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Posted: 11/3/2009 3:23:29 AM EST

Half of U.S. kids eventually must use food stamps
17 commentsby Lindsey Tanner - Nov. 3, 2009 12:00 AM
Associated Press
CHICAGO - Nearly half of all children in the United States and 90 percent of Black youngsters will be on food stamps at some point during childhood, and fallout from the current recession could push those numbers even higher, researchers say.

The estimate comes from an analysis of 30 years of national data, and it bolsters other recent evidence on the pervasiveness of youngsters at economic risk. It suggests that almost everyone knows a family that has received food stamps or will in the future, said lead author Mark Rank, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Your neighbor may be using some of these programs, but it's not the kind of thing people want to talk about," Rank said.
The analysis was released Monday in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The authors say it's a medical issue pediatricians need to be aware of because children on food stamps are at risk for malnutrition and other ills linked with poverty.

"This is a real danger sign that we as a society need to do a lot more to protect children," Rank said.

Food stamps are a Department of Agriculture program for low-income individuals and families, covering most foods except prepared hot foods or alcohol. For a family of four to be eligible, its annual take-home pay cannot exceed about $22,000.

According to USDA report released last month, 28.4 million Americans received food stamps in an average month in 2008, and about half were younger than 18. The average monthly benefit per household totaled $222.

Rank and Cornell University sociologist Thomas Hirschl studied data from a nationally representative survey of 4,800 American households interviewed annually from 1968 through 1997 by the University of Michigan. About 18,000 adults and children were involved.

Overall, about 49 percent of all children were on food stamps at some point by age 20, the analysis found. That includes 90 percent of Black children and 37 percent of White children. The analysis didn't include other ethnic groups.

The time span included typical economic ups and downs, including the early 1980s recession. That means similar portions of children now and in the future will live in families receiving food stamps, although ongoing economic turmoil may increase the numbers, Rank said.

An editorial in the medical journal agreed.

"The current recession is likely to generate for children in the United States the greatest level of material deprivation that we will see in our professional lifetimes," wrote Dr. Paul Wise, a Stanford pediatrician. Wise said the Archives study estimate is believable.

"I find it terribly sad but not surprising," Wise said.

James Weill, president of Food Research and Action Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, said the analysis underscores that "there are just very large numbers of people who rely on this program for a month, six months, a year."

"What I hope comes out of this study is an understanding that food-stamp beneficiaries aren't 'them,' " Weill said "They're 'us.' "

The analysis is in line with other recent research suggesting that more than 40 percent of U.S. children will live in poverty or near-poverty by age 17 and that half will live at some point in a single-parent family. Other researchers have estimated that slightly more than half of adults will use food stamps at some point by age 65.

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Link Posted: 11/3/2009 3:26:05 AM EST
Articles like this are what make me think we're doomed. At some point we lose the numbers game. There are just going to be too many voters who are members of the entitled class.

The only hope then is John Galt.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 3:29:41 AM EST
Must my hairy ass... more likely Will cause it's the easy way out.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 3:31:07 AM EST
If you subsidize something, you get more of it.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 3:37:06 AM EST
If those numbers are true this country is gone.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 3:38:17 AM EST
Reminds me of this article from 2007:

from the April 16, 2007 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0416/p01s04-usec.html
As US tax rates drop, government's reach grows
Study: 1 in 2 Americans now receives income from government programs.

By Mark Trumbull | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Maybe the era of big government isn't over, after all.

As Americans finish their annual tax-filing flurry to meet a Tuesday deadline, it is true that tax rates are lower than they were a few years ago. But according to a different yardstick, the federal government's reach is expanding.

Slightly over half of all Americans – 52.6 percent – now receive significant income from government programs, according to an analysis by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J. That's up from 49.4 percent in 2000 and far above the 28.3 percent of Americans in 1950. If the trend continues, the percentage could rise within ten years to pass 55 percent, where it stood in 1980 on the eve of President's Reagan's move to scale back the size of government.

That two-decade shrink-the-government trend now appears over, if for no other reason than demographics. The aging baby-boomer generation is poised to receive big payments from Social Security and government healthcare programs.

"New Deal programs persist," despite the Reagan revolution and its aftermath, says James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas in Austin. "They persist because they are largely successful and highly popular."

Mr. Shilling's analysis found that about 1 in 5 Americans hold a government job or a job reliant on federal spending. A similar number receive Social Security or a government pension. About 19 million others get food stamps, 2 million get subsidized housing, and 5 million get education grants. For all these categories, Mr. Shilling counted dependents as well as the direct recipients of government income.

Many Americans, in surveys, say they don't like the way their tax money is spent. And a majority now says, in a reversal from a year ago, that their federal income taxes are too high, according to an April Gallup poll.

Yet at the same time, much of US population is on the receiving end of that tax-revenue stream.

Government has always created jobs, of course, as it provides everything from national defense to roads and schools. It is another type of spending, however, that is really growing in scale: Government is in the insurance business.

Healthcare and Social Security are the big programs poised for growth, thanks to the arc of the baby-boom generation, longer lifespans, and rising medical costs. Insurance-style programs also include farm subsidies and efforts to relieve poverty.

The list could grow.

Some lawmakers hope to offer "wage insurance," a temporary benefit to cushion the transition toward new jobs for workers laid off due to global competition. At the state and federal levels, politicians are also considering government's role in extending healthcare coverage to more of those who are now uninsured.

All this reflects an ambivalent America. As a rich nation, it sees the opportunity to offset financial risks faced by its citizens.

But if the concept of social insurance is popular, so is limited taxation among the people who spawned the Boston Tea Party.

More than many of its European counterparts, the United States esteems the benefits of economic freedom. "The era of big government is over," President Clinton declared as he prepared to put new limits on welfare spending in 1996.

And today, 44 percent of Americans say the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent, compared with 41 percent who oppose such a move, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll conducted early in April. The other 15 percent were unsure.

"You do have the yearning for cradle-to-grave paternalism, but as Americans you also have the carry-over of the frontier spirit" of individual opportunity, says Shilling. That's the trade-off that will define the scope of government, he says.

This balance will be tested in the years ahead.

The Congressional Budget Office, in a long-range forecast prepared in 2005, outlined a baseline scenario in which entitlement programs push federal spending to 25.3 percent of GDP by mid-century, up from about 18.4 percent today. That number could go higher still if medical inflation doesn't edge downward.

Similarly, Shilling predicts that the number of "government beneficiaries," as he defines them, will grow to 60 percent of the US population by 2040 Against this backdrop, many Americans are understandably uneasy about the fiscal path of their politicians.

Some want to scale back the federal budget. Others see new priorities for spending, such as scientific research and global warming.

"It pays to invest in early education programs," says Fran Smith, who works for an education-oriented community organization in Boston.

To afford it, she says, government needs to use money more wisely, more for public goods and less for what she says are the "profit motives" that now pervade Washington.

"For … working class people, the last thing we want is more taxes," Ms. Smith says as she hurries to an afternoon meeting.

One challenge for the nation is to define what is wise spending and what is not. Some government largess is showered more on the well-to-do than the needy. By giving a tax break for the interest homeowners pay on their mortgage, for example, the government is effectively spending money to encourage homeownership. But the deduction is far more valuable to people in higher tax brackets than low ones.

"Arguably the mortgage interest deduction actually reduces the number of homeowners, because it pushes up the price of housing," Len Burman of the Urban Institute said last week in a seminar titled "Stupid Tax Tricks."

But, stupid or not, don't expect that popular deduction to bite the dust anytime soon.

By some other measures – such as taxes or spending as a share of the overall economy –the federal government isn't particularly large now. Even a controversial war in Iraq hasn't changed that.

But as insurance programs embrace an aging population, government is on track to grow.

For his analysis of government beneficiaries in the US, done last year, Shilling looked at data from 1950 through 2004. His tally was conservative on several fronts – including the care he took to avoid double-counting anyone.

He added up the number of federal, state, and local government workers, plus private sector workers who owe their jobs to government. He then tallied the recipients of transfer payments (like pensions) and a few other substantial programs (like food stamps). And he tacked on the dependents of these direct beneficiaries.

He divided his total by the US population to get a "government beneficiary" ratio for each decade. The ratio has risen, he found, from 28.3 percent in 1950 to a peak of 55.0 percent in 1980. It edged down in 1990 and again in 2000, and now has begun climbing again.

Looking at the big picture, especially entitlements for older Americans, some experts worry about a fiscal undertow.

"I fear that we may be on the path to becoming a decrepit, high-unemployment welfare state," says Daniel Mitchell, an economist at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington. Economists differ regarding whether, or at what level, a high tax burden acts to dampen economic growth. European nations have shown, for example, that advanced economies can maintain generous social-welfare programs.

But Mr. Mitchell says these nations pay a price of more tepid growth. Sweden, he says, has in recent years dropped off the global Top 10 list for per-capita output. Ireland, by contrast, has kept the government burden low and enjoyed rapid economic growth.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 3:39:34 AM EST
[Last Edit: 11/3/2009 3:40:03 AM EST by jimtash9]
Gee, what a great reason to actually use birth control. Having the forethought to realize that a lot of the offspring produced by unwed single parents is going to have it harder down the road in more ways than one.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 5:02:57 AM EST
Enlisted parents in the Armed Forces with large families often qualify for gov't food.

I say cut 'em off. Damn leeches.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 9:41:25 AM EST
Originally Posted By xylo:
Enlisted parents in the Armed Forces with large families often qualify for gov't food.

I say cut 'em off. Damn leeches.

Which is pretty frickin outrageous... I've seen many enlisted families struggle...
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 9:43:08 AM EST
Mmm. My family never used food stamps, and I assure you we were not in the 50th percentile income-wise.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 9:52:42 AM EST
Originally Posted By LoBrau:
Mmm. My family never used food stamps, and I assure you we were not in the 50th percentile income-wise.

How many kids have cellphones?

How many kids have "designer" clothes?

How many kids are obese?

How many kids have videogame systems at home?

How many kids live in democratic urban areas?

How many of these kids' PARENTS are of the above?

It's ALL about priorities - and priorities change when the "gov" promises to take care of you.
Link Posted: 11/3/2009 9:57:11 AM EST
Originally Posted By RRA_223:
Originally Posted By LoBrau:
Mmm. My family never used food stamps, and I assure you we were not in the 50th percentile income-wise.

How many kids have cellphones?

How many kids have "designer" clothes?

How many kids are obese?

How many kids have videogame systems at home?

How many kids live in democratic urban areas?

How many of these kids' PARENTS are of the above?

It's ALL about priorities - and priorities change when the "gov" promises to take care of you.

Good point. Growing up, I had:

No cell phone (not available, would not have had one anyway)

No designer clothes

Not obese (nor was/is anyone else in my immediate family)

No video game system of any description

Lived in a low population rural county

My mother is/was a hardcore democrat, but is extremely fiscally responsible on a personal level (I don't understand why she can't project that onto a grander scale, but oh well).
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