For all the well-deserved criticism of the Washington Post‘s rightwing thumbsuckers, I’ll pay for online access as long as they’re publishing new stories like this:
WOONSOCKET, R.I. – The economy of Woonsocket was about to stir to life. Delivery trucks were moving down river roads, and stores were extending their hours. The bus company was warning riders to anticipate “heavy traffic.” A community bank, soon to experience a surge in deposits, was rolling a message across its electronic marquee on the night of Feb. 28: “Happy shopping! Enjoy the 1st.”
In the heart of downtown, Miguel Pichardo, 53, watched three trucks jockey for position at the loading dock of his family-run International Meat Market. For most of the month, his business operated as a humble milk-and-eggs corner store, but now 3,000 pounds of product were scheduled for delivery in the next few hours. He wiped the front counter and smoothed the edges of a sign posted near his register. “Yes! We take Food Stamps, SNAP, EBT!”
“Today, we fill the store up with everything,” he said. “Tomorrow, we sell it all.”
At precisely one second after midnight, on March 1, Woonsocket would experience its monthly financial windfall — nearly $2 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Federal money would be electronically transferred to the broke residents of a nearly bankrupt town, where it would flow first into grocery stores and then on to food companies, employees and banks, beginning the monthly cycle that has helped Woonsocket survive.
Three years into an economic recovery, this is the lasting scar of collapse: a federal program that began as a last resort for a few million hungry people has grown into an economic lifeline for entire towns. Spending on SNAP has doubled in the past four years and tripled in the past decade, surpassing $78 billion last year. A record 47 million Americans receive the benefit — including 13,752 in Woonsocket, one-third of the town’s population, where the first of each month now reveals twin shortcomings of the U.S. economy:
So many people are forced to rely on government support.
The government is forced to support so many people….
Yeah, it’s been going on all over the country, the “Job Creators” calling for cheap labor from all over the globe (Irish ‘girls’ in Lowell in the 1880s, Jewish immigrants in the Triangle Factory in the 1910s, Appalachian hillbillies and Negro sharecroppers for the Detroit factories in the 1940s), then dumping the new communities developed as a result to go chasing after an even cheaper labor force in a still more desperate area. Our One Percenters are the hightech version of the Golden Horde, only with fewer ethical standards & less self-discipline.
Commentor mdblanche, last night:
The city in the article was my father’s hometown. It used to be a mill town. Most of the workers were surplus dirt farmers from Quebec who came since there was nothing for them in Canada, the world’s most overrated country, except poverty and discrimination. The fact that my father’s family had job skills meant they were relatively well off and eventually moved out. Not everyone did.
At its height Woonsocket promoted itself as the third largest French speaking city on the continent and attracted overseas investment from France and Belgium. But the investors were quick to relocate when the formerly docile mill workers started unionizing and even cheaper labor was discovered in Dixie.
The mills started closing after World War I and most of the remainder closed after World War II. They were replaced with nothing. All that’s left is a cheap housing stock that attracts people with nowhere else to go. The first newcomers were Southeast Asians, many dislocated by our imperial misadventures in their homelands. The newest to arrive are some of those Latinos we’ve been hearing about since the last election.
The economy there has been broken for a very long time, long before the rest of our economy broke. And nobody- not those mythical job creators, not Obama, not Reagan, not LBJ or JFK or FDR- has ever offered more than a band-aid. I don’t know how you can ever fix a place as broken as that, but I know it doesn’t involve a “self-made” scion of the same type of family that broke it in the first place like Paul Ryan taking the band-aid too.