The Invisible Recovery – 40,000,000 Americans Receiving Food Stamp Assistance – Since 2000 23 Million Americans have been added to the Food Assistance Program.
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The latest food stamp data for January of 2010 shows that 39,430,724 Americans are receiving food stamps or are part of the supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP). If you make the acronym and name long enough and with a neutral undertone average Americans won’t fret that 40 million of their fellow neighbors are one government debit card away from being unable to eat. Yet this is the new corporate funded recovery and somehow things don’t seem to be improving for the middle class and definitely not for those at the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder. In fact, we may have more than 40 million on food assistance today. Since the start of the recession in December of 2007, we’ve added on average 474,000 people each month to SNAP. Since the data lags a bit and we only have January 2010 data, it is likely we now have between 40 million and 41 million Americans on food assistance.
There is little to doubt where the trend is heading. Even from 2000, this number has been increasing showing that the supposed boom was nothing more than smoke and mirrors fueled by Wall Street debt:
Source: Food and Nutrition Service
You’ll notice that starting in 2000, the number of people on SNAP has gone up exponentially. Last year the government provided $53 billion in food assistance (compare this to $17 billion in 2000, a tripling of cost in a decade). Most of these Americans do not want to be on food assistance. If anything, the above chart is a clear indicator of how the economy is feeling for millions outside of the Wall Street boom. When we hear about thousands of people lining up at Wal-Mart just before midnight so they can enter and shop with their newly charged debit card, we know that something is amiss between Main Street and Wall Street.
Now some people would argue with the cost. But $53 billion going to 40 million Americans makes more sense than giving a handout to Goldman Sachs just so they can increase their bonus pool. Plus $53 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the $13 trillion given to Wall Street. You also have to remember that most of this money is being spent right back into the economy. It isn’t like these folks are using the funds to pay for their Manhattan apartment or go purchase another yacht with the name of “Big Spender.” On Wall Street all is well even though we are adding nearly a half million Americans each month to the food assistance program. Apparently an economic recovery means a booming economy for everyone but the poor and middle class.
Since more and more Americans now use “food stamps” more stores are changing to adapt to this new economic reality:
“(Consumerist) We’re going to have to start offering tips for shopping with food stamps now that a record number of consumers —and stores— are using them.
EBT use has increased 20% from last year and formerly reluctant retailers like Costco are getting in on the action.
The cards are so “popular” that some retailers are crediting them with their “success” in the current economy.”
This is a large reason why stores like Wal-Mart have seen better performance during the recession. You might not go to Circuit City (now gone) to buy a surround sound system but you’ll definitely go shopping for food for your family. I’m not sure how we can say we are in a recovery with 40 million Americans on food assistance.
And of course, this is only the other end of the employment equation. We have 16.9 percent of our population that is underemployed. And many of the working poor are dealing with smaller paychecks but with higher taxes and fees thanks to crony banks and corrupt politicians:
“(Rolling Stone) If you want to know what life in the Third World is like, just ask Lisa Pack, an administrative assistant who works in the roads and transportation department in Jefferson County, Alabama. Pack got rudely introduced to life in post-crisis America last August, when word came down that she and 1,000 of her fellow public employees would have to take a little unpaid vacation for a while. The county, it turned out, was more than $5 billion in debt — meaning that courthouses, jails and sheriff’s precincts had to be closed so that Wall Street banks could be paid.
As public services in and around Birmingham were stripped to the bone, Pack struggled to support her family on a weekly unemployment check of $260. Nearly a fourth of that went to pay for her health insurance, which the county no longer covered. She also fielded calls from laid-off co-workers who had it even tougher. “I’d be on the phone sometimes until two in the morning,” she says. “I had to talk more than one person out of suicide. For some of the men supporting families, it was so hard — foreclosure, bankruptcy. I’d go to bed at night, and I’d be in tears.”
The recovery is invisible for the vast majority of Americans. Most don’t derive their income from the Wall Street casino but from actual work. They get their money from actually working instead of selling toxic investment products to siphon off money from the productive economy. If we look at personal income the rate of change has fallen for decades but only this recession put us into the negative realm:
Until average Americans are protected from the Wall Street gamblers, we can expect this Brazilian split in America. We used to have three economic classes; the poor, a large and healthy middle class, and a small elite. Today, we are seeing the category of poor exploding while the middle class category shrinks and the wealthy remain the same but with more resources. No wonder why this recovery is invisible to many.