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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