As economic recovery continues to prove dismal if not illusory, American families are signing up for food stamps in record numbers, showing signs that poverty is increasing and the job market is far from recovering.
According to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) numbers, households on food stamps increased by 45,900 in one month, hitting a staggering new high in June of 23.117 million households, with an additional 125,079 individuals signing up for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, a near-record 47.76 million people that is just below the December 2012 peak of 47.79 million.
More than 80% of those families receiving food stamp benefits are at or below the poverty line, with more than 61% of households drastically below the poverty line, making less than $14,648 in a year per household of three.
These numbers reflect a bigger trend that is all but abysmal in scope – that more than 22 million people have been added to the government dole since December 2007, at the onset of the economic crisis that has spiraled into near depression levels. According to Zero Hedge, more than 2.2 million jobs are needed to reach equilibrium with Fall 2008 levels of employment and cost of living affordability.
Worse, many of the new employment opportunities only offer part time or low wage jobs, threatening the viability of more and more households. So many of the unemployment numbers do not accurately reflect the health of the nation, and, in fact, have helped to hide the decline.
The USDA has been aiding this by promoting its SNAP food stamp program to persons above – but near – the poverty line, essentially acknowledging that their prospects in the economy are dim despite cheerleading from the Obama Administration to the contrary. While food stamps officially benefit those working part time or for low wages, the unemployed, welfare recipients, the elderly and disabled as well as the homeless, taxpayer-funded advertisement campaigns have been recruiting struggling families still earning a living to sign up for SNAP rosters as well.
The USDA has specifically targeted children from low income households, Latino immigrants with Spanish-language soap operas embedded with appealing messages as well as individuals from America’s heartland who suffer from “mountain pride,” a term deliberately coined to combat “self-reliant” attitudes and entice individuals and families resistant to hand outs to take on benefits, and with it, increased government dependence.
Outwardly, of course, this a hand-up to those facing hard times. But put together with data revealing a non-existent job recovery and the new norm of subpar employment (a combination of part time and low wage jobs), it offers families barely getting by little hope of ever really getting out of poverty.
By actively driving up food stamp numbers, the Obama Administration is temporarily staving off the implosion of a clearly unsustainable economy and plugging the hole of an all-but-exploding dam. But behind the scenes, those who still have jobs and pay taxes are getting hit harder than ever, while those receiving benefits are scraping by with less as well.
At the same time food stamp recipients have climbed sharply – reaching numbers nearly double those seen December 2007 before the collapse set it – the average benefit has declined. This forces those at or near poverty to stretch their food dollars even thinner, putting more items out of reach and lower quality items in the basket, as inflation touched 9.4% in recent weeks. Households received an average of only $274.55 under SNAP in June 2012, as compared with $293.89 per month as of October 2009, while individuals enrolled in SNAP received average benefits of $132.89 per month in June 2012, a statistical drop from $134.60 in October 2009.