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November 30, 2011

Financial Crisis Induced Middle Class Poverty Continues to Climb

So many still like to deny the pervasive and ongoing costs of the 2008 financial meltdown even when unmistakable signs repeatedly become visible and put a lie to the baseless happy talk.  Yet another sad sign was reported today:

“Millions of American schoolchildren are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents, many once solidly middle class, have lost jobs or homes during the economic crisis, qualifying their families for the decades-old safety-net program,” as reported in a front page article in the New York Times.

The key phrase is “many once solidly middle class.”  As one school district supervisor said, “Parents signing up their children say, ‘I never thought a program like this would apply to me and my kids.'”  The comfort of thinking that can’t happen to me or that only happens to other people just isn’t true and hasn’t been for a long time.  

As the article reports, “Many of these formerly middle-income parents have pleaded with school officials to keep their enrollment a secret.”  While that may be understandable, such action obscures the depth and breadth of the damage done throughout the country from the financial crisis.  

Some might say that none of this has anything to do with the financial crisis, but even if common sense and timing wasn’t enough to prove it, the data certainly does, as one economist quoted in the article noted:  “the surge [in enrollment in free or low-cost meals] happened so quickly ‘that people like myself who do research are struggling to keep up with it.'” 

And, that “surge” happened in “all 50 states.”  

The American middle class is being slowly, often invisibly, decimated.  Pride often prevents it from being seen.  But, the reality continues to pierce the misleading facade.  It’s not just free school lunch programs.  Look at numbers for foreclosures, homelessness, unemployment, under-employment, increased demand on food pantries and virtually every safety net program in virtually every part of our country.  

These are all costs of the financial crisis that continue, often unabated and too often ignored or denied.  

Read the full New York Times story here.

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