Fifteen months ago, Britain's Independent newspaper ran the following cover story, "USA 2008: The Great Depression," which drew on the fact that a then-record 28 million Americans depended on food stamps to survive.
While many commentators in the U.S. scoffed at what they claimed was sensationalist drivel, I'm wondering if they still feel the same way today, especially given the news that a record 33.8 million participated in the Agriculture Department's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in April (not to mention, of course, all the other dismal reports we've seen over the past year or so)?
Regardless, the take on the latest numbers of those receiving assistance, as detailed (and graphically highlighted) by Paper Economy - A US Real Estate Bubble Blog in "On The Stamp: Food Stamp Participation April 2009," makes for sober reading:
In fact, household participation has been climbing so steadily that it has far surpassed the last peak set as a result of the immediate fallout following hurricane Katrina.
The latest data released by the Department of Agriculture shows that, on a year-over-year basis, household participation has increased a whopping 21.16% while individual participation, as a ratio of the overall population, has increased 19.14%.
The April results confirm that participation is continuing to climb dramatically, likely as a result of the recent jump in total unemployment, driving the nominal benefit costs up an astounding 58.52% on a year-over-year basis to $4,499,152,630 for the month.
Looking at the last chart that plots the total unemployment rate (unemployment rate of all traditionally unemployed workers plus all marginally attached and part time workers) and the population adjusted individual program participation rate normalized since 2005, one can plainly see that program participation would be expected to continue its surge.