Century Marks

Century Marks

SNAP benefit

A recent study by two economists indicates that a $30 per person monthly increase in Supple­mental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits would not only increase grocery spending in poor households but improve nutrition. The increased benefit would also reduce the amount of fast food consumed and lessen the chance of food insecurity—the inability of a family to afford adequate amounts of food. SNAP benefits can be spent only on groceries, but the additional benefit would free up resources to pay for things like utilities (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 14).

College plans

In 2014, 6.1 percent of bachelor’s degrees were in the humanities, the lowest level since statistics on college majors started being kept in 1948. Since the recession of 2008, the number of history majors has declined from 2.2 to 1.7 percent. College students often feel pressured by parents and peers to go into fields that are potentially more lucrative. Politicians also feed this trend away from the humanities, from Presi­dent Obama’s ridicule of an art major to Marco Rubio’s remark that welders get paid more than philosophers. Over the long run, many humanities majors do OK financially. A midcareer historian is likely to make as much as someone with a bachelor’s degree in business. And the humanities hone critical thinking skills that are useful in many fields (Los Angeles Times, May 30).

Debt forgiveness

Comedian John Oliver bought the medical debt of some 9,000 people and announced he was forgiving their debts on his HBO show Last Week Tonight. The show created its own collection agency and negotiated $15 million of debt down to a payment of only $60,000. The announcement was made during a sketch in which Oliver delivered a blistering critique of the debt purchase industry. (NBC4i.com, June 6).

Unusual punishment

Instead of sending Jake Strotman to jail for assault, a Cincinnati judge ordered the 23-year-old Catholic to attend a Baptist church for 12 consecutive Sundays. Strotman had gone to a hockey game with some friends. It was dollar beer night at the arena, and the young adults apparently became inebriated. After the game they taunted some Baptist street preachers and a scuffle ensued. That his sentence should be attending Baptist services was Strotman’s suggestion (RNS).

Black flight

In a 14-year span Chicago’s black population dropped by an estimated 200,000, or about 19 percent. Many people are fleeing urban violence for safer communities in the suburbs. Concerns about failing schools and a lack of jobs add to the flight. Talk of escaping the city is common, especially among black millennials. Those who remain behind sometimes do so to be anchors in the community. Others simply can’t afford to move. If the city’s homicide rate continues, this year will be the worst since the late 1990s (The Trace, May 31).