45 million people in 2011 received food stamps, a 70% increase from 2007
(NaturalNews) In what can only be described as a sign of the harsh economic times, new data shows that tens of millions more Americans have been placed on public assistance since the Great Recession began in 2008.
According to a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the number of Americans receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits - formerly known as food stamps - grew to a staggering 45 million people in fiscal year 2011 (Oct. 1, 2010 - Sept. 30, 2011).
That's an increase of 70 percent since 2007, the CBO said, noting that the cost of the program to taxpayers grew exponentially at the same time - from $30 billion from about four years ago to $72 billion last year.
Worse, CBO analysts said things don't appear to be getting better anytime soon. In fact, the budget agency believes SNAP rolls will continue to grow at least through 2014.
While about 20 percent "of the growth in spending can be attributed to temporarily higher benefit amounts enacted in the" 2009 stimulus program, CBO said, much more of it - fully two-thirds - was a result of more people participating in the program.
"Labor market conditions deteriorated dramatically between 2007 and 2009 and have been slow to recover; since 2007, both the number of people eligible for the program and the share of those who are eligible and who participate in the program have risen," CBO said.
Economic growth stagnant, abysmal
Most Americans know how bad the jobs and economic situation in the U.S. have gotten, but it's always easier to put things in perspective when you have the numbers in front of you.
From 2008 through 2011, a NaturalNews investigation found that unemployment averaged 8.4 percent during that period, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (historically, the U.S. unemployment rate has been closer to 4.5 percent over the years).
Meanwhile, real wage growth has been stagnant to abysmal. In fact, the increase in total private-sector wages, adjusted for inflation, from the start of 2001 until 2011, has fallen short of any 10-year period since World War II, according to Commerce Department data.
Overall, the economy has consistently underachieved since 2008.
"The economy still faces a long and difficult climb out of the jobs hole created by the recent recession. The private sector created, on average, about 162,000 jobs a month in the past 25 months -- a pace somewhat faster than population growth. That has contributed to a decline in the unemployment rate, but much faster job growth will be needed to restore normal labor force participation," says an assessment of U.S. economic growth by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Good times not ahead?
The CBO report boldly predicts that SNAP rolls and expenditures will begin to fall after 2014 because the economy should be improving by then. Any growth would be good, but clearly, according to a number of economists, growth must be substantial in the coming months and years to reverse the incredible loss of jobs, capital and wages over the past four years.
University of Maryland economics professor Peter Morici says the U.S. economy grew by an anemic 1.7 percent in all of 2011 - fully two years after President Obama's stimulus package was supposed to lower unemployment to well below 8 percent and create millions of new jobs. Neither has happened.
"Recent consumer spending and other data indicate growth slowed a bit in the first quarter, to 2 percent or 2.5 percent. If productivity gains are only modest, this pace will support job gains in the range of 200,000 a month through the spring," he wrote earlier this month.
"Two hundred thousand a month is hardly enough to replace all those jobs lost during the Great Recession and provide opportunities for new graduates looking for work. Unemployment is expected to remain at about 8.3% and could begin creeping up again this summer."
This means, in essence, that without a substantial reversal in economic fortunes, the nation will continue to shell out a record amount of dollars to those who continue to struggle.
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