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20 Ordinary Americans Talk About The Economic Despair


									20 Ordinary Americans Talk About The Economic
Despair That Is Growing Like A Cancer All Around
Michael Snyder
Economic Collapse
September 24, 2013

There are hundreds of formerly
prosperous communities all over
America that are being steadily
transformed into rotting, decaying
hellholes. The good paying middle
class jobs that once supported those
communities are long gone, and they
have been replaced with low paying
service jobs if they have been
replaced at all. When you visit those
communities, it is almost as if all of
the hope has been sucked right out of
the air. It can be absolutely heartbreaking to look into the hollow eyes of someone that has totally
given in to despair, but unfortunately the number of Americans that are giving up on the economy
continues to grow.
Today, the labor participation rate is the lowest that it has been in 35 years, and more than 100 million
Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program. It is easy to say that they should just “get a
job”, but as I have written about repeatedly, our economy simply is not producing enough jobs for
everyone anymore. The percentage of working age Americans with a job has remained at the same
level that it was at during the worst days of the last recession, and meanwhile the quality of our jobs
has continued to steadily decline. Median household income has fallen for five years in a row, but the
cost of living continues to rise rapidly. The middle class is being systematically shredded, and poverty
is growing at an alarming rate. The U.S. economy has been in decline for a long time, and the really
bad news is that it appears that this decline is about to accelerate.
We are a nation that consumes far more wealth than we produce. We are a nation that buys far more
from the rest of the world than they buy from us. We are a nation that has a “buy now, pay later”
As a nation, we have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world. 40 years
ago, the total amount of debt in our system (government, business and consumer) was about 2 trillion
dollars. Today, it is more than 56 trillion dollars.
The consequences of decades of incredibly foolish decisions are starting to catch up with us, and it is
those at the bottom of the food chain that will suffer the most.
I could spend the rest of this article quoting 30 or 40 more statistics that show how bad things are, but
today I wanted to do something different. Today, I wanted to share some quotes from some of my
readers about what they are seeing where they live. The following are 20 quotes from ordinary
Americans about the economic despair that is rapidly
growing like a cancer all around us…
#1 David:
“Yes, the American economy is in the pits. I know five
languages, have three degrees (including two graduate
degrees), and have lived overseas for 16 years and I still
can’t find a job in the USA. Everything is broken in
America. Maybe I should give up my American
#2 Zach:
“I’ve been struggling since I finished college in the
summer of 2010. My dream is to work in the courts, law
enforcement but it’s almost impossible to get a call back
for an interview. I interviewed with Garland, Texas PD
for a position in the city jail and I made the final 30 of
300 applicants that applied for the 3 positions.”
#3 Akitawoman:
“I have two Master’s degrees, am 61 years old and earning $10 per hour. What does that say about the
current economy?”
#4 Cincinnati Dave:
“I work for one of the banks mentioned in your article. I was in mortgages. I saw all of this coming, so
several months ago I asked to get into another area of the bank and fortunately, for me, they granted by
request. A lot of people are losing their jobs and there is really no prospects out there for anything else
whereby the same kind of money could be made. I will make nothing near what I had been earning but
am at the least grateful to be employed. This is all so sad to watch happen.”
#5 Iceman:
“I used to work for WF processing mortgages. The week that the rates went up, I was out of work, not
one extra week of work.”
#6 Tim:
“The U.S. economy is producing mostly part-time, low-wage jobs. These jobs barely pay enough to put
food on the table.”
#7 K:
“What I am aware of, is every person I know, who had to switch jobs in the last five years took a pay
cut. The smallest cut among my friends was 10%, the average was closer to 18%. No we are heading
down a bad road, and we are past the point of no return.”
#8 Makati:
“After spending most of my life in the middle class, I now consider myself lower class due to age and
income. Nothing wrong with that. I am still able to provide myself with what I need and some of my
‘wants’. I am like most retirees today.”
#9 Mondobeyondo:
“As many of you already know (but maybe some new members of this blog don’t) – I live in Phoenix,
                                                                                 Arizona. Where you live
                                                                                 here, determines (to a
                                                                                 great extent) your
                                                                                 economic well being.
                                                                                 Those in the “East
                                                                                 Valley” – Chandler,
                                                                                 Gilbert, Scottsdale, etc –
                                                                                 have the jobs, the
                                                                                 opportunities and the
                                                                                 transportation. Those in
                                                                                 the wealthier areas of the
                                                                                 “West Valley” also have
                                                                                 these benefits.
                                                                                  The remainder – those
                                                                                  who live in the older
                                                                                  west side of town, and
                                                                                  the south side of town –
                                                                                  are mainly forgotten and
                                                                                  left to struggle. Many are
hard working citizens who just want a chance. Unfortunately, chance costs money, in the view of many
people, and as far as the municipal government is concerned, there’s no money for us. It’s cheaper to let
them live in a tent in the park, where the cops at least have an excuse to evict them.”
#10 2Gary2:
“We are no longer the land of opportunity where anyone can make it.”
#11 GOM:
“There is no middle class here in the Florida Panhandle. Only folks who have money are the retired and
they hate everyone. They own all the antique stores [big business] and most thriving businesses and
restuarants. Military is big here, they spend every dime they have on stupid stuff and taxis. Tourist are
way down since the spill. Now for the good news. A major food chain here is going out of business
[Food World] Another is losing 20k a month to theft. Every other property it seems is up for sale. There
are tons of empty real estate [store fronts] There are thrift stores opening everywhere. People are selling
goods on the streets, only to be run off by the cops. Crime is getting out of hand. Most don’t go out
after dark. Police are beating up the homeless at the beaches. Panhandling now is mainly younger
people. Where did all the older ones go?”
#12 Rodster:
“In my area which is SW Florida, it’s been getting tighter for my customers so on a case by case basis I
lower my price when they need auto repairs. I still find road signs advertising homes for sale (cash
only). Many are advertised as foreclosed.
I’ve started seeing people living out of their cars. It’s not a daily occurrence but I have been noticing
#13 Devery:
I have been looking after the homeless now for 4 years. Last winter I had an encounter where I was told
that I could not hand out blankets and sleeping bags in the dead of winter and that I would be arrested
for trespassing if “me and my friends” didn’t move along.
So, I adopted the policy that I would pull up next to them, have them get in the car and we would go for
a drive. I would find a place to pull over and give them what they needed then I would drop them off in
a different place.
#14 Robert:
“Around where I live in the SE, things seem ok but I live in a university town. Go to some of the
surrounding small towns and it is desolate. Car dealerships closed. Entire streets with abandoned stores.
The only activity is a one clerk post office. I know people in our church who are a paycheck away from
going over the edge or going over due to a spouse dying and losing one of their social security checks. I
see grim. More homeless. A local church is feeding many more including some folks living out of their
cars—lots of children. Mostly minimum wage jobs in the area. If it were not for the university and its
34,000 students, this place would look as bad as the smaller communities.”
#15 TN Gal:
“Here in southeast TN we have jobs, mostly part-time or low wage. Our problem these days are so
many people dependent on government programs no one wants to work. They do better on programs
than working partying and paying for insurance. Housing still very depressed. Seeing more homeless
around and local churches straining to provide food. Crime is up and drugs, which were down, are
coming back with a vengeance. Middle class here are senior citizens on SS, younger retirees not the
older ones. Older ones seem to be struggling. Sad.”
#16 Deb:
Michael, I live in North Central Illinois. About 60 miles southeast of Chicago. The town we live in has
about 8,000 in it. Very “middle class” farm community. Unemployment is high and so is
underemployment. We know many people living off 2 part time jobs. That seems to be the norm around
here. Or people taking jobs that they would never of considered in the past, just to get by. My son used
to work for CAT in Aurora, but was “let go” in order to bring in new workers at a lower pay scale. It
took him over a year(which really isn’t bad) to find a part time job with 3M.
#17 Susan:
“Drive around Los Angeles at 3:00 AM any day and you will see the devastating and pervasive
homelessness from 8 to 80 year olds. And the massage parlors and hookers on the streets of used to be
‘high-end’ neighborhoods are exploding. No other way to make a living.”
“A couple of years ago it was reported 9K people a night slept in their cars here in San Diego County.
Special car parks are set up in some church parking lots. The cops look the other way. Wonder what the
figure is now?”
#19 Jimbo:
“My own viewpoint is that a collapse of the current economic system is inevitable and imminent.”
#20 El Pollo de Oro:
“During a conversation on prepping, someone recently said to me, ‘If things get half as bad as these
preppers think they will, I don’t want to be alive.’ So, how bad will things will get? Real
unemployment is already at Great Depression levels (John Williams’ Shadow Statistics contradicts the
BLS’ bogus figures), but when this depression deepens, I think we’ll be looking at 50% or 60%
unemployment easily. Much worse than the 1930s. It will be absolute hell for millions of Americans,
and when the money stops flowing down to the man on the street, the blood will flow in the streets
(Gerald Celente). Lots of it.”
 Why are 47 million Americans on food stamps?
Brad Plumer
The Washington Post
September 24, 2013

There's a fairly basic question at the core of the current food-stamp debate in Congress. Why
has the program grown so rapidly over the past few years — to the point where 47 million
Americans, one-sixth of the country, now receive food stamps?

Defenders of the program typically argue that enrollment rose because we had a horrific recession and
unemployment hit the stratosphere. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is
supposed to kick in to help families hit by economic distress. The program has kept 4.7 million people
out of poverty. There's no problem here. And so on.
Some conservatives, meanwhile, have emphasized that a big chunk of the increase is due to policy
changes by Washington. In 2008, Congress allowed states to relax their standards for who could join
the program. (Jobless adults could stay in the program if they lived in high-unemployment areas, for
instance.) Then, as part of the 2009 stimulus bill, Congress temporarily boosted food-stamp benefits —
the average benefit was $133 per month last year, although that increase expires this November.
So which explanation is right? Most evidence suggests that food-stamp enrollment has mainly risen due
to the recession — although policy changes have played a smaller role:
1) Back in April 2012, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that about "20 percent of the growth
in [food-stamp] spending can be attributed to temporarily higher benefit amounts enacted in the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The remainder stemmed from other
factors, such as higher food prices and lower income among beneficiaries, both of which boost
2) More recently, economists Peter Ganong and Jeffrey B. Liebman took a fresh look at the question in
a NBER working paper and came to similar conclusions. They looked at the historical relationship
between food-stamp enrollment and the economy prior to the most recent recession. When
unemployment rose, food-stamp use always did too. And the current increase in food-stamp enrollment
is in line with this historical pattern.
"We find that changes in local unemployment can explain at least two-thirds of the increase in
enrollment from 2007 to 2011," they write. Meanwhile, state-level changes that allowed more people to
apply for the program explain about 18 percent of the increase. "Total SNAP spending today is 6
percent higher than it would be without these increases in eligibility."
(Note that Ganong and Liebman's conclusion jibes with other work done by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and a recent paper by economists Hilary Hoynes and Marianne Bitler. For a dissenting
view, see this post by the University of Chicago's Casey Mulligan.)
3) Another question, meanwhile, is why food stamp use hasn't fallen after the recession officially ended
in 2009. The Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities recently
argued that this isn't such a big
mystery. Unemployment in the
United States is still extremely
high. And there are still 47 million
Americans living in poverty —
the highest number in two
decades, according to the Census.
What's more, the Congressional
Budget Office found that
"decreases in [food-stamp]
participation typically lagged
improvement in the economy by
several years." So the current
plateau isn't unusual. The
Congressional Budget Office
expects the number of food-stamp
recipients to decline by 14 million, or 30 percent, in the next 10 years as the economy improves:

So why does any of this matter?
These numbers are relevant to the ongoing debate in Congress over food stamps. House Republicans
recently passed a bill that would tighten many of those relaxed eligibility requirements. The GOP's
changes would save $40 billion over 10 years and push about 3.8 million people out of the program
over the coming year.
Republicans, for their part, argue that the changes will give people incentive to get back to work. For
example, many states currently allow jobless adults without children to stay on food stamps if they're
living in high-unemployment areas. The GOP bill would cut these adults off if they don't find work or
enroll in job-training or community service. (This change alone will save $19 billion over 10 years.)
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office has put out an FAQ explaining his rationale for this
bill here.
Critics of the food-stamp cuts counter that these changes will only increase hardship. Robert Greenstein
argues that many of these adults kicked out of the program are unlikely to find jobs anytime soon,
seeing as how the economy is still weak. So, he writes, the cuts are tantamount to to "denying benefits
to needy people who try to find jobs but cannot do so and who aren’t offered a work program or job
training slot."
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has two longer briefs here and here arguing that food-stamp
enrollment is mainly elevated because unemployment is so high, and the best way to shrink the
program would be to figure out ways to improve the economy — rather than the other way around.
Further reading:
-- Here's some research showing that food stamps are particularly effective at stabilizing the economy
during a downturn. And here's a paper finding that children's access to food stamps can bolster their
health and economic prospects as adults:
-- For those wondering about abuse or fraud in the program, here's a recent U.S. Department of
Agriculture report (pdf) on "trafficking" in the food-stamp program. Between 2009 and 2011, about
$858 million worth of food stamps, or just 1.3 percent of all benefits, were traded at a discount for
-- Here's an in-depth narrative look by Eli Saslow at the town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where one-
third of the population is on food stamps.
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