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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



    Congress throws money at a problem

    The story: On Jan. 18, Congress announced a deal with the White House to provide tax refunds to 116 million families in an effort to avert a looming economic downturn. Recent estimates suggest the plan will cost $140-$150 billion.

    The response: Thanks to recent changes to this proposal in Congress, it looks like even broke-as-a-joke students and others who don’t earn enough to pay income tax might be receiving a $300 rebate, while regular taxpayers will get $500 or $600 apiece, depending on whether rebates are also given to senior citizens living solely off Social Security, with an extra $300 per child.

    I’m certainly not about to complain if the Man wants to send me a check for $300, but I can’t help wondering how Congress plans to pay for this – it isn’t as though it has $140 billion in change rattling around at the bottom of its purse, especially considering the $275 million per day being spent on Iraq.

    Also, is doling out free money really the best way to address concerns about an impending economic recession? If a worker loses his job, $600 won’t tide him over for very long. Moreover, as has been pointed out, this plan will only stimulate the economy if recipients use their “”free money”” to spend – but taxpayers who are feeling the effects of a flagging economy probably aren’t going to want to blow their rebates on something as frivolous as a shopping spree.

    This stimulus package sounds pretty exciting, and it can’t be denied that many Americans could really use an extra $300, $600 or more. But it will probably take more than a quick dose of cash to alleviate our economic headaches.

    – Alyson Hill is a senior majoring in classics, German studies and history.

    Food riots – coming to a campus near you

    The story: Earlier this month, a riot broke out in front of Indonesia’s presidential palace in Jakarta, where an estimated 10,000 demonstrators gathered to protest the soaring cost of soybeans, a staple food for many Indonesians, and an especially important crop for the poor. Soybean prices have shot up 125 percent over the past year in Indonesia.

    The response: Jakarta’s soybean scuffle is just the latest in a growing trend of food riots around the world. In January, Mexicans demonstrated over expensive tortillas, after the cost of corn quadrupled. In November, Senegalis paralyzed their capital, Dakar, with riots over rice. This week, Pakistanis rallied around the cost of wheat, and the army was dispatched to guard grain silos. And it doesn’t stop there. Onions in India, pasta in Italy, cooking oil in China – food is more expensive in poor countries all over the world.

    There are two explanations: As big nations like India and China grow wealthy enough to afford meat, demand for grain is expanding – and it won’t stop anytime soon. That’s not bad news. It means some of the world’s most miserable are pulling themselves out of poverty. The second cause is rich nations, many of which are now growing food to fill hungry gas tanks instead of hungry stomachs. Our unhealthy appetite for ethanol (the latest energy act passed by Congress will push U.S. ethanol production to a whopping 36 billion gallons by 2020) is gobbling up grain and perverting food markets around the world.

    Worse, rising prices aren’t exclusive to the developing world. Here in the United States, ethanol subsidies have encouraged many farmers to plant more corn and fewer hops on the margin, meaning beer prices are rising and craft brewers are going under. If we don’t fix our pernicious policies on energy, the next big riots could break out on college campuses across the country.

    -Connor Mendenhall is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies.

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