An Unscientific Poll
Robert’s post gets me wondering, as we enter the seventh year of the Great Recession (NBER also doesn’t treat either 1873-1897 or 1929-1945 as a single period) that there’s probably a good reason for the “changing” attitude toward food stamps.
So let’s conduct an unscientific poll in comments: in the past ten years–say, January, 2004 onward–have you or anyone in your immediate family / circle of friends applied for or received food stamps? Answer yes or no. (If you’re not certain, answer no.)
I’ll start: Yes.
No, not that I know of.
immediate family, no…
dont know for certain on any of my friends, but my strong guess would be some have..
I don’t know anyone who I know has ever received food stamps. I don’t know which position this supports since I have been out of the USA since long before 2007.
I do agree with your hypothesis that the increased caseload of SNAP has reduced the stigma. It’s a 47% type program with which Republicans better not mess and not a strapping young welfare queen program any more.
2) people don’t talk about it. As Elizabeth Warren said in her “Coming Collapse of the Middle Class”,” people so intensely don’t talk about their own poverty, bankruptcy and all that accompanies it that often their families or even their children don’t know about it. “You can’t hide divorce, but you can hide bankruptcy,” and people do. They begged her, in bankruptcy consultation, not to use the word, in case someone might overhear them.
And of course there are good reasons to do so. It’s the sick bird that other birds peck at.
Also, I am pretty sure that every food stamp recipient is also a client of food banks, which they also don’t talk about.
Fun fact — the first food bank in the US opened in, I think, 1976. Now, of course, if they were an industry they would be a booming one.
Well yes. In fact right now I am super cranky because I am waiting on the reactivation of my food stamps after a period without due to some mixups about mailing addresses.
First as to stigma. These days food stamps recipients in a lot of States including Washington and California (from my personal experience) get them delivered to a EBT, an Electronic Benefits Transfer card that works just like a debit card. Mostly unless you recognize the card as the customer swipes it you wouldn’t know it was a food stamp transaction. And the systems are smart enough to segregate out covered items from uncovered ones leaving you to pay cash for the later in kind of a reverse cash back process. That is the old days of having to count out multi-colored little dollar type things (more like monopoly money than anything) are gone. At least in most states.
As to food banks. Well around here food is either free for the taking at a food bank or paid for in a store with food stamps. It would be odd in the extreme for a food bank to accept food stamps. Now many perhaps most food stamp recipients are smart enough to accept food from food banks, because every penny counts and you might receive things like vegetables and pastries you couldn’t afford in the stores even on food stamps. And a can of refried beans or tuna is a can of beans or tuna. That is smart Food Stamp recipients START at the food bank and then use their restricted value grants to buy what is left over. As opposed to dragging yourself to the food bank at the end of the month and just taking what hasn’t been taken by anyone else.
In most urban areas food stamps are simply a matter of course with whole neighborhoods likely to have a smaller or larger grant, it surprises me that even in this small sample few seem to know of anyone openly using them. My guess is that the usage is simply invisible to most people given that there can be almost zero visible cues that the transaction is being handled any differently than most others. And probably there are people like me that tend to do two transactions in two stores, one to buy eligible items, the other to buy stuff like toothpaste and beer, after all why invite the tut-tutting.
So I suspect the lack of stigma is due to the combination of technical advance via EBT cards combined with the much wider usage with some interaction in between. That is for some people even getting a few dollars on their card means an easy purchase, while having to handle little pieces of paper to buy five or ten dollars of groceries is more hassle than it is worth.
Finally, and on a slightly different note. Food stamps were designed and largely remain a subsidy for agriculture. Which is why you can’t even buy the most basic of basics like toilet paper with them. But can buy just about any cold food product. Because ranchers who sell high end steaks have congressmen too. The system could be designed in a way that encouraged or mandated consumption of certain food categories over others, in fact the parallel WIC (Women with Infant Children) program does exactly that. But nobody from farmer to end grocery store manager has any incentive to advocate for anything of the sort for regular Food Stamps, they don’t make any money on downwards substitutions to bargain brands and nobody is paying them to be program auditor.
I don’t have any real point here but maybe to point out there is little more reason to be ashamed of taking foodstamps than say EITC, there just not being any visible signs of either for most people. It is not like some red light and siren go off when you take that piece of plastic out of your wallet.
And poor people are used to scrambling, to not have any minutes left on your phone, to not have any money left on your bus card, and to welcome barter or gift transactions. Where I live no one blinks for a second to see a person trading a bus pass they got free for three cigarettes (around here street value 50 cents each) or really regards it as some breach of trust with the bus pass provider. Because when you literally have plans for every nickel in your pocket that kind of pride just isn’t practical. You got some free socks, I got an extra tube of toothpaste from the nice people at the church, why not trade them? And by extension make a point of picking up free socks when offered. Because someone is going to need them and you are going to need something and what goes around comes around.
But to circle back around. Unless you are in a very white bread environment indeed it is likely that many, many people around you survive on food stamps. At a minimum a lot of your food servers and janitorial staff. And maybe a lot more of your clerical staff than you might think. Although they probably shop in different grocery stores.
In the last ten years, no.
OTOH, I used food stamps for about a year back about 1990 and went to food banks maybe a dozen times in the 1998-2000 period.
I know people who have used food stamps, though it had little to do with the recession. They were on them and off them many times over the years.
In my immediate family, no one has needed them. I was downsized, however, and used nine weeks of UI.
Food stamps are no longer called “Food Stamps.” They’re now called “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.)
Paper food stamps were discontinued years ago in favor of electronic EBT cards. A couple of years ago any residual paper food stamps were finally no longer accepted and rendered worthless.
No need for an unofficial poll, the numbers of citizens on food stamps are out there..
As (the new) GM goes .. so goes … (you know the rest)
During the past year the new GM has done well with incentive profit sharing for the blue and white collar workers….
The average age of the US population of vehicles is getting older….
Warren Buffet has noticed….
He is buying GM.
In spite of the increase in citizens on food stamps everything does seem to be improving a bit…
But the real operating economy is but a very small part of a much greater determinant Asset-Debt Macroeconomic System.
Of the quadrillion dollar equivalent global system, here are the US 200 trillion dollar contributing asset-debt numbers:
*A 15.5 trillion dollar economy growing a little faster than the ex nihilo 600 billion annually for the last 4 years provided by the central bank.
* A 10.5 trillion M2 money base supporting 165 trillion dollars of financial assets including 55 trillion of combined citizen, government, business, and financial industry debt.
*The current value of hard assets including M-2 is about 40 trillion, less than that in 2008.
The good news is that household and nonprofit total asset worth was 64.8T in December 2012 and is at present likely equal to its 65.7 trillion 2008 peak valuation.
The bad news is that the top 1/4 of one percent likely have 90 percent of the gains for the household/nonprofit group via their savvy ‘investment’ in the equity market.
This is an extremely leveraged, equity overvalued, and unstable system.
For the degree of citizen consumer saturation with debt and their ownership of overvalued hard assets and for the degree of divorce and largeness of 165 trillion of financial assets relative to the operating 15.5 Trilion GDP base and 10.5 trillion M2 base….
…. expect what might reasonably be expected.
ok lammert, according to BIS, the notional amount outstanding of OTC derivatives amounted to $639 trillion at end-June 2012, levered about 100 to 1;
they were nearly twice that, about $190K per person on the planet, when we were all waiting for them to blow up on us in early 2009…
what do you see happening today that you think would destabilize it all now, at this point in time?