Monday, December 27, 2004

From middle class to food stamps

Since 2000, ... more than 6 million ... Americans have joined the ranks of the millions of American families who find it increasingly difficult to perform a most basic function - to put food on their tables.

The economic indicators are numerous.

Following a seven-year decline, the number of Americans on food stamps has shot up 39 percent since 2000, according to federal statistics. Every state, except Hawaii, has felt the impact. In Arizona, food stamp rolls have increased 104 percent, in Nevada, 97 percent; Oregon, 79 percent; South Carolina, 68 percent; Missouri, 65 percent.

Texas has added nearly 1 million people to its food stamp rolls in only four years.

Part of that increase was fueled by states' increased efforts to enroll a greater portion of people eligible for food stamps and the placement of people back onto the rolls who had been initially knocked off during welfare reform. Most of it, however, social workers say, is the growing number of Americans unable to feed themselves without help.

"Clearly, most of this is because of increased need," said Carol Adams, head of the Illinois Department of Social Services. Illinois has seen a 31 percent increase in the number of people on food stamps since 2000.

The issues the blogosphere whines and bitches about pale, of course, in light of the massive natural disaster around the Indian Ocean. There is nothing we can do to prevent a tsunami, though a warning system could help lower the toll. But the economic polarization of the US is a man-made, avoidable injustice, made all the worse by its intentionality. An earthquake is amoral; our government is immoral.


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