More Americans are having trouble buying food than in any year since the start of the financial crisis, according to a report by the Food Research and Action Center, evidence that while a mild economic recovery is happening on paper, it’s not being substantially felt in the country.
From the report:
When asked by the Gallup organization, “Have there been times in the last twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?” more people answered “Yes” in the third and fourth quarters of 2011 (19.2% and 19.4%) than in any period since the fourth quarter of 2008.
While the fourth quarter of 2011 saw more robust employment growth, a positive development which has continued in early 2012, economic progress in 2011 was painfully slow for tens of millions. Unemployment and underemployment rates stayed high. Median weekly earnings for wage and salary workers (adjusted for inflation) were lower in the fourth quarter of 2011 than in 2010.
And particularly damaging to any recovery in food security was the rate of food inflation. While the overall inflation rate remained subdued, food inflation, especially for the types of cooking-from-scratch foods the government uses to construct its cheapest hypothetical diet, the Thrifty Food Plan, rose fairly rapidly.
President Obama is making the economic recovery a key plank of his reelection campaign, saying that while more needs to be done, the country is on the right track.
But underlying trends may have more to do with how people perceive the recovery. The study suggests that the improving numbers on the economy may generally be telling a different story than that which many Americans are experiencing.
If the price of food is going up, people with jobs will feel less secure and those who are getting them less satisfied. And employment increases accompanied by wage declines aren’t going to win the president much love.
The increasing price of gasoline will only hit food prices harder, since food must be transported. And gas prices will further deplete the power of people’s wages, as more money is devoted to filling up the tank.
Recent polling does point to a growing number of people who think the country is on the right track as the unemployment rate moves down. But the percentage is still well short of those who think things are on the wrong track and has only risen to the levels of early last year.
Obama may have to forget the economy altogether and do class warfare full time.
And let’s just say for the record, if growing numbers of people were finding it difficult to afford food under George W. Bush, there would be and endless chorus of harrumphing about how Bush’s policies were oppressing the poor and tearing apart “the fabric of our country.”