More students become eligible for free lunch

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The economic downturn since 2008 has pulled many families into poverty or close to it, a trend public school cafeterias are seeing firsthand.

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Students eat lunch at C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School. Although more students are qualifying for free lunches locally and across Georgia, the rate receiving reduced priced lunches has declined, state data show.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Students eat lunch at C.T. Walker Traditional Magnet School. Although more students are qualifying for free lunches locally and across Georgia, the rate receiving reduced priced lunches has declined, state data show.

Locally and across Georgia, more students are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches this year than in the previous two years, according to data recently released by the state Department of Education.

Statewide, the percentage of eligible children rose from 53 percent in 2008 to 56.1 percent in 2009 and 57.4 percent in 2010.

Those figures show a positive sign statewide because the increase this year was less than half of the rise for 2009, according to Steve Suitts, the vice president of the Southern Education Foundation, an Atlanta think tank focused on improving the quality of education in the South.

"I think we're back in pre-recession mode, where there's going to be a continual (small) increase, but not as much as the previous two years," Suitts recently told the Athens Banner-Herald. "That seems to be the trend in local school systems and statewide."

That might not be true in the Augusta area. Columbia County saw a 2.8 percentage-point increase in eligibility this year to 32.1 percent, following a 2.6-point increase last year to 29.3 percent. Richmond County's 1.7-point increase this year to 74 percent was nearly as large as the 2-point rise to 72.3 percent last year. Columbia County still has the area's lowest eligibility rate by a significant margin.

McDuffie County had the region's largest gain, rising from 64.8 percent in 2008 to 71.6 percent in 2010. Burke County saw a slight decline, from 83.7 percent in 2008 to 83.6 percent this year, but continued to lead the Augusta area.

Richmond County school board member Jack Padgett said he was not surprised by the trends, in part because of the economy and an effort by schools to make parents aware of the National School Lunch Program.

A closer look at those figures shows more students are qualifying for free lunches, while fewer qualify for reduced-price lunches.

In Richmond County, the number qualifying for free lunch rose from 20,193 in 2008 to 22,115 in 2010, but the number qualifying for reduced-price lunch dropped from 2,792 to 1,788. Similar trends can be seen in other local counties, statewide and in the Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., school systems.

That also didn't surprise Padgett, who, as the board's legislative liaison, keeps current on state and local trends.

"My bet would be that there would be a few who were reduced moving to free, but you would find many jumping over reduced and straight to free," he said. "That's what I'm hearing everywhere."

Who is eligible for free and reduced lunches?

Students whose families earn 130 percent of the federal poverty level or less qualify for free school lunches. Those whose families earn between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level qualify for reduced-price lunches, which cost 40 cents each.

The federal poverty level is $22,050 or less. That means a child in a family of four can receive free lunch if the total family income is $28,665 or less and a reduced-price lunch if the income is between $28,665 and $40,792.50.

SUBSIDIZED MEALS

The percentages of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch in the Augusta area and Georgia for the past three years:

SYSTEM 2008 2009 2010

Burke 83.7 83.7 83.6

Columbia 26.7 29.3 32.1

McDuffie 64.8 69.3 71.6

Richmond 70.3 72.3 74

Georgia 53 56.1 57.4

Source: Georgia Department of Education

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Suzy Q
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Suzy Q 01/04/11 - 02:00 am
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Wow.... I believe that those

Wow.... I believe that those who truly qualify should receive reduced or free lunch, but how closely are those qualifications being monitored? Almost three quarters of the children in Richmond County qualify?

Asitisinaug
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Asitisinaug 01/04/11 - 02:15 am
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What else would we expect

What else would we expect from an entitlement mentatility society?

When you get right down to it, as far as social programs go I guess I would rather see children getting fed vs. the many other wastes in our government but what are we teaching our youth when you get something for nothing.

Since 75% of the students are subsidized there obviously isn't any stigma associated with this anymore. Let't at the very least teach that in order to get something you must work for it. Have them assigned to work details such as helping clean lunchrooms or parking lots, etc. or some other type of program.

Howerer, we really need to stop giving out free lunch, free housing, free EBT cards, free tax credits for every child up to 4 children (money from the govt. without even paying taxes), basically free local transportation, free medical, etc.

Our federal, state and local governments are in dire need of help so at the very least, have workfare vs. welfare programs and get our cities cleaned up, provide more help at schools, etc. and get all convicted felons off of any type of assistance and out our govt. housing, period.

usapatriot
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usapatriot 01/04/11 - 03:40 am
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a family of 4, $40k can get

a family of 4, $40k can get this?????????? good GOD, no wonder we are drowning in govt debt!! parents, pack a friggin lunch. it can be cheaper and more nutrious than what the GOVMINT is feeding them.

this sounds cold. i am totally against abortion. the military used salt peter. how about using some BIRTH CONTROL IN THE SCHOOL LUNCHES?? might have a positive result.

usapatriot
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usapatriot 01/04/11 - 03:42 am
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damn, breakfast, lunch and

damn, breakfast, lunch and after school dinner. might as well make it boarding school. why have the parent shoulder any burden?

isn't that what the elitist left wants? they know about raising children. Hillary Clinton's "It takes a Village". "they" know what's best. they are slowly taking away control to do just that.

usapatriot
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usapatriot 01/04/11 - 03:43 am
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gives a new name to "wards of

gives a new name to "wards of the state"

bclicious
770
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bclicious 01/04/11 - 03:47 am
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Sign of the times folks!

Sign of the times folks! Expect more of this to come.

WoodyKaminer
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WoodyKaminer 01/04/11 - 05:14 am
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"Economic Downturn"??????

"Economic Downturn"?????? HAHAHAHA what a joke! That is a democrats way of saying RECESSION without making Obama look bad.

cristinadh
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cristinadh 01/04/11 - 06:21 am
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I bet they get food

I bet they get food stamps!!!..

GOSHEN77
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GOSHEN77 01/04/11 - 09:07 am
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Typical right wing hate

Typical right wing hate speech today. A family of 4 on $40,000 a year is poor. Do you people ever make sense? You don't want to make sure kids in this country get fed but you will gladly give tax breaks to corporations who send jobs overseas?

Smart_Reader
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Smart_Reader 01/04/11 - 09:43 am
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@Goshen77 If the head of a

@Goshen77 If the head of a household of four is unable to feed their children on $40,000 a year (a level that is exempt from federal income tax), then we need to send them oversees.

dani
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dani 01/04/11 - 10:44 am
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As long as the Feds can keep

As long as the Feds can keep them under their thumbs, this will be the end result.
I too, wonder if someone monitors the program. MY understanding is that you fill out a form, no need for proof of income such as an income tax return.

Chillen
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Chillen 01/04/11 - 10:50 am
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The entitlement crowd is

The entitlement crowd is ruining America. They believe everything should be given to them and they are clearly raising their kids to believe the same thing. Newsflash. We cannot have a nation that simply gives 50% of it's citizens everything. We will fail & then what will you have?

GET TO WORK! Work 2 jobs if you have to! Marry your baby-daddy. Stop having kids you can't afford! I can't afford to keep paying for them either. Geeze.

GOSHEN77
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GOSHEN77 01/04/11 - 11:10 am
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LOL, you can feed, house, and

LOL, you can feed, house, and cloth a family of 4 on $40,000 and provide health insurance? You guys are really out of touch. Chillen there is no greater entitlement than Corporate welfare. You tax dollars at work

According to the Cato Institute, the U.S. federal government spent $92 billion on corporate welfare during fiscal year 2006. Recipients included Boeing, Xerox, IBM, Motorola, Dow Chemical, and General Electric.

Onthebeach
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Onthebeach 01/04/11 - 11:25 am
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Wonder how many of these free

Wonder how many of these free lunch students have an Iphone in their back pocket?

Jane18
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Jane18 01/04/11 - 11:40 am
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My indignation for this

My indignation for this article just shot sky high! Another form of a'leech' sucking the life out of America and her taxpayers!!!!

raul
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raul 01/04/11 - 11:47 am
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32,1 percent eligible in CC?

32,1 percent eligible in CC? Figures below show only 7.5 percent poverty rate as of only a few years ago??

Income and Poverty in Columbia County, Georgia
Black or African American householders reported a median household income that was 24.3 percent less than the all population median published in the 2000 Census, with a median of $49,314. In Columbia County, Georgia White householders had a median household income (in 2005 Dollars) of $67,027 as reported by the Decennial Census of 2000, which was 2.9 percent greater than the median income in 2000. The Asian householders in the area have reported their median household incomes at $68,909. This median is 5.8 percent greater than the reported median for all households in the area. Hispanic Householders in Columbia County, Georgia reported a median household income of $49,406, this income level is 24.2 percent less than reported value of the areas total household median income for all households. The American Indian and Alaska Native householders in Columbia County had a median income of $60,627, this level was 6.9 percent less than the areas median level for all households.

The rate of poverty in Columbia County, Georgia has increased by 2.4 percent from the levels reported in the Decennial Census of 2000, moving from 5.1 percent to 7.5 percent.

The median household income in the area has increased a small amount from the inflation-adjusted 2000 income levels. The income level has increased to $65,507, posting a 0.6 percent growth. Columbia County, Georgia, in terms of percent of growth, ranks 4 of 4 counties in percent of growth for income levels in the State of Georgia. Columbia County ranks 105 of 119 counties (or parishes) in terms of the growth in median household income in the United States.

When compared to other counties (or parishes) across the United States, Columbia County, Georgia can be considered to have a very low poverty rate amid the residents with a poverty rate of 5.1 percent with a family income under the 1999 poverty level. The American Indian and Alaska Native race/ethnicity population cohort, has the uppermost poverty rate with 13 percent of the 2000 population living in poverty. People that are of the age 75 years and over are experiencing most percent people in poverty in Columbia County, with 11.5 percent of this demographic group living with incomes under poverty.

While household income level experienced a growth in the last five year in Columbia County, Georgia, the Race/Ethnicity category that felt the biggest growth in household income was the Asian category. This category saw an increase of 39.3 percent from 2000 to 2005. The Hispanic population category was least influenced by the median household income growth in Columbia County, seeing a 11.2 percent decline in median income, since the values reported in the 2000 Decennial Census.

Compared to other counties (and parishes) throughout the nation, Columbia County reported a very high median income for households of $65,148 (Adjusted to 2005 Dollars). This is 23.8 percent higher than the household income median in State of Georgia of $49,647 and the median is 24.6 percent higher than the median household income level in the US of $49,133.

Datasource: U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2000 Decennial Census. 2005 American Community Survey.

Chillen
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Chillen 01/04/11 - 11:49 am
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goshen, it certainly is

goshen, it certainly is difficult to feed a "family" of 4 on $40,000. Therefore the parents (or parent) should not have had kids until they can afford them. Sorry, but it's a hard cold reality. If you can't feed 'em...well, you know the rest.

I am sick of the entitled asking ME to work hard, sacrifice & plan my life favorably so that I can pay to feed THEM and THEIR kids! It's is nauseating and completely despicable.

We have become a sickening society. Those who take the entitlements, those who expect the entitlments, those who give them AND those who make excuses for them.

I love your corporate list. Big liberal campaign donors - especially GE. Interesting connection.

GOSHEN77
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GOSHEN77 01/04/11 - 12:06 pm
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Chillen, yes some Democrates

Chillen, yes some Democrates are on the corporate take. However, the GOP wears it like a Red Badge of Courage. Think about it we gave these companies all this free aid and what do they do? They send millions of jobs away. Wake up working people.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 01/04/11 - 12:41 pm
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I can't understand the

I can't understand the attitudes on here. This may be the only healthy meals these children get each day and it is money well spent.

When it comes to things like this I say spend the money on it.

I can't understand the hate and venom that is spewed towards something good like this program.

Not very Christ-like at all. Who would Jesus starve?

Brad

right is right
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right is right 01/04/11 - 12:41 pm
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i wish people here would get

i wish people here would get as upset about the government giving tax breaks for taking business and jobs overseas as they do about the poor. I want to end government hand outs too but since the greed of corporations that put their own profit ahead of what is good for our country and its people the jobs have disappeared. wages a have been going down every year. We need to unit and demand that we stop letting communist china, korea and others influence their currency and put import taxes or only allow a certain amount of goods into their country. we need to bring our manufacturing jobs back. Don't believe what the big business tells you that we can't compete or those jobs are a thing of the past. They want you to blame the poor and the unions which are to blame for some of their problems. Lets end these terrible trade agreements, close down our borders and put our people back to work. People that work hard should earn a living wage. We subsidize wal-mart and other companies with our tax dollars because they don't pay enough for people to be above property. I'm for big business and for them to earn profits but it also has to be fair to their employees that make them this profit and to our country. We shouldn't have to subsidize Wal-mart.

dani
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dani 01/04/11 - 12:54 pm
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Brad. IMMHO.I don't think

Brad. IMMHO.I don't think you would find a single poster, well maybe one or two, who would refuse to feed children who need it. Just a year or so ago a finding in Burke County found that almost all children were getting free meals.
The system should be checked out by a bipartisan group with strict rules and regulations placed on where the taypayers money goes. There are critical situations where folks need help , and possible need it far more than many of the free lunch recipients.
Just using the term hungry kid causes us to cringe but the truth is that many, many parents are expecting the government to raise their child(ren) for them.

Chillen
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Chillen 01/04/11 - 01:10 pm
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This article is about "Free"

This article is about "Free" School Lunch. Not about corporate aid or corporate tax breaks. That is why it not being discussed except by a few who wish to change the subject.

Brad, no one is "spewing venon" at the children, the venom is being spewed at their PARENTS (or likely parent), the govt and the enablers. They are the guilty ones. Taking money from me to give to them because they had kids they can't afford is theft. Plain & simple theft.

I didn't see one post that said these kids don't need it. Problem is, they are seeing how the freebie system works at a young age. They will grow up expecting and demanding the same as adults. If not worse (if that's possible).

We have a very serious problem on our hands and it is growing by leaps & bounds. Total governnment depenency. Lazy American's who refuse to work and do nothing but take, take, take, demand, demand, demand.

Goshen, you are flat out wrong. The dems are as much or more in bed with corporations as the GOP. Wake up & smell the liberal stench why don't you?

loisfulcher
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loisfulcher 01/04/11 - 01:12 pm
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The comment regarding the

The comment regarding the most overall free lunches, is a gross misstatement. Burke County students can thank Burke County taxpayers (Georgia Power) for their free lunches. 100 % of Burke County students receive free lunches, without any federal subsidy, regardless of family income.

Chillen
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Chillen 01/04/11 - 01:17 pm
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I read this yesterday. Seems

I read this yesterday. Seems appropriate to post here. Written by Boortz. Wish I could take the credit.

"Let's take a look at a one-parent household of 3. Do I have to translate here? We're talking about one unmarried female with two children. Children which she, in all likelihood, couldn't afford and knew full well that she wouldn't be able to afford to raise when she conceived them. If this woman works full time at a minimum-wage job she will earn $14,500 a year & she will pay not one penny of income tax to the federal govt. The $14,500 isn't the end of it. She will have to pay for child care. There will be payroll taxes & state income (we're using Mississippi for this example.) That leaves her with just a few thousand dollars. Then you start adding all of her entitlements. There's the Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, the school lunch program, Medicaid and CHIP, Section 8 rent subsidy; and, of course, her utility bill assistance. When you add it all up our minimum wage single mother of two has nearly $38,000 of disposable income.

Now ... let's look at a single mother of two earning $60,000. She, too, is going to have to pay payroll taxes, child care and the state income tax, though she will still be in the 47% that don't pay federal income taxes. But ... she gets no EITC, no food stamps, no Section 8, no CHIP and Medicaid & no help with her utility ills. In the end her disposable income (after taxes and child care) is about $34,400.

So .. there you go. The minimum wage single mom has more disposable income than the single mom earning $60K a year. If you really want to see some incredible numbers ... start adding checks to our minimum wage single mom for Social Security disability (SSI). These checks are all-to-easy to qualify for, and can take that minimum wage mom and put her in mighty fine shape. Now you tell me just why this woman would be working to improve her job skills so that she could earn more? She's clocking along at minimum wage right now ... and as she tries to earn more she's going to see these wonderful entitlements start to go away. How smart does she have to be to realize that her best bet is to stay pretty much where she is? At least as long as she has minor children in her household.

Now will this single mom have any social price to pay for her use of the govt as an instrument of plunder? What does this woman we're using as an example have to do to make sure the checks keep coming? Simple ... just vote for the politician making the promises. In every election you will find a candidate promising more food stamp money, more heating assistance, an expansion of CHIP and Medicaid funding all together with an increase in the minimum wage, & in every election you will find members of the moocher class seeking out that politician and voting for them as a way of earning a living, instead of actually working.

In the meantime ... those who work extra to achieve more ... those who spend the time, take the risks and make the decisions that lead to the accumulation of wealth are derided as being greedy at best, and evil at worst.

What can you really say about a culture where the dominant opinion is that it is perfectly OK for an unmarried woman, or a couple, for that matter, to have a child that they know very well they cannot care for financially; yet it is considered wrong for a highly successful person to try to keep as much of the wealth they produce as possible. You can present that unaffordable child to society and say "Here ... look what I did, now you folks step up and pay for it!" But it is somehow wrong to tell that same society "I worked for this wealth - gave up a portion of my life to acquire it - and I'm not thrilled with the idea of it being seized to support someone else's irresponsible and parasitic lifestyle."

There you have. The moocher class. The poor, poor pitiful poor. These are people that are going to have to be dealt with in our efforts to regain control of the finances of this country and retain some semblance of freedom and economic liberty for your children & grandchildren. We simply must stop the coddling of the parasite class. We have to stop looking at them as the "less fortunate" --- an asinine phrase when you think about it --- and start looking at them as people who have completely squandered the amazing opportunities that were their birthright as Americans to become little more than leaches with votes."

Very well said Neal Boortz.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 01/04/11 - 01:24 pm
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Sorry above post so long. To

Sorry above post so long. To summarize for those who don't want read it.

2 single mothers with 2 children each.

One minimum wage earner with massive govt goodies
One makes $60K per year

The minimum wage earner has $38,000 in annual disposable income (thanks to govt goodies).

The $60K earner has only $34,000 in annual disposable income (thanks to being self sufficient).

Enough said.

User420
2
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User420 01/04/11 - 01:39 pm
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I can't believe all the

I can't believe all the welfare envy. So...you want the kids to starve huh?

Chillen
17
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Chillen 01/04/11 - 01:42 pm
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No user420. No welfare envy,

No user420. No welfare envy, just welfare disgust and anger because it is our money being given to them.

We want irresponsible "parents" who can't afford kids to stop having them. When they can have them, go for it, have 20 as far as I'm concerned, just pay for them youself. Don't ask me to pay to help raise YOUR kids.

Geeze.

toppergem
125
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toppergem 01/04/11 - 01:47 pm
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All this back and forth about

All this back and forth about feeding school age children...feed every last one who goes to any school in any county!!!! We our money to rebuild countries we destroy in war, we give big business money to send jobs overseas, we fund every little project and pork belly scheme from who knows where and for who knows what...so be quiet, get over it and feed the babies!!!!!

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 01/04/11 - 01:50 pm
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You can call it corporate

You can call it corporate welfare if you wish but those compaines EARNED what they made and still had to pay taxes to GIVE to others. Tax breaks just mean the govt. is taking less from you whereas tax credits provide you with money from someone esle for doing nothing.

bojangles
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bojangles 01/04/11 - 02:18 pm
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Children cannot chose who

Children cannot chose who their parents are. They cannot dictate whether or not their parents take advantage of government programs to a fault. I have a hard time believing that everyone receiving free school lunches is doing so with a proud heart. Pick up a book called "The Working Poor" by David Shipler sometime, truly eye opening. Children need to eat. I will pay taxes for children to eat, regardless of how their parents squander and flounder in our society because some of those children will intrinsically be resilient and better society from the hardships they have overcome; thus is what makes America the best place in the world. People on here are only worried about THEMSELVES sometimes... I mean we are talking about children for God's sake, lighten up.

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