Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 2, 2008: Surge of poverty

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Two weeks ago Americans were mystified when the Federal Reserve took the rare step of bailing out Bear Stearns, the nation’s fifth-largest investment bank, to the tune of $30 billion.

This week a very different financial debacle made headlines: The number of Americans who rely on food stamps is projected to reach an all-time high in the fiscal year that begins in October. Welcome to George Bush’s America.

It’s a place of haves and have-nots. The man who presided over the tanking Bear Stearns was Alan D. Schwartz, a CEO with an $88 million compensation package. The 28 million Americans who the Congressional Budget Office says will apply for food stamps have near-poverty incomes, may have lost a job or may have suffered a sudden health catastrophe; they’ll qualify for benefits averaging $100 a month per family member.

An official with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington was quoted this week by The New York Times as saying 14 states had seen record numbers of food stamp recipients by December. Now the trend is about to sweep the nation.

The biggest jumps in food stamp recipients — at least 10 percent per state between December 2006 and December 2007 — occurred in some unusual places: Nevada, Arizona and Florida. That means the downturn in jobs and opportunity is becoming so widespread that relying on the government to feed one’s family has spread even to the sun belt, by George.

What is wrong with this picture? Nothing that an election can’t fix.

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