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Nancy Goldstein
Brooklyn, NY

Nancy Goldstein

I’m a communications professional and journalist known for addressing complex, sometimes unpopular issues in lucid, compelling prose.

The invisible breadline

Here's one advantage FDR had over Obama when it came to managing his century's economic crisis: endless pictures of breadlines constantly reminded Roosevelt that people in the street were not doing well, no matter what his advisers or the latest reports had to say. In my dreams, a trip to my local food coop would do the same for this administration.

Because, despite the abruptly departing White House economic adviser Larry Summers' pronouncement about the economy "moving upwards" earlier this week, those breadlines still exist: technological advances just make them less visible. Many of America's nearly 15 million unemployed applied for benefits online and receive them through direct deposit. Those lines are gone from view. There's still a grocery store checkout line, but with the advent of the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, no one can tell the food stamp users from folks using a regular debit card. (Many people use both, since food stamps don't cover luxuries like toilet paper or toothpaste.)

My guesstimate is that the number of EBT users I serve from behind my cash register has nearly doubled in the past two years. It has also broadened to include increasing numbers of people who I know to be new to food stamps. A former neighbor gamed by Madoff. Out-of-work teachers. Consultants whose work has dried up. Women who left the workforce temporarily to care for newborns but now find that there's no way back in. People in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who were laid off only to find that they're now considered too expensive and too old for the current job market, where five applicants vie for every opening.

Team Obama doesn't appear to be able to see or hear the 21st century breadline, but its members can certainly see and hear Team Obama. So perhaps the president, just back from what will surely be a series of whirlwind cross-country campaign swings, should drop that line he used regarding the economic crisis in Des Moines the other day--the one about how his administration "Stepped in and stopped the bleeding." I'm sure his advisers love it. But at a time when so many Americans are openly hemorrhaging, it's a painful reminder that the president who ran on the promises of hope and change is closed off to the reality of his electorate.

By Nancy Goldstein  |  October 11, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Initial Entries
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Some interesting thoughts. Sure the buck stops with the president but what about the obstructing Republicans? They have fought tooth and nail against any help for the middle class and poor.

But, lay it all at Obama's doorstep---you should fit right in at the neocon Post.

Posted by: martymar123 | October 19, 2010 8:19 AM
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Demonstrates a pathetic lack of knowledge. Obama "closed off to the reality of his electorate?" Did you never hear of TARP Part 2, stimulus, extension of unemployment benefits, healthcare for all? Did you not observe the Party of NO! NO! NO! fighting Obama on every helpful action? Do you have no understanding of economics and recession timetables?

Not Top 50. Not Top 50,000.

Posted by: chucky-el | October 14, 2010 1:27 PM
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A passionate essay, but short on facts about the numbers on SNAP, the number of unemployed, and the role government plays in reversing economic downturns.

Curious that she targets only the president and not Congress or the economic policy platforms of the major parties.

Posted by: MsJS | October 13, 2010 5:09 PM
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Unemployment would be closer to 25% without the money Obama advocated for putting into the Stimulus and other programs. 10% unemployment = 90% employment, but it can be better.

Roughly 134,000 military men and women are in the Middle East right now, fighting for their lives, while those nice and comfy at home complain about paying the lowest aggregate tax rates since the 1950s.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wars cost roughly $108 Billion/year not counting Billions more for the future costs of caring for America’s wounded veterans. The running total of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001; One Trillion Ninety Two Billion is enough for 200 Nuclear reactors or Thousands of Wind and Solar Farms:

2010 Annual USA Military spending is 30% of all government revenues ($722 Billion out of $2.4 Trillion) not counting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Defense spending rises to $895 Billion for 2011 (34.8% of $2.57 Trillion in Revenues).

2010 USA Defense Spending = $830 Billion ($722 Billion plus the wars $108 Billion), all of which is borrowed deficit spending money.

Pay for military expenditures with a balanced budget and if it's that important then taxes should be raised to support it. Right now, only the troops in the field are paying the ultimate price while others look for every angle to get out of paying taxes, get out of paying for the sacrifices of the men and women in the military, and get out of paying for a safe and stable society.

Posted by: Airborne82 | October 13, 2010 11:35 AM
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This may pass as good journalism but why not check the facts first? In 2007 there were 26.3 million food stamp users (Now the correct name for food stamps is SNAP) in 2008 that number rose to 28.2 and in 2009 it is up to 33.5. Nothing like the doubling you guestimate. Furthermore, do you really believe Madoff victims are on SNAP (food stamps?) To be eligible you have to have less than $3,000 in assets and many times just owning a car may cause a recipient to be rejected. Lastly, why does the media continue to compare the 10% unemployment during this recession and weak recovery to the 25% that occurred in the Great Depression? There really is no comparison, at least not yet.

Posted by: luvmtains | October 12, 2010 1:32 AM
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You earned Editor's Pick.

Great use of images (who can't recall photos of bread lines).

Your message, as short as it is, speaks volumes.

Posted by: thecoaxer | October 11, 2010 10:05 PM
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