to the United Nations. Riots prompted partly by rising costs have toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia and contributed to unrest in other parts of northern Africa and the Middle East.
Expenses likely will continue to rise this year because of higher oil prices and smaller harvests, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said March 9.
While the majority of the attention is on health care reform, climate change and the like, other "routine" business continues to take place in Washington. On the agenda this week, as early as later today, is consideration on the Senate floor of a $122 million, fiscal year 2010 Transportation/Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill.
Don’t confuse this with the legislation authorizing highway funding that expires on September 30. The consensus there is that an extension, as long as 18 months, will be enacted so that little challenge can be put off until 2011.
On the transportation bill, there have been more than 50 amendments filed. Most come from Arizona’s John McCain; you remember him from that 2008 presidential election thing. Among the items McCain wants to remove from the bill:
$195,000 for renovation of the Emmett Till Memorial Complex in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi
$500,000 to construct a beach park promenade in Pascagoula, Mississippi
$500,000 requested by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to provide a credit counseling service in Las Vegas
I’ll vote with McCain on this one. But then this whole earmark argument has been heard before — and it still seems to be business as usual.
Another worthy amendment would prevent lawmakers from congratulating themselves by using stimulus funds to purchase signage for such projects in their communities. The only stimulus that would provide is to the legislator’s re-election efforts.
The Heritage Foundation’s Brian M. Riedl and Alison Acosta Fraser offer advice to President-elect Obama regarding how he can keep his promise to issue a "net spending cut." The authors point out that most incoming presidents promise to do so, yet fail when it comes time to make tough choices. They write:
The American people have repeatedly expressed exasperation at the pork, runaway spending, and budget deficits that have plagued Washington during this decade. You were elected President on the promise of fiscal responsibility and a "net spending cut." Scaling back planned "stimulus" spending that would likely fail to help the economy would be a strong first step toward fulfilling your promise. Reforming Social Security and Medicare before more of the 77 million baby boomers begin to collect benefits is also imperative.
The writers also offer some key tips (they’re in bullet points so you know they mean business). Here are a few:
Define "net spending cut"
Cut farm subsidies
Reform entitlement programs
Devolve more programs to state and local governments
No matter your political leanings, you’ll likely find this report by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, 2008: Worst Waste of the Year, to be worth perusing. He basically takes government to task for what he perceives to be a national barrage of pork. Many of these programs are laughable, while some might be defendable depending upon your perspective.
Here’s an example:
First Tee Program – South Carolina ($3 million)
Kids around the nation will be invited to learn and appreciate the game of golf through a $3 million grant from the Pentagon to First Tee. First Tee is a non‐profit organization that was founded to bring underprivileged youth off the streets and onto the golf course. When one member of Congress responsible for arranging the grant was asked what childhood golf had to do with the military, he responded that golf “helps you make generals and colonels.”
I remember hearing about this one when it earned Rep. James Clyburn (South Carolina) a nomination for the Citizens Against Government Waste’s Porker of the Year Award. I must agree that there are some holes in the logic. For starters, I played quite a bit of golf as a youngster (in the converted cornfields of Boone County, not fancy golf with sand traps and such), and I’m hardly qualified to lead an army of ants, let alone becoming a general or colonel. Nor did it teach me about decorum as I was a known club-thrower, and I learned little about finishing what I start as I became a master of the four-foot gimme.
Worst of all, I never actually became good at golf, which led to a poor self image (frowny face).
Hat tip to Chamber staffer Chase Downham for passing the report along.