The Real Recession
In The New York Times today is a nice trio of features on the explosion in the use of food stamps across the country. The explosion is among 'middle' and 'working' class people who never thought they would need to rely on public aid to feed themselves and their families - that is, until they are confronted with under-employment or lose their jobs altogether. There is a story, a photo essay, and an interactive map showing county-level statistics. I find interesting two virtually identical comments by men interviewed for the story:
"I always thought it was people trying to milk the system. But we just felt like we really needed the help right now." ~ Greg DawsonThese remarks brought to mind observations by economist John Roemer that I mentioned here last summer. Roemer speculates that the common experience of material insecurity induced by political economic crisis, because it distributes risk more equally, can lead people to support more solidaristic political-economic policies (say, universal health care or, in this instance, food stamps) because they come to understand that it is in their self interest to do so. Maybe so.
"I always thought people on public assistance were lazy, but it helps me to know I can feed my kids.'' ~ Tyrone Mangold
That said, the seemingly pervasive claims that the "recession" has bottomed out and that we are on the road to recovery seem hollow in light of these stories. And imagine if we had no "safety net," however thread bare and meager are those programs that have survived two-plus decades of right wing attack!
Labels: political economy