Slipping below the water-line

Record Numbers Are Receiving Food Stamps, N.Y. Times, Aug. 3, 2011, at A13:

The number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 45.753 million in May, up 2.5 percent from the previous month, the Department of Agriculture said. Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases were 12 percent higher than a year earlier, the Agriculture Department said Tuesday in a statement on its Web site.

This is up from 43.6 million last November, at the time “nearly a year and a half into the economic recovery.” (WSJ: Some 43 Million Use Food Stamps, 2/3/11)

Katrina Vanden Huevel, Editor and Publisher of the Nation, adds on her blog:

As of 2009, over 43 million people lived below the poverty line — $22,400 per year for a family of four — including one in five children, and one in four African-American and Hispanic people. Struggling in deep poverty — at less than one-half the poverty line — are 19 million people, including a stunning 6 million people whose only income is food stamps.

… Enter the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank that earns a chunk of its change from wealthy interests enamored by its poverty-denial business. Heritage has gladly stepped into the void again with a (would-be laughable if not for the attention it’s received) report: “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?

Using 2005 data, fellows Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield argue that “most of the persons whom the government defines as ‘in poverty’ are not poor”; that they have “amenities” like “a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave… a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone and a coffee maker.” They assert that “the major dietary problem facing poor Americans is eating too much” and that “most poor families stated that they had had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.”

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