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Big Retailers Don’t Want You To Know How Much Their Stores Earn From Food Stamps

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A local newspaper wants to know exactly how much money retail stores earn from food stamp transactions, and the retail food industry is fighting the disclosure all the way to the Supreme Court.

Last week, Justice Neil Gorsuch temporarily stayed a lower court’s order requiring the government to cough up the data. Now grocers have a chance to try to convince the Supreme Court to take the case.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the federal government’s most responsive economic safety net, giving 40 million Americans a monthly food allowance that can only be spent at food stores and farmers markets. The program dishes out $60 billion in benefits annually, which amounts to a significant portion of retail stores’ income.

Throughout the program’s history, politicians and news reporters have obsessed over what people purchase with their benefits. In the 1970s, President Ronald Reagan speechified about “strapping young bucks” buying T-bone steaks, a fist-shaking tradition Republicans have continued to this day. The benefits used to be distributed on actual stamps but now go on debit cards that are still highly visible in checkout lines.

The legal case is more about who is selling the food than what the beneficiaries are buying. The Argus Leader, a newspaper in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, filed a records request for store-level SNAP spending data in 2011. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, didn’t hand over the details, the paper sued.

“Taxpayers need to know where their money is spent,” Cory Myers, the Argus Leader’s news director, said earlier this year. “This information has importance beyond South Dakota as SNAP is one of the nation’s biggest safety net programs.”

The USDA already provides some detail about where food stamps go. Half of all benefits were spent at superstores like Walmart in 2017. Nearly 30 percent were used at supermarkets like Safeway. More than 258,000 firms were authorized to accept SNAP benefits that year. The USDA has also put out detailed information about what people buy.

The Argus Leader wants to know exactly how much was spent and at exactly which stores. The government argued that disclosing dollar figures for individual firms would hurt their business and that the details should be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

Courts sided with the paper and the USDA gave up on the case, but then retail trade associations swooped in with additional appeals. Among other things, the Food Marketing Institute argued that negative attitudes toward food stamp recipients could cause landlords to increase rent when they learn their tenants process government benefits.

“The stigma might also cause non-SNAP recipients to avoid stores with high SNAP volume, either because of beliefs about the store or a fear of being perceived as SNAP customers,” the Food Marketing Institute told an appeals court in 2017.

Stewart Fried, an attorney for the National Grocers Association, argued in an August 2017 brief that retailers would stop accepting SNAP benefits. He said the disclosure “does not shed light on what the federal government is up to,” since so much detail is already available. Additionally, he said, “gaining access to a competitor’s store-level sales data is the holy grail of the retail food industry,” because the information can influence decisions about where to open new stores.

So far, courts have not agreed, calling the stigma argument “speculative” and saying releasing the data seems unlikely to hurt anyone’s business too much. Gorsuch has given retailers a chance to argue this month that the disclosure should be further delayed so the court can consider whether to take the case.

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Politics

Top 10 Democratic Presidential candidates in 2024 as ranked.

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The month of February was completely focused on other events around the globe — therefore, you could be forgiven for not having seen an interesting survey on U.S. politics. (We did it, writing about these issues as a profession.)

The survey, conducted by YouGov, focused on what 2024 would be like for the Democratic presidential primary. Only 21 per cent of those who favoured Democrats indicated that they would vote for Joe Biden, the current Democratic presidency, Joe Biden. Biden was just a fraction over those who stated that they didn’t know who they favoured, and vice presidents Harris and Bernie Sanders each had 14 per cent of the vote.

This isn’t normal. There’s evidence to suggest that Democrats aren’t convinced to nominate Biden for another term, such as an opinion poll from November that showed that most Democrats opposed him being a candidate again. But a majority of Republicans are the same when it comes to the possibility of a second campaign in the direction of Donald Trump in 2024 -but he’s the candidate to win when you compare Biden against potential opponents.

Democrats have to determine what they will do with this. There’s a good argument for arguing that the most effective alternative is to pick an alternative candidate. However, should you do that if Biden intends to run again, would you be willing to allow an open primary that could leave the choice in the hands of voters — and possibly tarnish incumbent presidents, like Jimmy Carter vs Ted Kennedy in 1980? Do you gently suggest to Biden that it’s better to let the torch pass and hope it succeeds? Do you wish that things improve?

These important issues are likely to be left unanswered until after Democrats look at how 2022’s elections play out. In this time, we’ve witnessed what jockeying one would expect in a scenario. Biden hasn’t been completely specific about whether he’ll be running again, which could signal a green light to those preparing for the possibility that he doesn’t.

With this all in mind, We’re changing our annual presidential rankings. In the past, we’ve removed Biden from our rankings which suggested that we’d likely have an actual primary if he didn’t contest. But it’s becoming increasingly important to think about the possibility that should he decide to run and win, he’ll have the field all to himself -and he may not end up being the best candidate in all aspects.

Here are the latest rankings.

Other notable people include Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, New Jersey Governor. Phil Murphy, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Stacey Abrams, Mitch Landrieu, Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.)

  1. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez: The more feasible option for the 32-year old congresswoman is to wait her time until she can be a candidate for Senate. The congresswoman did not participate in the possibility of running in a primary election to run against Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the past and would stand an opportunity to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in 2024. She may run for a more prestigious post in 2024, of which she scored 6 per cent in the YouGov survey. She’s not taking steps similar to those on this list. However, she’d already have a base as well as the progressive path would be much more accessible this time around, as Sanders has stated that he is likely to be out. (Previous ranking: 10)
  2. Gavin Newsom: Some California political observers have noticed Newsom’s presence more frequently in the recent debates on national politics. “It’s very obvious Newsom would like to be president someday,” SFGate’s Eric Ting wrote this week. The exact way that it would be handled isn’t as clear. Newsom won a major victory in a widely watched recall election last year, but how he’d sway voters from outside the Golden State is a big problem. Newsom almost oozes “West Coast liberal,” although he’s probably slightly more moderate than most people are aware of. (Previous ranking: 7)
  3. Cory Booker: The senator from New Jersey was one of the most prominent figures of the Democrat’s campaign for confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson on the Supreme Court, delivering some poignant remarks about the importance of the event. His 2020 campaign was nowhere far from achieving the potential of his first political career. However, Booker has just turned 52 and will likely perform another feat on the national scene. (Previous ranking: 6)
  4. Sherrod Brown: Perhaps the most significant surprise of the early 2020 Democratic primary could be that Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio decided not to run. This was partly because the senator decided he wasn’t interested in running as the other Democrats were. Likely, this will not change by 2024. With Sanders out, there may be more room for his popular style of politics. You can bet that many established Democrats would place Brown highly on their list of candidates. There’s a big problem: Brown is running for reelection in 2024 and could not be able to come back to running for an election in the red-hot state of Ohio. (Previous ranking: n/a)
  5. Roy Cooper: He might be the leading candidate who isn’t talked about the most. It’s partly due to him being governor and his style. If it’s a”just-win-baby” type of election and Democrats are looking for a Biden-style presidential candidate (though this isn’t Biden himself), then the North Carolinian checks many boxes. He’s also, like Brown, who has won repeatedly in an authoritarian state, one that Democrats would like to get in the spotlight. (Previous ranking: 5)
  6. Amy Klobuchar: Senator from Minnesota is likely to gain from a Biden-free contest, as do many others could benefit from a Sanders-free election. But what would the cost be? The highest point she reached at 20 per cent for the year 2020 came from New Hampshire, and she was not as successful in Iowa well before Biden kicked things into high gear. (Previous ranking: 4)
  7. Elizabeth Warren: Sanders’s camp has made suggestions that Biden is likely to be battling a progressive opponent in 2024. Who exactly would this part from the political line be putting behind? Politico has reported that the top Sanders advisers have been involved in establishing the field for 2024however, they have done so by urging Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) to run rather than by helping build Warren. Sanders and Warren have been frequent allies within the Senate; however, their 2020 presidential campaigns turned quite ugly when competing against one another. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also is running for reelection in 2024 and has stated she will be pursuing it. (Previous ranking: 3)
  8. Kamala D. Harris: We’re moving Harris to a different position this time. Being vice president is an effective launchpad, but it’s not clear if Harris has utilized it positively. Harris’ numbers are comparable to Biden’s, and she’s not done much to change the perceptions that have harmed her campaign for 2020, particularly her capacity to convey the message. It’s also unlikely that she’d run against Biden if he runs (while others may have had a wiggle room to do this). The good news is that Biden has already committed to her as his running mate once again. (Previous ranking: 1)
  9. Pete Buttigieg, The transportation secretary, has moved ahead of Harris but without a great deal of conviction from our side. He had a strong race in 2020 — we’ll say he was close to winning the initial two contests. And he could enter 2024 with greater authority as a cabinet secretary. We’d anticipate a Biden-less race to be among the most open-ended races in recent history. If the public doesn’t want Biden or Harris, he’s the second in line because of his plausibility. (Previous ranking: 2)
  10. President Biden, after all of that, the darkest times are usually for presidents during an election year with a midterm. Also, Biden is battling an epidemic and inflation issues to deal with. If the two factors diminish in the next few months, and then after the midterms in 2022? The scenario could be dramatically different. Suppose Republicans get some control over Congress (which is highly likely). It might even aid Biden politically since Biden will have something to compete against (even in opposition to Donald Trump). However, most of us aren’t sure if we’ll see him attempt to become the first Octtogenarian candidate for president.

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