The Food Stamp/Disability “Recovery”

The fact that economists have some way to use numbers to claim that the United States is now, “in a recovery,” just shows you how useless their numbers are to actually measure the state of the nation.

What we have, in this “recovery” is a steady climb in the use of food stamps. The Weekly Standard reports:

“In an article titled, ‘Use of Food Stamps Swells Even as Economy Improves,the Wall Street Journal reports that ‘The financial crisis is over and the recession ended in 2009. But one of the federal government’s biggest social welfare programs, which expanded when the economy convulsed, isn’t shrinking back alongside the recovery.’ The report continues, ‘Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as the modern-day food-stamp benefit is known, has soared 70% since 2008 to a record 47.8 million as of December 2012. Congressional budget analysts think participation will rise again this year and dip only slightly in coming years.’”

With all due respect to the Wall Street Journal, I think their findings about the rise in food stamp use should tell them to re-evaluate whatever evidence suggests to them that the economy is improving.

And it is not just food stamps. NPR, in a story called “Unfit For Work,” reported on the explosion in the number of Americans “on disability.” As Mish summarized it in his post, “Unwilling To Work”:

  • Every month 14 million Americans receive a disability check.
  • In 1961 the leading cause of disability was heart disease and strokes, totaling 25.7% of cases. Back pain was 8.3% of cases.
  • In 2011 the leading cause of disability was a hard to disprove back pain, totaling 33.8% of cases. The second leading cause was an equally difficult to disprove “mental illness” at 19.2%. Strokes and heart disease fell to 10.6%.
  • In West Virginia, a whopping 9% of the population collects disability checks. In Arkansas, 8.2% are on disability, and in Alabama and Kentucky, 8.1% collect disability. In Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah, the figure is 2.9%.
  • In Hale County Alabama 1 in 4 receive disability checks.
  • One thing nearly every case in Hale County Alabama has in common is Dr. Perry Timberlake who defines disability in a rather creative way.
  • Those on Supplemental Security Income, a program for children and adults who are both poor and disabled is nearly seven times larger than 30 years ago.
  • Once people go onto disability, they almost never go back to work. Fewer than 1 percent of those who were on the federal program for disabled workers at the beginning of 2011 have returned to the workforce.

Is there any reason to believe that between 1982 and 2012 the number of poor and disabled has increased six hundred percent? The weak economy isn’t just driving people to the welfare state; the welfare state is weakening the economy.

Some recovery!

If you want a real look at how bad the economy is right now, take a look at this chart (under #3):

chart of civilian employment ratio

This is the percentage of people who are employed out of the population of the United States. It is returned to the level the existed when Reagan first took office. And bear in mind, these are both public and private sector jobs. So the employment level itself doesn’t represent as much production as it should.

The economy is in the toilet. The evidence of recovery we hear about is just disinformation. It doesn’t mean anything.