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The ‘Great American Depression’

April 3, 2008

So as I said earlier, when I first saw the ‘USA 2008: The Great Depression’ story from the UK paper The Independent, I thought it was a possible April Fools joke. Well it’s April 3rd now and the story is still there. So I’m going to call it:

Typical Hysterical Media Bullshit.

First things first. Independent, if you’re going to run a picture with a story, try to make sure it was taken in the same year as the story is written. Not almost three years earlier. I like your generic caption of the photo as well: ‘Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York’. Perhaps you were worried that the actual caption of ‘People wait on line to receive donated coats at the kickoff of the 17th annual New York Cares Coat Drive’ didn’t really fit with your whole ‘starving Americans on food stamps’ topic? And one final suggestion… next time pick a photo where the main subject doesn’t appear to be adjusting his MP3 player.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

I’d really like to see that statement supported a bit. I think its odd that we have seen a steady increase in Food Stamp participation in recent years and until now that increase has been attributed to the switch to electronic cards which reduce the ‘stigma’ and a MASSIVE advertising campaigns by various States and the Federal Government reminding people of the program and the fact that they could be eligible. There’s also the Farm Bill of 2002 which relaxed a few eligibility requirements for, among others, aliens who have been in the U.S. five years or more and certain immigrants and all immigrant children… regardless of how long they have been in the U.S. (wikipedia: farm bill 2002). But suddenly I guess thats all right out the window and the number one reason for the increase is the fact that the US is in a Depression.

At times, he admits, he and friends bargain with owners of the smaller grocery shops to trade the value of their cards for cash, although it is illegal. “It can be done. I get $7 back on $10.”

Well now, that doesn’t really need any comment now does it?

And the next monthly job numbers, to be released this Friday, are likely to show 50,000 more jobs were lost nationwide in March, and the unemployment rate is up to perhaps 5 per cent.

Up to perhaps 5%? And that marks a depression? I seem to remember a statistic of something like 25% unemployment for a depression. In any case, if 5% unemployment is their marker, the UK better watch out… looks like they beat us to it.

UK Unemployment

March 19 2008 – The unemployment rate remained at 5.2% – down 0.1% over the quarter and down 0.3% on last year. 29.46 million people were in work in the period November to January according to the labour force survey (LFS). This is the highest on record, up by 166,000 on the quarter, and up by 367,000 on the last year.

By the way, the story discussed above which is attributed to David Usborne and ran on April 1st is remarkably similar to this story in the New York Times attributed to Erik Eckholm which ran on March 31st.

Case in point:

One example is Michigan, where one in eight residents now receives food stamps. “Our caseload has more than doubled since 2000, and we’re at an all-time record level,” said Maureen Sorbet, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Human Services.

and

Michigan has been in its own mini-recession for years as its collapsing industrial base, particularly in the car industry, has cast more and more out of work. Now, one in eight residents of the state is on food stamps, double the level in 2000. “We have seen a dramatic increase in recent years, but we have also seen it climbing more in recent months,” Maureen Sorbet, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s programme, said.

At least the New York Times article is a bit more accurate:

As a share of the national population, food stamp use was highest in 1994, after several years of poor economic growth, with an average of 27.5 million recipients per month from a lower total of residents. The numbers plummeted in the late 1990s as the economy grew and legal immigrants and certain others were excluded.

But access by legal immigrants has been partly restored and, in the current decade, the federal and state governments have used advertising and other measures to inform people of their eligibility and have often simplified application procedures.

A Depression? To quote John Stossel, give me a break.

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From → Politics

One Comment
  1. tiony permalink

    hi

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