The Great Recession’s Soup Lines

By Lee S. Wishing

Lines for Food Stamps
The Great Recession’s Soup Lines
The Center For Vision & Values
The Center For Vision & Values

Grove City, PA –-( You know your kids are growing up when they ask a question like the one my daughter asked a few days ago, “Hey, dad, do you think we’ll experience a depression in your lifetime or mine?” As much as I’d like to shelter her from life’s unpleasant realities, that question deserves an honest answer.

How would you answer? Before responding, I thought of the 1930s, the Great Depression, and black-and-white photos of soup lines.

“Well, we recently experienced a worldwide Great Recession,” I explained. Thinking about our family expenses, I added, “It feels like we’re still in that recession.”

“During the 1930s,” I continued, “the effects of the Great Depression, were easily recognizable. But, we don’t see food lines today because the federal government sends food assistance directly to homes in the form of ‘food stamps.’ But tens of millions of people are struggling.”

A few days later a friend sent me a report by Byron Wien of Blackstone titled “The Ten Surprises of 2014” that includes a chart titled “Food Stamps – The Great Recession’s Soup Lines,” which illustrates the staggering growth of the program since 2005. The number of participants has nearly doubled since then to over 47 million people. I showed the report to my daughter. If she couldn’t see food lines in our town, she could see them in this chart.

Wien’s report didn’t surprise me because I had just finished analyzing our 2013 family expenses and preparing our 2014 budget. Even though we’re frugal, food was our #1 expense in 2013. At a staggering $1,200 per month for a family of six, our spending was consistent with a “low cost plan” according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Our next largest expenditures in descending order were: household supplies (mostly purchased at Wal-Mart), education, charitable donations, mortgage payments, taxes, health insurance, out-of-pocket health expenses, clothing, gasoline and utilities. Where’s savings on that list? We haven’t been able to save for years. Our checking account is a conduit to the grocery store, Wal-Mart, the gas station, and other businesses I’m thankful for.

I’m giving you a look at my personal budget because, even though I’m better off than a lot of people, my story may provide some insight into what’s happening in America: It’s getting increasingly difficult to maintain a simple family lifestyle.

What’s the answer to this malaise?

A good starting point is to understand financial reality on two levels—family budgets and the U.S. economy.

Families have to tighten their belts to stay afloat. For example, last year, our family spent an average of $6.53 per person per day on food. Our 2014 target is $5.55. We’ve also put our four teenagers on a budget. Rather than pay for their clothes and extras like an occasional movie or McDonald’s, we’re giving them a monthly allowance and incentives to earn more through a list of chores. They’ll decide how to spend their money—clothes, fun, whatever, it’s up to them. This will help mom and dad stay on budget in 2014 while teaching our kids to manage money.

Now, consider the state of the U.S. economy. Some important facts: one in seven Americans is receiving food stamps; the unemployment rate that includes long-term discouraged workers has climbed steadily to over 20 percent, even though the official rate has fallen to seven percent; Obamacare continues to cause businesses to hold off on hiring and expanding; trillion-dollar deficits are the new normal; inflation calculated the way it was in 1980 is more than nine percent (not the two percent currently being reported); and the Federal Reserve is doubling down on the monetary blunders that led to the 2008 crash and the Great Recession.

That is the truth about America today. We have to come to grips with the reality that, as our 40th president was fond of saying, “Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.” I’d like to add that “We the people” are in charge of our government.

So, let’s return to my daughter’s question. Will we experience a depression in my lifetime or hers?

Absolutely,” I told her, “if our federal government doesn’t change its ways.” But, there’s hope. There’s always hope. One way to turn America in the right direction is to tell our kids the truth about what they face. After all, my daughter will be voting in two years.

— Lee S. Wishing, III, is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

© 2013 by The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The views & opinions expressed herein may, but do not necessarily, reflect the views of Grove City College.

  • 4 thoughts on “The Great Recession’s Soup Lines

    1. This economy and the need for more food stamps for hardworking American families is proof positive that our overpaid, out of control government and the liberal media that supports them have no care or concern for the low IQ citizens that voted for them. When my son was in seventh grade we sat him down and taught him how to manage a checking account and how to set up a budget. That is what we knew he would need to know in order to plan for the future and support a family. I wonder if we need to head up to Washington and give them the same lesson. Our government seems to believe that they can keep printing paper money every time their “budget” falls further Into the red. If they get a no from any part of the rest of the government they play big bully on the playground and shutdown until they get their way. They keep getting paid while tax paying citizens get sent home with no pay until our financially responsible leader get’s his way. Then they want to print more paper money that has no more value than the paper it is printed on. We have no gold or silver backing our money anymore; however as American citizens are having to lean more and more on food banks to feed their struggling families we are the first country to send emergency food and medical support to other countries in crisis. Wake up America we are in crisis! We have kids going to bed every night hungry with both parents working and still not being able to cover the very basics. One would think we would take care of our own first!!! Washington get it together and be fiscally accountable.”

    2. Most employees at Walmart are “living off food stamps and government assistance”…You got to be kidding …Unless Walmart employees are too lazy or stupid to go find another job that pays better…No one is forcing them to work at Walmart…Yes I know Walmart is anti-union….
      Shucky darn…Perhaps these employees would be better off if they were to apply for welfare status…There they can get food stamps, free cell phones, housing subsidies, public utilities subsidies, prescriptions and health care free gratis from the Obama administration
      …Why work when you can get things for free…
      Obama’s Auntie is Chicago has been doing this her whole life…She say’s the government owes it to her…She just loves her large flat screen TV with which to watch soap operas all day long…Isn’t life wonderful…Especially if you are not employed at Walmart…Just saying!

    3. Another valuable lesson for your daughter would be to stop shopping at Walmart. That corporation is the root of most of the problems we face as a country. The family that owns Walmart is one of the richest families in the world yet they pay their employees next to nothing and abuse them. Most walmart employees are the ones that are living off of food stamps and government assistance while the Walmart executives get fatter and fatter and finance the campaigns of these ultra liberals that are ruining this county so that they can get reflected. Think about it!

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