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Four Numbers that Show the Beating Down of Middle America

Paul Buchheit

There's something perversely wrong with a society that creates $30 trillion in new wealth while putting six million more children on food stamps. 

The mainstream media rarely publishes facts like this. The super-rich keep building up their own numbers, as quietly as possible. And our leading members of Congress have little need for numbers, except for budget cuts and the strings of zeros at the end of their campaign contributions. 

But numbers have the power to reveal the dramatic fall of the middle class over the past 35 years. 

1. 138,000 Kids Were Homeless while 115,000 Households Were Each Making $10 Million Per Year 

Recent data has shown that the richest .1% (115,000 households) have each increased their wealth by an astonishing $10 million per year. As they counted their money on a frigid night in January, 138,000 children, according to the U.S. Department of Housing, were without a place to call home.

2. The Average U.S. Household Pays $400 to Feed and Clothe Walmart, McDonalds, and Other Low-Wage Workers 

The Economic Policy Institute reports that $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers earning less than $10.10 an hour. Thus the average U.S. household is paying about $400 to employees in low-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care. 

Walmart's well-advertised $1 raise will cost the company about $1 billion a year. Its profits last year were about $25 billion

The sordid tale gets even worse, as told by a PBS report: Walmart has spent about $6.5 billion per year on stock buybacks to enrich investors, approximately the same total annual amount billed to taxpayers for food stamps, Medicaid, housing, and other safety net programs for the company's underpaid employees.

3. As $30 Trillion in New Wealth was being Created, the Number of Kids on Food Stamps Increased 70% 

Before the recession, 12 out of every 100 American children got food stamps. After the recession, 20 out of every 100 American children got food stamps. 

That's nearly a 70 percent increase, from 9.5 million kids in 2007 to 16 million kids in 2014, at the same time that U.S. wealth was growing by over $30 trillion. Even with that incomprehensible increase in wealth our nation was not able to ensure food security for millions of its most vulnerable citizens.

4. Despite the Decline in Food Security, the Food Stamp Program was Cut by $8.6 Billion and the Money Paid to Corporate Agriculture 

As more and more children go hungry, the largest agricultural firms continue to take taxpayer money to supplement their billions in profits. The 2014 farm bill cut $8.6 billion (over the next ten years) from the food stamp program, of which nearly half of all participants are children. Meanwhile, $14 billion is annually paid out to the largest 10 percent of farm operators. 

Beaten Up, Broken Down 

The mainstream media highlights the resurgent economy, the booming stock market, and the drop in unemployment. But the stock market has enriched only about ten percent of America, handing them millions of dollars since the recession, while the newly available jobs are well below the skill levels of college-trained adults and often without health care and retirement benefits. Too many once-prosperous Americans are beaten up and broken down, waiting in vain for our elected leaders to stop the redistribution of our national wealth.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

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