Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blanche Lincoln's Back In Action-- Working With Jon Kyl To Make Sure The Wealthiest Americans Become Much, Much Wealthier


Yesterday one of Blanche Lincoln's staffers penned a press release kind of thing for HuffPo under her name, Saving Our Children. She sounds very concerned:
Hunger and obesity. It might seem odd to find these epidemics mentioned together, but they are two of the greatest threats to the health of America's children and the future of our nation... Childhood hunger and obesity are problems known all too well in my home state of Arkansas. A recent Feeding America report found our state to have the highest rate of childhood hunger in the country at nearly 25 percent. That's one in four children living in hunger.

Another report found 20 percent of Arkansas children to be obese, the seventh highest rate in the country.

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, I have authored the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which addresses these two threats by making strong improvements to our federal child nutrition programs. Funding authorization for these programs expires in 78 days.

Children who are hungry or obese will face learning challenges and lifelong health problems. And their poor health will add significant cost to our health care system and a significant cost to our nation's future economic security.

Fortunately, hunger is a disease for which we have the cure. And we know healthier meals are part of the solution to reverse the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.

Jill Richardson, one of the country's foremost progressive food policy experts-- and author of Recipe For America: Why Our Food System Is Broken And What We Can Do To Fix It-- doesn't see the problem quite the same way Lincoln does. Jill is delighted that Lincoln pressed forward with the bill that her progressive predecessor as Agriculture Committee chair worked on for so long but points out that "both the Senate and House bills drastically underfund child nutrition programs like school lunch (by tens of billions of dollars), but the Senate bill is FAR worse than the House bill, giving only a tad over half as much money as the House bill does ($4.5 billion over 10 years compared with $8 billion over 10 years). Last, under PAYGO rules, both the Senate and the House committees need to pay for the extra money they spend on school lunch. The House is still exploring options for where this money will come from. Dennis Kucinich, for example, has offered a measure that would remove a subsidy for marketing junk foods to kids and use that money to pay for school lunch. But Lincoln, lovely lady that she is, looked around for a program she thought had some money to cut and took it out of a perennially underfunded agriculture conservation program... The school lunch bill is actually great in terms of expanding the number of kids who get fed. But it does nothing to improve the food. So, in essence, the bill says 'Here kids, we care enough to keep you from starving, but not enough to keep you from getting diabetes, heart disease, or cancer'."

She may not be writing self-promoting pieces for HuffPo about it-- I wonder why-- but Blanche's real priority has nothing to do with poor people, children or otherwise. Her actual raison d'ĂȘtre, and what keeps her from any serious action of behalf of the impoverished Arkansas children she wants to appear concerned about, is her work with Jon Kyl on behalf of a few hundred of the wealthiest families in America, i.e., their campaign donors. As Digby mentioned Monday taxes on the rich are un-American. Blanche to the rescue... since it's clear that a few families once paid too much in estate taxes-- at least in their own minds (and hers)-- is what ails America. Blanche and Kyl are working together to pass a "less onerous estate tax" for multimillionaires.
Sens. Blanche Lincoln , D-Ark., and Jon Kyl , R-Ariz., have laid down an important marker in the continued fight over the tax, which expired Dec. 31 but will kick in again next year. Although Republicans and some moderate Democrats [translation: corrupt corporate shills and far right Democrats like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu] are likely to support their plan, the issue is highly contentious and Democratic leaders have not signaled whether they intend to allow a vote on it.

The Lincoln-Kyl proposal, backed by many business groups, would be more generous to heirs and estate owners than the version favored by the White House and most Democrats.

The House passed a bill last December that would set the estate tax at the parameters in effect in 2009-- a 45 percent top rate, with a $3.5 million per-person exemption.

The Lincoln-Kyl proposal would gradually drop the top estate tax rate to 35 percent, set the per-person exemption at $5 million and index it to inflation.

Under the 2001 tax cut law, which phased out the estate tax over the past decade, the levy will return on Jan. 1, 2011, if Congress does not act by then. The top rate will jump to 55 percent and the per-person exemption will be set at $1 million.

That would be super! And Durbin, Sanders, Merkeley, Franken and other tribunes of working families should filibuster anything that prevents just that from happening. I wonder if Sherrod ever talks to Blanche. He's right in his analysis of what Republicans want to do in this interview last night with Rachel Maddow, but Blanche Lincoln in his own party, has the same mindset as the anti-family GOP zombies.

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