Monday, September 17, 2012

The Failure of Everything III

As anyone that has been reading my blog knows, 46 million + Americans are receiving food assistance from the Federal Government - up from 17.2 million in 2000 and 25.7 million in 2005 - the year that Oil "consumption" (read: availability) peaked in the U.S.

The "average" food stamp (food stamps has been renamed SNAP, but everyone keeps calling it food stamps, so I will, too) receiving household, if there is such a thing, is a 3 person household consisting of a single mother and 2 children under the age of 18. While the maximum benefit for this 3 person family is $526, the average is only $401.

That doesn't seem to be enough to feed a family of 3 to me.

Let's say that its summer time. The kids are not in school so there is no chance that a meal will be provided outside of the home. 3 people eating 3 meals per day (without a snack or a drink in between? In what universe does that happen with kids?) with an average of 30.5 days each month is 275 meals (rounding up). How does that happen with an average benefit of $401? That's $1.46 per meal.

Look, I guess it must be possible because that's what the deal is and I don't read about many malnutrition deaths in the media. I don't see how that these kids (and their mothers) are being fed a nutritious, well balanced diet.

Our family of 4, with 2 adults and two little kids (the big kid is off at college - when he was home for the summer I am sure that he ate as much as the rest of us combined) spends over $400 per month on fresh fruit and veggies alone (mostly fresh fruit; one of the reasons I put in the soft fruit patch. Not that it helped this year. The softs got murdered in the heat wave and we lost our peach crop to a late frost and apples and pears to the drought), and we grow as much food as the season will allow and never have to buy meat, dairy, eggs, and potatoes. I estimate we spend another couple of hundred bucks monthly on stuff we cannot produce on the farm: pasta, sugar, flour, rice, olive oil, tuna, etc... 

So how does the "average" family do it?  (Besides the fact that they don't "do it". Invariable, people in this type of distress will engage in all manner of unsavory activities to put food on the table. It is ever so much easier to be "moral" and "ethical" when in possession of a fat bank account)

They do it with starchy, cheap, processed, and nasty food stuffs. Obviously, Food Stamp beneficiaries are getting enough calories. Are they getting proper nutrition? Not a shot. In fact, I think the government spends more money per meal on prison food.

So... what's the plan?

The plan is to extend these "benefits" to others. In 12 years the U.S. has gone from 17 million to over 46 million individuals receiving food assistance. So what's the exit plan? There isn't one. There is no plan to help these people to become self-sufficient in any way. There is no plan to incentivize them to build and keep strong families and a semblance of some social structure. The plan is to keep doing this while food becomes more and more expensive for a number of reasons beyond our control at a time when everyone agrees that our government's spending is going to blow the system sky high if not reigned in.

And the "middle class" has one foot inside the threshold of needing food assistance... and their other foot is on a banana peel.

Am I missing something?

This is your Federal Government (thru the USDA) and your Supreme Court (one of the many, many unintended consequences of the most bone headed decision in the f***ing history of stupid, bone headed decisions) in action. The USDA has created an environment that protects the oligopoly of the big 4 meat "packers", a FUBAR dairy system, and King Corn. The result? There is simply not enough of the fruits and vegetables that the f***ing USDA recommends every American eat everyday to provide each and every American with 20% of the USDA's recommendation

Why f***ing not??!!

From the above link:

The committee also grappled with one of the third rails of American politics: farm policy. Price-support programs for wheat, cotton and other commodity crops prohibit participating farmers from planting fruits and vegetables on land enrolled in those programs. Partly as a result, U.S. farms do not produce enough fresh produce for all Americans to eat the recommended amounts, and the IOM panel calls for removing that ban.

It is hard to communicate to you just how much of an understatement that quote really is.

Because of their f***ed up farm and food "safety" regulations - the vast majority of which were written by the food industry, for the benefit of the food industry, and with complete disregard for The People.

Just like the regs for housing, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, etc... all of the regs for these industries were written for the industry by the industry.

Everything that our State governments and Federal Government has done since FDR was to increase the tax base. The government wanted you to commute to work so you would buy a house with a mortgage (to support the building and banking industry), wear out your car (to support the Auto, Steel, Glass, and Rubber industries) and buy gas (because a large portion of gasoline is tax, and before 1970, to support the domestic energy industry). Everything was done to increase tax receipts.

The government wanted you to work for a big box store/corporation. Collecting taxes from Walmart, Home Depot, Staples, Loews, et al is ever so much easier to administrate (and collect in full) than from Mom & Pop grocery, hardware, office supply in every village, town, and city in the U.S. Hey, they needed the money, because as we aged and lived longer the AARP set became enormously powerful and the last 2 generations of white head/q-tips (the elderly) have enslaved their children with outrageous payroll taxes to fund 30 years of idleness in retirement - and to maintain the healthcare industry at 18% of GDP.

And now what? The People cannot serve 2 masters. Food and Energy are competing with State and Federal (taxes) and the system is straining like never before. What if last year's drought is the beginning of an extended drought weather pattern? What if Saudi Arabia is the next regime to go down in the Middle East and the new boss is not interested in selling Oil as fast as possible? What if... there are a lot of "what ifs". If a "what if" were to happen now, are we going to have 100 million people on food assistance (that would be 1/3 of The People)? In an environment like that, who would bother paying their mortgage?

Thank G-d, our fearless hero at the Fed is going to buy back all of the mortgage paper because ain't nobody gonna be paying on that paper.

-to be continued...



tweell said...

I feed 3 adult and one child on less than $400 a month, with no garden and living in the suburbs. I buy food on sale, stock up when I can, and pick up bulk if really cheap. My advantage is that I live within 5 miles of Fry's Food, Albertsons, Safeway, Costco, Walmart, Sprouts, Fresh & Easy, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Food City, and Smart & Final supermarkets. I can look at the Wednesday food ads, see what's on sale at the various places, write up my purchasing plan, and do a week's worth of food shopping in 2.5 hours with less than a gallon of gas burned. Yeah, I'm not buying blueberries right now, but the peaches and plums are in season and cheap.

I'm still stocking up when I can; I picked up 40 pounds of pasta when Fry's ran a $0.39 per pound special last month, this month it was a 50 pound bag of powdered milk for $50 at the dairy co-op processing plant 2 miles away.

Dan said...

There seems to be a severe drought cycle of about 80 years that lasts nearly a decade.

2010's current drought
1930's dust bowl
1850's dust storms in Kansas where the drought was more severe than the dust bowl, also droughts in eastern US and California.
1770's severe droughts in colonies and California missions.
1690's droughts at Jamestowne and California missions
1607 Near collapse of Jamestowne and lost colony
1290's Anasazi collapse

Best I can tell the Hadley Cell, responsible for the worlds desert belts, expands poleward reeking havoc and contributing to the major historical events that follow.

Stephen B. said...

About that peach tree... My tree at the MA house bloomed way too early due to the March heat too and was caught in some deep frosts, but I tried putting a sprinkler on it most of those nights including one night where it hit 23 degrees. On that night, around 3AM I shut the water off because the ice buildup on the tree was getting so heavy I thought the tree would be ripped apart. I gave up on the next cold night a few nights later figuring all the flowers were ruined, but wouldn't you know the tree still set maybe half the peaches it usually sets (which is still a lot.). My guess is that the ice still managed to protect the delicate flower parts, many successfully pollinated, and the subsequent cold didn't hurt already pollinated young fruit.

I'm not sure you know this trick. It doesn't always work. Maybe you tried this and the tree still failed, but thought I'd mention it.

Stephen B.

James M Dakin said...

As a poor fool, here's your diet for nutriants. Potatoes and vitamin pills. Occassional green salad. It's kept me alive so far and I hope it kills me before I get too old.

kathy said...

My DH volunteers at our local food pantry. He reports that most of the users are elderly and living on social security with no pension. Many were self-employed trades people. That data is probably not typical as we live in a very small, rural community and a city would look quite different. My sister adopted a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. The child is now 25, married and has a child. The combined family income (neither parent is a brain surgeon but they both work and share the child care) is $26,000.00 and they make too much to receive food stamps. They manage because of the food pantry at their church and I suspect that my sister buys them groceries on occasion. My farm is much smaller than yours, I too have 2 children still at home and I would guess I spend $600.00 a month on food on average. My big expense is the raw milk CSA at $900.00 a year for 2 gallons of milk a week. I like the milk and I like supporting the young woman who runs the place single-handedly. I teach classes on feeding your family better for less to low-income woman. I find that, even with instruction, it is very difficult to change inculturated eating patterns. If chicken nuggats are what you have always eaten, red beans are hard to wrap your mind around.