Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Florida Gov. Rick Scott On Cuts To Homeless Programs: 'Nobody Likes Their Taxes To Go Up' #p2 #tcot @andrewbreitbart




Continuing that fine Republican tradition of saying one thing and doing another, Florida Gov. Rick Scott showed his compassion for his state's homeless by slashing the programs that help them. Think Progress has more:

In a state that is near the top of the national chart in food insecurity, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) took time this holiday to pass out Thanksgiving dinner to about 1,000 families at a shelter in East Naples.

The shelter's program fed about 7,000 families last week, with roughly 200 volunteers packing and distributing meals."I care completely about all these programs," said Scott while handing out food.

However, he possesses a singular way of showing it, as his sweeping budget cuts this year "slashed funding to some veteran and farm surplus programs that helped the homeless." To justify those cuts, Scott simply explained, "all the programs are very important, but nobody wants their taxes to go up":

"I care completely about all these programs," said Scott, whose budget cuts earlier this year slashed funding to some veteran and farm surplus programs that helped the homeless."All the programs are very important, but nobody wants their taxes to go up," Scott explained, noting that businesses also can help spur the economy. "They've got to grow. We've got to make this a place people can do well."

One Jacksonville homeless shelter official noted that Scott "zeroed out all homeless funding" — $7 million worth — in his budget proposal. That funding supported programs dedicated to homelessness prevention, housing initiatives, and programs that "re-house" people once they're on the street.

"Not only that, he took out the line items so it can never be funded again," said the official.

Did you know that Florida has the second-highest population of homeless veterans? Seventeen thousand of them, and Scott cut their services, too. I was in Florida last month, and I didn't meet one single person who wants to reelect him, so at least it's likely that he's a one-termer.

Student Commits Suicide Because Of Immigration Status #p2 #tcot


In a heartbreaking story, Action 4 News reports that Joaquin Luna, an 18-year-old undocumented immigrant in Texas, committed suicide Friday night because of his immigration status, family members said. Letters Luna wrote before his death showed that he was worried his immigration status would keep him from achieving his dreams of being an engineer, and he had been frustrated after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented students who met certain criteria. Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2010. Luna's brother Diyre Mendoza said his brother didn't see any other optionsbecause of his immigration status. "He was saying he was going to do this because he wasn't going to be able to continue with his college," Mendoza said. Watch a local news report about Luna:

Banks May Have Illegally Foreclosed On 5,000 Members Of The Military #p2 #tcot @andrewbreitbart

For months, major banks have been dealing with the fallout of the "robo-signing" scandal, following reports that the banks were improperly foreclosing on homeowners and, in many instances, falsifying paperwork that they were submitting to courts. Banks have been forced to go back and reexamine foreclosures to ensure that homeowners did not lose their homes unlawfully.

In the latest episode of this mess, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has found that banks — including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup — may have improperly foreclosed on up to 5,000 active members of the military:

Ten leading US lenders may have unlawfully foreclosed on the mortgages of nearly 5,000 active-duty members of the US military in recent years, according to data released by a federal regulator. [...]

The data released by the OCC are based on estimates prepared by lenders and their consultants. BofA said it is reviewing 2,400 foreclosures involving active-duty military families to see if they were conducted properly. Wells Fargo is reviewing 870 foreclosures and Citigroup is looking at 700 cases.

Also under review are 575 foreclosures at OneWest, formerly known as IndyMac; 87 at HSBC; 80 at US Bancorp; 56 at Aurora, formerly known as Lehman Brothers Bank; 25 at MetLife; six at Sovereign; and three at EverBank.

Back in April, JPMorgan Chase, which was not one of the ten banks that the OCC examined, agreed to a $56 million settlement over allegations that it had overcharged members of the military on their mortgages. Chase Bank has even auctioned off the home of a military member the very day that he returned from Iraq. Two other mortgage servicers agreed in May to settle charges of improperly foreclosing on servicemembers.

Even without the banks illegally foreclosing, military members have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. Last year alone, 20,000 members of the military faced foreclosure, a 32 percent increase over 2008. The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked with ensuring that military members are treated fairly by financial services companies — a job that is obviously necessary — but Republicans in Congress have, so far, refused to confirm a director for the agency, leaving it unable to fulfill all of its responsibilities.

rest at http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/11/29/377392/banks-illegally-foreclose-military/

@gop VIDEO: Florida’s homeless children rate reaches epidemic proportions #p2 #tcot @andrewbreitbart

60 Minutes aired a program this weekend shedding light on one of the little-discussed but heartbreaking aspects of the country's persistent economic woes: an epidemic of homeless schoolchildren. The subject of the program was Seminole County, Fla., a county with 1,100 homeless students.

Among the most staggering numbers highlighted during the program was "of all the families without shelter in America, one third are in Florida."

The state's foreclosure crisis, coupled with high unemployment and austere budget cuts, has resulted in countless homeless families in Florida living out of their cars — if they have them, 60 Minutes explains. Many families with small children are left hoping for a job or charity before food runs out. Caught in the crosshairs of this epidemic, the program showed, have been young schoolchildren.

According to this year's KIDS COUNT data, Florida was "the state with the 2nd highest percent of children impacted by foreclosure since 2007."

The account of a handful of young children had a persistent theme: Most homeless families in the state had run out of options. Many saw their unemployment benefits dry up, and public services were too scarce and maxed-out to provide any help.

Most of the families interviewed by 60 Minutes said they were relying solely on the generosity of donations from their community.

What was not mentioned, however, was the state's missed opportunities to help.

One example was a line in the the state's 2011/2012 budget that allocated $12 million dollars from the state's general revenue fund to the National Veterans' Homeless Support Group for "homeless housing assistance grants." While this appropriation made it through the budget process, the item was one of the many vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott spoke about the funds this weekend, the Naples Daily News reports:

"I care completely about all these programs," said Scott, whose budget cuts earlier this year slashed funding to some veteran and farm surplus programs that helped the homeless.

"All the programs are very important, but nobody wants their taxes to go up," Scott explained, noting that businesses also can help spur the economy. "They've got to grow. We've got to make this a place people can do well."

The state also reduced unemployment benefits, even though the state has yet to get a handle on its unemployment rate. A bill signed by Scott this year reduced the maximum number of weeks someone can receive state unemployment benefits. The limit went from 26 weeks to 23 — and if the state's unemployment rate continues to fall, benefits could be limited to as little as 12 weeks.

There are currently no assurances that legislators in the state are looking to beef up public assistance programs either. Already, there are warnings of deeper budget cuts as the state prepares for a $2 billion shortfall.

You can watch the 60 Minutes segment here:

rest at http://washingtonindependent.com/116341/video-floridas-homeless-children-rate-reaches-epidemic-proportions

Illinois to allow same sex couples to file joint tax returns


* This is an interesting development

Starting in January, Illinois will allow couples who obtained civil-union licenses this year to file joint state income tax returns, a symbolic change that likely won't save couples money but that one gay-rights group called an important step.

Monday's announcement comes after Illinois became the seventh state, along with the District of Columbia, to give same-sex couples significant legal protections. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state's civil union law in January.

That bill included the right to decide medical care for an ailing partner and the right to inherit property, but it didn't include the ability for same-sex couples to file a joint tax return.

While federal law does not allow same-sex couples to submit taxes together, Quinn pushed for the state to make the change after signing the civil union bill, Illinois Department of Revenue spokeswoman Susan Hofer said Monday.

* Equality Illinois has been pushing for this ever since the civil unions law took effect. From a press release

"Since the beginning of June when same-sex couples first started entering into civil unions, no one could speak with certainty about how this new status would affect state tax policy," Randy Hannig, Director of Public Policy for Equality Illinois, said. "We immediately reached out to the Illinois Department of Revenue and started the process of figuring out a solid solution to this problem. Illinois law specifies that couples in a civil union are afforded the same rights and benefits as married spouses, so why should same-sex couples' state tax status be any different?"

Under the new guidelines issued by the Department of Revenue, same-sex couples in a civil union may elect to file state taxes as "married, filed jointly" or "married, filed separately" – the same options opposite-sex married couples may choose. If applicable, couples would check a box for "same-sex civil union return." In order to determine the adjusted gross income to include on state filings, couples will have to complete a pro forma federal IRS return.

* From Illinois Issues' blog

Those in civil unions would still have to file separate federal returns as single because the federal government does not recognize their partnerships. Couples who do not wish to file a joint return would still file as married but would be able to file separate state returns.

Hofer said joint filing for state taxes will not result in large tax benefits for couples — the substantial benefit comes at the federal level for couples with disparate incomes. If one person has a much smaller income, it can move the household into a lower tax bracket than the individual was in. "In Illinois because we are a flat tax state, you really aren't going to see any significant change to your taxes. … With the state, everybody pays a 5 percent flat tax. But there will be some benefits." She said that exemptions such as for property taxes or education expenses, could be applied a couple's total income instead of just an individual's earnings.

@gop @speakerboehner GOP Will Let Your Taxes Go Up, But Not a Dime More From Millionaires #p2 #tcot @andrewbreitbart

The Progress Report Banner

The GOP's Middle Class Tax Increase

Nov 28, 2011 | By ThinkProgress War Room

The GOP Will Let Your Taxes Go Up, But Not a Dime More From Millionaires

In the wake of the super committee's inability to reach an agreement becauseRepublicans refused to make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share, there are several very important items that Congress must deal with before leaving town for Christmas vacation. Today, we'll take a look at the payroll tax cut for working Americans, but look out for more in this series including other must-pass items like an extension of long-term unemployment benefits.

Here's the rundown.

WHAT: Currently, employees are receiving a 2 percent reduction in the "OASDI" portion of the payroll tax — in other words, employees are now paying just 4.2 percent instead of 6.2 percent. Employers are still paying their full 6.2 percent contribution. Since the tax funds Social Security, the lost revenues to the Social Security Trust Fund are being replaced with general funds from the U.S. Treasury.

HOW WE GOT HERE: The American Recovery and Reinvestment (i.e. the stimulus) included a Making Work Pay tax credit of up to $400 per worker or $800 per couple. During the late 2010 negotiations over extending the Bush tax cuts, Republicans made it clear they would not agree to extend this Obama tax cut. In return for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Republicans eventually agreed to also include a payroll tax cut in lieu of extending the Making Work Pay tax credit. While less progressive than the Making Work Pay tax credit (which was refundable), the payroll tax cut still fulfills the important goal of providing extra cash to workers in every paycheck — cash that lower income workers in particular are likely to spend almost immediately, which will in turn stimulate the economy.

ON THE TABLE NOW: The Senate will take up a bill sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) this week that will both extend and expand the payroll tax cut. Here are the details:

  • EMPLOYEES: The payroll tax cut for employees would be extended for one year and increased by more than 50 percent — meaning employees would pay just a 3.1 percent payroll tax next year (compared to 4.2 percent this year and the normal 6.2 percent rate).
  • EMPLOYERS: Employers, who are currently paying the full 6.2 percent rate, would also see their contribution cut in half to just 3.1 percent for all of 2012 on their first $5 million of payroll. This limitation would still help 98 percent of businesses while avoiding needless giveaways to large corporations, which are already sitting on record amounts of cash.

HOW IT'S PAID FOR: As with the American Jobs Act as a whole and other portions of it voted on by the Senate, this plan would be financed with a small 3.25 percent surtax on millionaires for any income earned about $1 MILLION. In other words, millionaires will still pay Bush-era income tax rates on their first million dollars of income and will also still be able to use unfair tax loopholes to pay even lower rates on anything their earn from investments.


  • Taxes will go up for 160 million Americans
  • Taxes will increase by $1,500 for the typical American family
  • "We'll likely go into recession" because of the more than $100 BILLION that would suddenly be pulled from the economy, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics


  • Here's a calculator to determine how much your own taxes will increase if Republicans block the president's plan
  • Here's a map showing the average tax increase/cut for residents of your state

IN ONE SENTENCE: This week's choice for Republicans could not be clearer: stand with the 99 Percent and do something to help the economy or stand with the 1 Percent even if that means hurtling us toward another recession.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed

Highlighting the threat of global warming pollution, killer floods have struck Durban, South Africa, as international climate talks begin there.

The conservative New Hampshire Union Leader won't endorse Mitt Romney because he "represents the 1%."

Too big to fail? The Federal Reserve extended a credit line of $107 billion to keep Morgan Stanley going at the height of the financial crisis.

The Obama administration pushes for more domestic pollution cuts.

Billionaire investor who compared taxing the rich to Nazi invasions, will hold afundraiser for Romney.

Barney Frank challenges Newt Gingrich to debate the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in retirement presser.

The Texas GOP's hyper-gerrymandering of the state's legislative maps falls victim to the GOP's own hubris — and to federal judges who are actually interested in following the law.

Miley Cyrus understands what the word "liberty" means better than anyone in the Tea Party.

The Republican lobbyist who masterminded the proposed $850,000 smear campaign against Occupy Wall Street is hosting a fundraiser for Mitt Romney.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Constituents Rebuke NorquistZombie GOP Congresswoman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) For Her Allegiance To ‘No Tax’ Pledge Instead Of The Constitution #p2 #tcot


Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)

Last week, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) continued the trend of Republicans avoiding angry constituentsby holding an invitation-only "community coffee." But even the small number of constituents at the exclusive event did not let Herrera Beutler off the hook, asking her tough questions about her allegiance to a "no tax" pledge:

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said Tuesday she's happy with the smaller settings of her invitation-only "community coffees" and isn't planning to hold another large-scale town hall. About 60 people attended her latest gathering at Judy's Restaurant in Longview on Tuesday morning, a fraction of the attendance at earlier town halls in her Southwest Washington district. [...]

At Tuesday's meeting, the more intimate setting didn't cause people to shy away from criticizing the congresswoman. Kathy Thompson, a Longview real-estate broker, blasted Herrera Beutler for signing conservative activist Grover Norquist's pledge not to support any tax increase of any kind.

"I think this is totally un-American. I think your only pledge should be to uphold the Constitution of the United States," Thompson said.

Avoiding constituents is nothing new for Herrera Beutler — in October she even asked a local paper to keep her town hall meeting a secret. Her office does not send advance notice of meetings to local media and she doesn't post alerts on her website. She admits that she decided to limit attendance after she was confronted at a May town hall by attendees who asked "hostile questions" about the House GOP budget, which would have effectively eliminated Medicare.

Other GOP representatives have also faced a backlash from constituents for their uncompromising, ideologically rigid commitment to Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist's "no tax" pledge. (Norquist considers any tax increase, for any reason, a violation of the pledge.) One audience member told Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY), "We are your constituents, not Grover Norquist."

More and more Republican congressmen, though, are disavowing the pledge after witnessing the ill effects of promising never to raise taxes under any circumstance. GOP Rep. Frank Wolf (VA) said the pledge had the effect of "paralyzing Congress" and making it impossible to even discuss ways to reform the tax code. Onetime devotee Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) also denounced the pledge, explaining, "We have to have the flexibility to do the right thing for American people."

Is Utah About To Elect Another Senator Who Thinks Medicare Is Unconstitutional? #p2 #tcot


Likely U.S. Senate Candidate Dan Liljenquist (R)

Last year, Sen. Mike "A Noun, A Verb, and Unconstitutional" Lee (R-UT) upset longtime Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) in the Utah GOP's arcane candidate selection process — allowing the Tea Party to elevate someone to the Senate who believes that everything from Medicare to Social Security to child labor laws somehow violate the Constitution. Since then, Utah's senior Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has tripped over himself to pretend that he is just as radical as young Sen. Lee.

Alas, all of Hatch's extremist posturing may be for naught, as the Tea Party has found someone who shares their apparent policy goal of ensuring that people who can't afford health care are left to fend for themselves:

During a recent media blitz in Washington, D.C., Dan Liljenquist, a state senator from Utah, went after Sen. Orrin Hatch, arguing he has done more than any other Republican to promote nationalized health care. [...] The skirmish is the first between these potential 2012 opponents. Liljenquist, a Republican, says he won't make an official decision until early next year, but he has prepared for a possible run for Hatch's seat. [...]

[Liljenquist] argued that Hatch is not committed to returning power to the states, focusing on the State Children's Health Insurance Program that Hatch spearheaded in 1997. That program, which pays for health coverage for poor children, has come under fire from tea party Republicans who see it as a step toward a national takeover of health insurance. Liljenquist went as far as to call it "unconstitutional."

Liljenquist's suggestion that the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is unconstitutional is absurd. SCHIP works by providing funds to states to help them pay for health insurance for children. Because the Constitution allows the federal government "to lay and collect taxes" and to use those revenues to "provide for the…general welfare of the United States," there is simply no doubt that it can spend money on providing health care to vulnerable young people.

Moreover, other essential health care programs — such as Medicare and Medicaid — stand on similar constitutional footing as SCHIP. So if Liljenquist thinks one of these programs is unconstitutional, it is likely that he believes that we must eliminate all three.

In other words, if Liljenquist succeeds in taking Hatch's Senate seat, Utah could become the only state in the union to have its entire Senate delegation believe that the Constitution requires millions of children, low-income Americans and seniors to be cast out into the cold with no meaningful access to health care.

Rick Perry Lands Corrupt Old Racist Joe Arpaio’s Endorsement #p2 #tcot


Rick Perry will have a special guest during his stump speeches in New Hampshire this week: Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. ABC News reports that Arpaio, most famous for supporting Arizona's draconian immigration law, will officially endorse Texas governor Perry in the very near future.

Perry and his Republican rivals have been salivating over a potential Arpaio endorsement for months, largely because his approval can help them woo anti-immigrant Republicans. But Arpaio's more than just a foe of illegal immigrants: he's down-right bigoted.

In a 2007 CNN interview, while discussing his heavy-handed immigration policies, the Maricopa County sheriff said it's an honor to be compared to the Ku Klux Klan. And last year the Justice Department sued Arpaio for documents pertaining to racial profiling of Hispanics in the Copper State.

More than just an anti-immigrant extremist, Arpaio also exhibits sadistic cruelty in his penal reforms: he enjoys making inmates wear pink underwear — because pink is girly and gay and therefore humiliating — has constructed tent cities to house prisoners and illegal immigrants despite the fact that summers in Arizona are inhumanly hot, and he used public prison funds to pay staffers rather than take care of inmates.

Nor does Arpaio have any sympathy or remorse for his own office's misconduct. Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic provides an excellent example:

Earlier this month, Maricopa County paid a $1 million settlement to the family of a man who died in Arpaio's custody. Predictably, Sheriff Joe downplayed the death and blamed someone else for the deal. "It was settled due to the nature of doing business," Arpaio told The Arizona Republic. "That (settlement) wasn't up to us, that was the county that decided to settle it. We have nothing to do with this…"

But of course Perry's willing to look past all of this because he took a beating in the conservative press for saying during a debate this year that anti-immigrant activists are "heartless" and now needs show he's as tough as Sheriff Joe, a man who embodies the GOP's most extreme immigration policy: civil rights and human decency are acceptable collateral damage when dealing with scary "criminal" Mexicans.

Wall Street Banks Earned Billions In Profits Off $7.7 Trillion In Secret Fed Loans Made During The Financial Crisis #p2 #tcot @andrewbreitbart


In the lead-up to the financial crisis that crippled the American economy and plunged the country into a recession, the Federal Reserve made trillions inundisclosed loans to struggling banks and financial institutions, according to official documents obtained by Bloomberg News. Six of the country's largest banks then turned those loans into more than $13 billion in previously undisclosed profits.

The total cost of the Fed loans amounted to $7.77 trillion, and unlike the funds made available by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the loans came with virtually no strings attached for the banks:

The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he "wasn't aware of the magnitude." It dwarfed the Treasury Department's better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

"TARP at least had some strings attached," says Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, referring to the program's executive-pay ceiling. "With the Fed programs, there was nothing."

In one month, Morgan Stanley — one of the most vulnerable financial companies at the time — took $107 billion in secret loans, enough to pay off a tenth of the nation's delinquent mortgages. The loans, like those made to other institutions, were never reported to Morgan Stanley's shareholders or the taxpayers who subsidized them.

Other banks drew similar loans without disclosing them. Bank of America, for instance, held $86 billion in public debt on the day then-CEO Ken Lewis declared his company "one of thestrongest and most stable major banks in the world." Bank of America's Fed borrowing peaked at $91.4 billion in February 2009; at the same time, it benefited from $45 billion in TARP loans.

And even while members of Congress were working to overhaul the nation's financial regulatory system, the banks and the Fed kept them in the dark about the loans. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), one of the architects of the Wall Street reform act that eventually became law, and former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), the GOP's lead negotiator on TARP, told Bloomberg they were unaware of the specifics of such loans.

Had Congress had such information, members of both parties would have changed their votes to favor Wall Street reform, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), meanwhile, said knowledge of the loans could have led to a push to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited banks from owning investment companies and vice versa, thereby limiting their size and vulnerability to such crises.

The secret nature of the loans, however, instead helped Wall Street work to "preserve a broken status quo" that allowed its biggest banks to grow even larger than they were before the crisis. The nation's largest banks have turned more in profit in the last 30 months than they did in nearly eight years preceding the crisis, all while spending millions to derail significant reform legislation. And since the Dodd-Frank Act became law, they have spent millions more to weaken its rules and prevent certain regulations from taking effect. Bank lobbying, in fact, is now on pace to reach a record high this year.

Jon Kyl opposes taxing the wealthy to pay for a payroll tax cut #p2 #tcot @andrewbreitbart


There are excellent reasons to oppose payroll tax cuts. Sen. Jon Kyl's reasons for opposing a payroll tax cut extension are not excellent:

"The payroll tax holiday has not stimulated job creation. We do not think that is a great way to do it," Kyl said on Fox News.

Kyl, who served on the supercommittee, said it didn't make sense to impose a higher tax on those who create jobs, preempting the argument from Democrats that additional stimulus measures should be paid for by increasing the tax rate on wealthier Americans.

Of course. Don't oppose it because it might undermine Social Security, oppose it because the way to pay for it would be through raising taxes on the wealthy. What's interesting here is that Kyl is letting this be framed as payroll tax versus the wealthy paying their share rather thanpayroll tax cut versus spending cuts. That's a minor win for Democrats, anyway.

9:43 AM PT: Dan Pfeiffer:

Funny thing abt Sen Kyl's opposition to payroll tax cut extension is that in '09 on CNBC he called for a payroll tax cut bc it created jobs

The No Whining Rule for Managers

One of my senior clients used to keep a "no whining" sign in her office. It seemed odd to have the sign so prominently displayed at a senior executive level. After all, the managers that walked into that office were not children, but mature adults with collective responsibility for thousands of employees. Why would they whine instead of just solving problems?

The reality is that all of us whine, complain, blame others, and try to avoid responsibility. It's part of the human condition. Nobody likes to clean up problems caused by others — or admit that they've created problems themselves. We also try to preserve a positive self-image and we go to great lengths to get others to perceive us positively as well. Given these basic human dynamics, most of which are unconscious, it's often easier to talk to colleagues about what somebody else is doing wrong. At worst we'll get sympathy. At best, we'll convince someone else to take care of the problem.

rest at http://blogs.hbr.org/ashkenas/2011/11/the-no-whining-rule-for-manage.html?cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-weekly_hotlist-_-hotlist112811&referral=00202&utm_source=newsletter_weekly_hotlist&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=hotlist112811

lipstick on a pig: Sara Lee's plan to swath industry built on abuse in platitudes of sustainability, rarefied taste, and agrarianism #p2 #tcot

from http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/11/sara-lee-memo-leaked

I write a lot about the meat industry from the outside looking in. So I was delighted when an inside look at the industry fell into my hands: a real-life meat industry image makeover plan.

A source who wishes to remain anonymous gave me printouts from an internal presentation delivered by an official from Sara Lee, which has emerged as a major player in the packaged-meats market, with a brand listthat includes Ball Park franks, Jimmy Dean sausages, and Hillshire Farm deli meats. (Well, it's called Hillshire Farm for the time being anyway—as you'll see below, that may subtly change soon.) Sara Lee has announced plans to split into two parts, one of them focused solely on packaged meat company (a "pure play" meat company, in Wall Street jargon). The plan I received highlights marketing ideas for the emerging meat company. I scanned the pages, put them into a PDF file—check it out here.

Below are some highlights. Warning: We are about to enter the strange arena of marketing, where fictional worlds are conjured up out of whole cloth for the sole purpose of moving goods.

From what I can tell, the intention expressed here is to brush up the image of Hillshire Farm and roll out two new premium brands: "Smith & Smith Fine Meats" and "Flat Iron Ranch." The campaign is "foundational," the one slide declares, "and demonstrates how the new, purposefulSara Lee will manifest: Modern. Authentic. Simple."

From there, we get the new plan for Hillshire Farm(s):



So, this "small network of farms" isn't so much about actually supplying the company, but more about projecting "aspirations." Then we get a slide featuring the logo:



Note those dangling peppercorns ripening on the vine. Those will be a key aspect of the new Hillshire Farms brand—particularly, the roast-turkey product.




And in that image, we find my favorite line in the whole presentation: "Give it up for pepper!" Black pepper isn't the only non-meat ingredient to take a star turn in this plan. Check out what gets highlighted in the ham product:



Good job indeed, bees! Though I have to wonder if our friends in Sara Lee's marketing department have been reading about all the dodgy Chinese honey that's been gushing into the United States as our own bee populations decline. Generally, I find it interesting that the plan isn't to herald any claims about the meat or where it comes from, but rather to focus meaninglessly on flavoring agents like honey and pepper.


From there, after a boring slide on the roast beef product—"sprinkled with salt, pepper, and herbs and roasted oh-so-slowly"—the presentation moves on to a summary of the Hillshire Farms strategy:



So Hillshire Farms is the everyday brand. The presentation then pivots to the upstart high-end brands, Smith & Smith Fine Meats and Flat Iron Ranch:




I should note that I did reach out to the Sara Lee press office to give the company a chance to comment on the document. Officials there confirmed that the presentation was a draft of a marketing plan for the meat division's 2012 launch as a stand-alone company. They emphasized that the effort was a "work in progress," and that what I had gotten hold of was already "way out of date." That wouldn't tell me anything else, except that all questions about the meat arm of Sara Lee would be answered at the company's March 2012 launch presentation for Wall Street analysts—to which they graciously invited me. And maybe I'll even take them up on it.

Draft or not, what we're seeing here is marketing professionals straining to put lipstick, so to speak, on a pig: to swath an industry built on abuse in the gauzy platitudes of sustainability, rarefied taste, and agrarianism.

A recently released, agribusiness-funded marketing study (PDF) put the challenge like this:

There is an inverse relationship between the perception of shared values and priorities for commercial farms. Consumers fear that commercial farms will put profit ahead of principle and therefore cut corners when it comes to other priority issues. As farms continue to change in size and scale we have to overcome that bias by more effectively demonstrating our commitment to the values and priorities of consumers.