Wall Street Is Doing Great, So Why Are So Many People On Food Stamps?

TrickleDown52 years ago, John F. Kennedy gave his inauguration speech in which he famously stated “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Today it almost seems to be the opposite, with some people continually asking what their country can do for them instead of asking what they can do for their country.

I’m sure this sounds like the old conservative gripe about “handouts” to people they don’t believe deserve them, but the fact is we are at a point in our country where corporate profits are at an all-time high and yet 47% of our nation made less than $25,000 in 2011. When you compare wage statistics from 2011 vs 2012, even though the economy continues to improve and Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to set record highs, it hasn’t trickled down to the rest of us.

Now here’s the shocker — the number of people making $50 million or more annually jumped 78% from 93 to 166. Individuals making between $20 million and $50 million went up by almost 80% and almost all of the other higher brackets grew due to a better economy. How about the rest of us? Surely with record corporate profits and Wall Street sitting at all time highs we’d be seeing some of that sweet trickle-down that we’ve been promised repeatedly by politicians and CEOs.

People aren’t on food stamps because they want to be, they’re on food stamps because they have no other choice. 49.7 million Americans (that’s nearly 1 in 6) live in poverty. According to The Associated Press:

The number of poor people in America is 3 million higher than the official count, encompassing 1 in 6 residents due to out-of-pocket medical costs and work-related expenses, according to a revised census measure released Wednesday.

The new measure is aimed at providing a fuller picture of poverty but does not replace the official government numbers. Put in place two years ago by the Obama administration, it generally is considered more reliable by social scientists because it factors in living expenses as well as the effects of government aid, such as food stamps and tax credits.

Based on the revised formula, the number of poor people in 2012 was 49.7 million, or 16 percent. That exceeds the record 46.5 million, or 15 percent, that was officially reported in September.

Despite the thinly-veiled racist legends of the “welfare queen” with an iPhone who loads groceries she bought with food stamps into the back of an Escalade, or the “lazy illegal immigrants” who come here for handouts, the actual eligibility guidelines and statistics from SNAP speak otherwise:

SNAP eligibility rules require that participants be at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level. Recent studies show that 49% of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger), with almost two-thirds of SNAP children living in single-parent households. In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 16% go to households with disabled persons, and 9% go to households with senior citizens.

According to demographic data, 43% of SNAP participants are white, 33% are African-American, 19% are Hispanic, 2% are Asian, and 2% are Native American.


These aren’t people who refuse to work or illegal immigrants (who have never been eligible for food stamps). Many are employed but are paid so little that they have to use food stamps as a means to make ends meet. Wages and benefits were cut during the recession and companies have little interest in restoring those now that the economy is doing better.

Corporations like Wal-Mart are turning huge profits while expecting the ever-shrinking middle class to subsidize them through tax breaks and government assistance for their employees. And whether you’re a fiscal conservative, a liberal or a libertarian – this should enrage you.

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  • Pat

    The “job creators” a/k/a “the wealthy” have us by the gonads, because even if we start looking for another job, (because we have been income-stagnant for the last 8 years at the current job), no new employer wants to pay us a higher salary. So, we continue to take on more work and more responsibility than any one person should have to handle, and our employer knows we aren’t really able to quit to find something better. Will this EVER change? I cannot see it changing anytime soon. Optimists……………please enlighten me!

  • Michael Siever

    Whenever Wall Street fares well, the middle class fares poorly. Whenever Wall Street fares poorly, the middle class gets royally boned for it…

  • Matthew Reece

    It is easy to overlook the fact that Walmart and other megacorporations would have to pay their workers more if there were no government assistance, as people in a free market would not work at a job where the wages are not sufficient to keep them alive.

    • jesus isnt real!

      you are wrong sir! wrong, wrong, wrong. Firstly there are only so many jobs. People will take work no matter how low the pay because some money is better than zero. You obviously have never taken any type of economics classes. The 3 sentences you wrote could not be filled with more ignorance and stupidity. Please feel free to explain how if we eradicated government assistance, that would make these companies pay more? I cant wait to hear your explanation.

      • Matthew Reece

        Ad hominem and ad lapidem admit defeat and ignorance.

        People will not go to work at a job that does not pay them enough to keep them alive because it makes no sense to do so. It is better to work elsewhere or be an entrepreneur in such a case.

        Your statement that there are only so many jobs is an example of the fixed pie fallacy.

      • Pegel

        Matthew Reece, you could not be more wrong. I work in a crappy job that doesn’t pay much. My hours, benefits, and pay all took a cut last year. Why do I work there if the pay sucks so bad and it’s not enough to make ends meet? Because some money is better than no money, especially when you have a family to support. Work elsewhere? Tried. Every job application says the the same ” we love your resume and portfolio but we currently don’t have any open positions” I can’t work the field I went to school for because there are no jobs available at the moment. Be an entrepreneur? Tell that to the middle aged couples with kids working at fast food joints or other minimum wage jobs just to feed the family. Just deciding to be an entrepreneur will make you a successful one? If that is the life you have lived, then you sir, are extremely lucky.

      • strayaway

        You are right in that there are only so many jobs; at least in this Country. Corporations have conspired with our federal government to encourage imports built with cheaper foreign labor. At home, record numbers of legal and illegal foreign workers compete for remaining jobs for lower wages. There is, as a result, now a surplus of labor, especially among the unskilled, in the US contributing to extended unemployment lines. Pay will not be increased until there is a shortage of US workers. Government assistance is necessary to provide for people negatively affected by import and immigration policies. If import and immigration policies were reformed to create more demand for US labor, then Matthew Reece would be correct and US workers would and could demand a larger share of the national economic pie.

    • jesus isnt real!

      we are in a free market now, so why dont these companies pay more? because of food stamps? please enlighten me?

      • Matthew Reece

        Wrong, because a free market has no interference from government.

      • Free markets are not free

        There is no such thing as “the free market”. It was designed by the government and has been taken over and legislated by and on behalf of corporations. You are so wrong it is almost funny.

      • Matthew Reece

        You are correct to say that the free market does not exist in and of itself. It is a term used to describe the sum of individual transactions which are free of force, fraud, and coercion.

        There is also no such thing as a government or a corporation. Only their individual components exist, such as each person, each building, each gun, etc.

        Ad lapidem admits defeat and ignorance.

      • strayaway

        They don’t pay more because there is a surplus of US workers. The law of supply and demand suggest that when there is a surplus of workers relative to the number of jobs, wages will go down. This fact has contributed to the downfall of unions as an expression of wages going down. Food stamps don’t have much to do with not working except that a surplus of labor leads to lower wages which leads to accepting food stamps as a supplement to low wages.

      • roamingngome

        Your missing a different supply of workers though. Even if there were no more workers available in this country there is a huge surplus of workers in other countries whose labor laws and safety laws are very lax.

      • strayaway

        I covered that in a post just up the thread. “Corporations have conspired with our federal government to encourage imports built with cheaper foreign labor.” So we are in agreement on that point. Until Wilson pushed through the federal income tax, most federal revenue was derived from imports. The federal income tax shifted much of the tax burden off of import companies an on to the backs of middle class tax payers. This made it more profitable to import products made with cheaper foreign labor.

  • strayaway

    I was wondering why if President Obama is doing so great, why so many people are going on food stamps. My partial answer is that federal policy continues to favor cheaper foreign labor abroad and domestically. The TPP, now being fast tracked will further aggravate the plight of working Americans. This trend has been going on since the late 70s so it isn’t all President Obama’s fault. The leadership of both parties is to blame.

    “Research by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez shows that since the Obama recovery started in June 2009, the average income of the top 1% grew 11.2% in real terms through 2011.

    The bottom 99%, in contrast, saw their incomes shrink by 0.4%.

    As a result, 121% of the gains in real income during Obama’s recovery have gone to the top 1%. By comparison, the top 1% captured 65% of income gains during the Bush expansion of 2002-07, and 45% of the gains under Clinton’s expansion in the 1990s.” -IBD

  • Waldetto

    An article that starts with a question, provides zero answers, foments envy and class warfare, and ends by inciting rage! The liberals way! I guess the picture of Regan indicates the liberals now want to blame Obama’s terrible economy on, not the previous administration, but one from 30 years in the past! Ridiculous! The economy is directed by Obama and his policies, that’s why things are the way they are.

    • Pat

      You are incorrect, Mr. Waldetto. The rotten economy started during the Bush Administration, and Obama inherited it. The economy has grown during Obama’s administration, it just hasn’t “trickled down” to the middle class, it has trickled up to the wealthy. Hard not to be angry at the truth of these facts, unless you’re wealthy. Obama has tried to help the middle class, but he has been railroaded by the Republican majority Congress at every turn. There are some Democrats that have not helped him either, and I hope they lose in their next election. Stop the Obama blame game, it is wrong and incorrect!!!

      • Waldetto

        Almost SIX years into this and it’s STILL Bush’s fault? Bush had a democratically controlled Congress for the last 6 years of his administration, is it their fault! Liberals have no shame, it’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault when their misguided policies fail. You’ve been fooled, accept it.
        Obama’s Government Policy Is Increasing Inequality

        Without the government’s creation of the too big to fail banks (they’ve gotten much bigger under Obama), the Fed’s intervention in interest rates and the markets (most of the quantitative easing has occurred under Obama), and government-created moral hazard emboldening casino-style speculation (there’s now more moral hazard than ever before) … things wouldn’t have gotten nearly as bad.
        It is well-documented that quantitative easing increases inequality. Quantitative easing doesn’t help Main Street or the average American. It only helps big banks, giant corporations, and big investors. The Federal Reserve has been doing quantitative easing for 5 years … and inequality has shot up over the last 5 years, (how did Bush do that). It’s not a coincidence. Subsidies to Giant, Wealthy Corporations Massive subsidies to big corporations is also part of the problem. Indeed, some financial analysts say that the taxpayer subsidy to the giant banks alone is $780 billion per year. The average American family pays $6,000/year in subsidies to giant corporations. This is a direct transfer of wealth from the little guy to the big guy … which increases inequality.”

        ALL of the above is the policy of the current administration. Either Obama knows this and supports this, or he is oblivious. Most likely he knows what he’s doing! That would make him the biggest con man in history,
        and more “against the little guy” then all republicans combined. Worse part is that the worse part is yet to come as inflation begins to spiral out of control starting approximately 2 years from now.

      • Pat

        I pity the fool, and the fool, sir, is you. I suppose you think the middle class would have been doing better with Mitt Romney as President. I know that there are lots of things that have worked in the wealthiest Americans favor with President Obama being in office, but he does not have the ultimate power that you seem to think he does. The Republicans have been led down the very seriously messed up path of what the “Tea Party” wants, and as anyone should know, the Tea Party doesn’t give a damn about the middle class. The middle class doing well, (and by well I sure don’t mean getting rich), is what this country should be striving for, because when the middle class does well, everyone does well, not just the top 2%. This has already been proven to work. I do not understand why you think President Obama is responsible for all that is still wrong in America’s economy. It is just plain INCORRECT! Stop trashing “Liberals” also, and lumping anyone who disagrees with you as a “Liberal”. I am a left-leaning moderate, but I know many “Liberals” who are some of the nicest, most compassionate, hard-working people you will ever meet. Many of them are wealthy, and would love to see the middle class doing better for the sake of all of us.

      • Waldetto

        I did not vote for Mitt Rmoney and I doubt much would be different under him, but that does not deflect the truth that policies Obama has personally put in place are causing the greatest transfer of wealth ever from the middle class to the wealthy. As a matter of fact Rmoney probably could not do as bad because people would call him on it. The Tea Party, who as I see it only want more freedom for everyone, hasn’t gotten anything they wanted, they folded to Obama, so they hold no responsibility for the mess we are in. I named specific policies and their effects, you make only unsubstantiated claims. Make all the excuses you want, the bottom line is that Obama has the back of the bankers and 1%ers and has you fooled.

      • csharpe

        Yes, the Tea Party is all about wanting more freedom…as long as you’re a white Christian heterosexual male with plenty of offshore bank accounts to dodge those pesky taxes.

      • Pat

        You are delusional if you think the Tea Party only wants more freedom for everyone. They want to call the shots for everyone based on their own selfish agenda. Like wanting to dictate womens rights is more freedom for everyone. Give me a break. It’s obvious you are an Obama hater, and it sounds like you’re a fan of the “Tea Party”, so I am done wasting my time responding to you. If you are crazy enough to go along with the likes of Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and the Koch brothers,etc., I have nothing more to say to you except as I stated above, “I pity you because you are a fool”.

  • hdusey

    I say we should start a movement for “TRICKLE UP” economics….. where the minimum wage is increased, hours are full time, healthcare and other benefits are provided by employers making record profits. Guess what? The increased money in employees’ wallets would “trickle up” through the economy… resulting in higher consumer spending on goods and services. Not to mention the millions of taxpayer dollars that would be saved on food stamps and other subsidies. Since trickle down economics has been proven not to work…. how about we try the opposite.

  • Derrick Mains

    Um – they are doing great because the Administration gives them a $85,000,000,000 a month bailout called QE3. They force low interest rates through bond buying efforts – which decimates people on a fixed income and forces investors into the stock market – where those with the largest holdings rake in the cash like its leaves.

    Thank you president Obama. You are the savior of the ultra wealthy.