Growing Number Of Americans Can’t Afford Food, Study Finds

The Huffington Post, Alexander Eichler 
First Posted: 02/28/2012 6:56 pm 
Updated: 02/28/2012 6:56 pm

Here in the United States, growing numbers of people can’t afford that most basic of necessities: food.

More Americans said they struggled to buy food in 2011 than in any year since the financial crisis, according to a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit research group. About 18.6 percent of people — almost one out of every five — told Gallup pollsters that they couldn’t always afford to feed everyone in their family in 2011.

One might assume that number got smaller wrapped up with the national unemployment rate falling for several consecutive months. In actuality, the reverse proved true: the number of people who said they couldn’t afford food just kept rising and rising.

The findings from FRAC highlight what many people already know: The economic recovery, in theory now more than two years old, has done little to keep millions of Americans out of poverty and deprivation. Incomes for many haven’t kept pace with the cost of living, and for a large swath of the country, things today are as bad as ever, or worse.

Forty-six million people lived below the poverty line as of 2010, a record number, according to the Census Bureau, and one that’s not even as high as some other estimates would have it. Take a further step back and the situation appears even more dire. About 45 percent of people in the U.S. have reported not being able to cover their basic living expenses, including food, shelter and transportation, according to the group Wider Opportunities for Women.

The official poverty rate is about 15 percent, but over two-fifths of Americans have so little saved that one financial emergency is all it would take to put them in poverty, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

These high rates of financial insecurity — a consequence of the weak job market, and the prevalence of jobs that don’t pay very well – are making themselves felt at the level of everyday spending.

Recently, for example, a Center for Housing Policy study found that a growing number of middle-income owners and renters are paying more than half their earnings just to keep a roof over their heads. And as of 2009, almost one in five Americans over 50 years old were skipping on doctor visits, switching to cheaper medications or forgoing some medicines entirely out of financial necessity, according to a recently published study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a think tank.

As for widespread hunger of the kind recorded by FRAC, research shows that the entire country ends up paying one way or another. While the people who can’t afford food are obviously suffering the worst, the social costs incurred – from the money spent to keep food pantries open to the lifelong diminished earning power of impoverished children — come to about $167 billion a year, or $542 for every man, woman and child in the country.

via Growing Number Of Americans Can’t Afford Food, Study Finds – Occupy Monsanto.

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Corporate Margins And Profits Are Increasing, But Workers’ Wages Aren’t

By Pat Garofalo on Feb 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm

As we’ve been noting, corporate profits have made it back to their pre-recession heights (even if corporate tax revenue hasn’t followed suit). In fact, in 2011, corporate profits hit their highest level since 1950. But as Bloomberg News noted today, this hasn’t translated into wage growth or more purchasing power for workers:

Companies are improving margins and generating profits as wage growth for the American worker lags behind the prices of goods and services…While benefiting the bottom line for businesses, the decline in inflation-adjusted wages bodes ill for the sustainability of economic growth as consumers may eventually be forced to cut back. […]

Of the 394 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index that have reported since Jan. 9, earnings for the quarter ended Dec. 31 increased 5.1 percent on average and beat analyst estimates by 3.2 percent. Some 70 percent of the companies have posted better-than-projected results.

This pattern has become all too familiar during the slow economic recovery. In fact, real wages fell in 2011, despite record corporate profits. “There’s never been a postwar era in which unemployment has been this high for this long,” explained labor economist Gary Burtless. “Workers are in a very weak bargaining position.”

Between 2009 and 2011, 88 percent of national income growth went to corporate profits, while just 1 percent went to wages, a stat that is “historically unprecedented.”

via Corporate Margins And Profits Are Increasing, But Workers' Wages Aren't | ThinkProgress.

Greek Suicide: Austerity Measures In Greece Lead To Elderly Man Killing Self In Syntagma Square

By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS 04/04/12 01:50 PM ET


A Greek Orthodox priest holds a memorial service, at the site where an elderly man fatally shot himself at Athens’ main Syntagma square, on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece — A Greek retiree shot himself dead in the busiest public square in Athens during morning rush hour Wednesday, leaving a note police said linked his suicide with the country’s acute financial woes.

Hours later, more than 1,500 anti-austerity protesters gathered in the square, responding to social media calls for peaceful demonstrations accusing Greek politicians of driving people to despair with harsh cutbacks implemented to secure vital international bailouts.

Limited scuffles broke out between the protesters and riot police, who used a small amount of pepper spray to repel youths throwing bottles of water at them.

The 77-year-old retired pharmacist drew a handgun and shot himself in the head near a subway exit on central Syntagma Square which was crowded with commuters, police said. The square, opposite Greece’s Parliament, is a focal point for public protests.

The incident jolted public opinion and quickly entered political debate, with the prime minister and the heads of both parties backing Greece’s governing coalition expressing sorrow.

“A pharmacist ought to be able to live comfortably on his pension,” said Vassilis Papadopoulos, a spokesman for the “I won’t pay” group. “So for him to reach the point of suicide out of economic hardship means a lot. It shows how the social fabric is unraveling.”

Greece has relied on international rescue loans since May 2010. To secure them, Athens implemented harsh austerity measures, slashing pensions and salaries while repeatedly raising taxes. But the belt-tightening worsened the recession and led to thousands of job losses that left one in five Greeks unemployed.

“As a Greek, I am truly shocked,” Dimitris Giannopoulos, an Athens doctor, said before the protest. “I am shocked because I see that (the government is) destroying my dignity … and the only thing they care about are bank accounts.”

Police said a handwritten note was found on the retired pharmacist’s body in which he attributed his decision to the debt crisis.

According to a text of the note published by local media, the man said the government had made it impossible for him to survive on the pension he had paid into for 35 years. “I find no other solution than a dignified end before I start searching through the trash for food,” read the note. Police did not confirm whether it was genuine.

Greece has seen an increase in suicides over the past two years of economic hardship, during which the country repeatedly teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

Police did not release the pharmacist’s name and offered few other details.

By Wednesday evening, dozens of written messages had been pinned to the tree under which the man shot himself, some reading: “It was a murder, not a suicide,” and “Austerity kills.”

Hundreds of protesters made their way across the street from the square to outside Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, chanting: “This was not a suicide, it was a state-perpetrated murder” and “Blood flows and seeks revenge.”

Dozens of riot police stood guard.

Papadopoulos, the protest organizer, said the suicide shows Greeks can take no more austerity.

“This suicide is political in nature and heavy in symbolism. It’s not like a suicide at home,” Papadopoulos said in a telephone interview. “There was a political suicide note, and it happened in front of a clearly political site, Parliament, where the austerity measures are approved.”

Prime Minister Loucas Papademos issued a statement as protesters gathered at the site of the suicide.

“It is tragic for one of our fellow citizens to end his life,” he said. “In these difficult hours for our society we must all – the state and the citizens – support the people among us who are desperate.”

Government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis described the incident as “a human tragedy,” but said it should not become part of the political debate.

“I don’t know the exact circumstances that led that man to his act,” Kapsis said. “I believe we must all remain calm and show respect for the true events, which we do not yet fully know.”

Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the Socialist party, said the suicide “is so overwhelming that it renders any political comment unbecoming and cheap.”

“Let us reflect on the condition of the country and of our society in terms of solidarity and cohesion,” said Venizelos, who served as finance minister for eight months before resigning to lead the Socialists.

Conservative party head Antonis Samaras said the tragedy highlighted the urgency of getting Greece out of the crisis.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first (suicide),” he said. “They have reached record levels.”

_____

Associated Press Television News’ Efty Katsareas contributed.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Greek Suicide: Austerity Measures In Greece Lead To Elderly Man Killing Self In Syntagma Square.

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