Food Stamp Need Increases Massively

November 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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With all the grim statistics emerging lately about unemployment, home foreclosures, and related matters, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by today’s front-page article in the New York Times concerning massive increases in the number of Americans on food stamps, but I am.  It’s the details that get you: “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…in more than 750 counties, the program helps to feed one in three blacks…in more than 800 counties, it helps feed one in three children..nearly 12 percent of Americans receive aid, 28 percent of blacks, 15 percent of Latinos, and 8 percent of whites…use has grown by half or more in dozens of suburban counties from Boston to Seattle including such bulwarks of conservatism as Orange County, where the rolls are up more than 50 percent…at least half of Americans receive food stamps, at least briefly, by the time they turn 20. Among black children, the figure is 90 percent.”

Such changes are hard on right-wing ideologues, however. In the 1990s, some conservatives tried to abolish the program. because it encouraged sloth. To give credit where credit is due–one doesn’t get this opportunity often–it was the  administration of Bush II that changed that, leading a campaign to erase the stigma attached to food stamps by calling them “nutritional aid.” And of course, some neocons still denounce the program for encouraging people not to work, as if anyone in their right mind would avoid taking a job in exchange for (approximately) $130 per household member a month in bread, cheese, canned veggies, etc.

The greater challenge is the one that faces those who used to denounce recipients of food stamps as lazy but now need aid themselves. As a Mr. Dawson of Martinsville in southwestern Ohio says, “I always thought it was people trying to milk the system. But we just felt like we really needed the help now.”

Needing food stamps hasn’t changed Mr. Dawson’s attitude, however. “Like many new beneficiaries here,” the article goes on to say, “Mr. Dawson argues that people often abuse the program and is quick to say he is different. While some people ‘choose not to get married, just so they can apply for benefits,’ he is a married churchgoing man who works  and owns his home. While ‘some people put piles of steaks in their carts, he will not use the government’s money for luxuries like coffee or soda. To me, that’s just morally wrong,’ he said.” Others, however, have managed to shift their attitudes now that they are getting help.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic bishops of New Jersey have called upon all the Catholics in that fair state to pray that a bill permitting homosexual marriage does not become law. It’s comforting to know that the bishops have got their priorities straight.

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