Sunday, November 29, 2009

A pox upon our nation...

Greetings good citizen,

I’ve lost count of how many articles I’ve run on the topic of food shortages or the steady rise in the number of people seeking food ‘assistance’. One thing is for sure, it’s the topic that keeps on giving.

Which brings us to the opposite side of that coin, if these stories actually mean something then why hasn’t it happened yet?

Maybe it’s not going to happen…although that’s nothing more than wishful thinking. A food shortage isn’t a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ Worse, the food supply will probably ‘dry up’ in tandem with the money supply.

Which isn’t particularly ‘encouraging’ news, so we have to ask ourselves…why bother?

Isn’t watching this train wreck in slow motion excruciating enough? What am I hoping to accomplish besides making myself look foolish?

Well good citizen, it IS getting worse, each report is a bit more dire than the one before it.

Um, due to the length of the original article, you will need to use the link to read the whole story.

Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades

Published: November 28, 2009

MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children. [Um, no good citizen, the number of applicants is rising because more and more people are ‘qualifying’. Back when these people had ‘good’ jobs, they didn’t qualify, now that they have shitty ‘new economy’ jobs (if they work at all) they do qualify!]

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades. [Um, they have already pointed out that the extension of unemployment benefits to 92 weeks is unprecedented in the history of the program…worse, a record number of recipients will soon exhaust those extended benefits, while absolutely nothing is being done about the underlying cause of the crisis.]

It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs. [Interesting choice of verbiage there, don’t you think? The crisis is indeed a pox upon our nation, although some are suffering more than others…]

Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare.

While the numbers have soared during the recession, the path was cleared in better times when the Bush administration led a campaign to erase the program’s stigma, calling food stamps “nutritional aid” instead of welfare, and made it easier to apply. That bipartisan effort capped an extraordinary reversal from the 1990s, when some conservatives tried to abolish the program, Congress enacted large cuts and bureaucratic hurdles chased many needy people away. [I suspect we would learn that this little known ‘helping hand’ from the Bush administration wasn’t enacted until after the economic crisis Bush’s political/economic policies created were in full bloom. It’s a little weird to hear about these programs so long after their creation…]

From the ailing resorts of the Florida Keys to Alaskan villages along the Bering Sea, the program is now expanding at a pace of about 20,000 people a day.

There are 239 counties in the United States where at least a quarter of the population receives food stamps, according to an analysis of local data collected by The New York Times. The counties are as big as the Bronx and Philadelphia and as small as Owsley County in Kentucky, a patch of Appalachian distress where half of the 4,600 residents receive food stamps.

In more than 750 counties, the program helps feed one in three blacks. In more than 800 counties, it helps feed one in three children. In the Mississippi River cities of St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans, half of the children or more receive food stamps. Even in Peoria, Ill. — Everytown, U.S.A. — nearly 40 percent of children receive aid. [I believe a report from nearly a year ago stated that 40 percent was a ‘national mean’, that 4 out of every 10 US citizens were receiving some kind of food assistance. It’s hard to get firm numbers because of the plethora of food assistance programs out there!]

While use is greatest where poverty runs deep, the growth has been especially swift in once-prosperous places hit by the housing bust. There are about 50 small counties and a dozen sizable ones where the rolls have doubled in the last two years. In another 205 counties, they have risen by at least two-thirds. These places with soaring rolls include populous Riverside County, Calif., most of greater Phoenix and Las Vegas, a ring of affluent Atlanta suburbs, and a 150-mile stretch of southwest Florida from Bradenton to the Everglades.

Although the program is growing at a record rate, the federal official who oversees it would like it to grow even faster. [Which is to say this remark isn’t as mean spirited as it appears to be…]

“I think the response of the program has been tremendous,” said Kevin Concannon, an under secretary of agriculture, “but we’re mindful that there are another 15, 16 million who could benefit.” [Yes good citizen, while the ‘stigma’ of receiving ‘food assistance’ has diminished, it hasn’t completely disappeared.]

Nationwide, food stamps reach about two-thirds of those eligible, with rates ranging from an estimated 50 percent in California to 98 percent in Missouri. Mr. Concannon urged lagging states to do more to enroll the needy, citing a recent government report that found a sharp rise in Americans with inconsistent access to adequate food.

“This is the most urgent time for our feeding programs in our lifetime, with the exception of the Depression,” he said. “It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”

The program’s growing reach can be seen in a corner of southwestern Ohio where red state politics reign and blue-collar workers have often called food stamps a sign of laziness. But unemployment has soared, and food stamp use in a six-county area outside Cincinnati has risen more than 50 percent.

As the ‘economic desert’ grows, reality starts to sink in to the conservative mind…it is better to accept the ‘handout’ and survive than to perish for one’s misguided principles. But you know that isn’t how they see it, especially when the ‘aid’ is going to someone other than them.

But enough of that, this article is four pages long and I just couldn’t bring myself to put that much reading on your plate…not that I haven’t in the past or that I will continue to refrain in the future…just saying, ya know?

What got me going here was the rather dramatic rise in participation rates. This isn’t all due to rising unemployment; ‘underemployment’ is playing a strong role here too.

If we follow this ‘trend’, it is sure looking like half of us will soon be on some kind of food assistance program…and that by itself should make you go hmmn…

A population largely unable to feed itself is one of the surest early signs of social collapse, so why can’t we afford food?

Part of it is energy costs. Simply put, our paychecks aren’t keeping pace with the amount we are forced to spend on energy, leaving us less money to spend on other, er, ‘necessities’.

Of the four basic necessities, food, clothing, shelter and transportation, you have the most control over the smallest of the four…food.

If it costs you more to commute to your job, you usually lose the extra from your food and clothing budget…with clothing commonly representing a sacrifice in the ‘entertainment’ budget.

If you’re not being paid enough to ‘crack your nut’ and times like these don’t provide the leverage to get a raise, you either find yourself ‘in the hunt’ (for a new job) or looking for a way to stretch out your income!

And suddenly we have ‘food assistance’ to the rescue! Until the chiseler you work for finds out you’re on food stamps and they decide you don’t need a raise after all, you’ve got it covered, even if your underwear is in tatters.

Because that’s the ‘root’ of the problem good citizen, the people on ‘food assistance’ simply aren’t being paid enough!

Worse, good citizen, this problem is unlikely to straighten itself out. The boss isn’t going to volunteer to pay you more.

In fact, if it were up to him, he’d never pay you more! Which is why we shouldn’t allow anyone to cut anybody a paycheck! If the decision ever comes down to you or him, you aren’t even an afterthought. He wins, you lose.

Naturally, it is unhealthy for society to let any individual make this choice. At the end of the day, they simply don’t have enough information to make the right choice, never-mind that their motivation for making that choice is all wrong too!

If we are to save civilization (or what passes for it) we must remove ‘self-interest’ from the decision-making process. It has been proven time and again that a person acting in their own best interests will throw their entire civilization ‘under the bus’ because they do not comprehend the consequences of their actions.

Greed is seldom benign.

Thanks for letting me inside your head,


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