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.
How can you call that real reporting? We don’t even know if the their nuts are numb.
Speaking of alternate forms of economic currency, I read someone here discussing the merits of bitcoin.
I’m big into the pros/cons of a barter economy but anyone who thinks bitcoins is the answer is absolutely freakin’ nutso and just a straight up adrenaline addicted gambler junkie.
@Baud: And has Sally Quinn seen any of these people at her dinner parties? Perhaps Bobo saw them once at an Applebee’s salad bar.
Has even one of them driven Friedman in a taxi?
@Baud: Only if they lived previously in a country filled with brown people and moved here recently. In the US I think Friedman has a car service.
I’ve seen these places. I worked in one for the Obama Campaign. Everyone wants to talk about what was 20 years ago, while fighting for what scraps remain now. Since I was going to be there for a while I looked around and did some research to figure out what could be done. What assets did the town have that could be built on to get some jobs. They had water and that was it. The education system was broken because all the mills had hired people before they graduated high school so many of the kids had heard there entire lives that high school wasn’t important. Of course now there aren’t any jobs. Population under 18 was around 20 percent. Population between 18-30 was 7 percent. There isn’t anything that can be done, other than shoving money into the town the build some type of economic ecosystem that could self sustain, but that isn’t going to happen.
I guess our taxi drivers aren’t good enough for him.
I hadn’t heard of a bit coins before today. Wow.
Distressing story. Why not distribute the funds weekly? Are the banks charging them for each deposit transaction?
So it looks like the chances of any gun legislation getting out of Congress are infinitesimal.
What a country.
You liberals have well-meaning intentions, but look at where this has gotten you. 1/3 of the population is dependent on food stamps.
Back in the day, people would load up in the ol’ jalopy and drive to Oklahoma before expecting the government to take care of them.
And what significant percentage of these people in that hole vote thug? More than 27%; or maybe closer to 50%? Yet they live on democratic handouts that their very votes would take away – far, far too stupid to realize that thug leaders view them no differently than the blah people getting t-bones and plasma TV’s. Places like this shit hole just prove that amerika is filled with people Darwin would consider winners of his award.
Higgs Boson's Mate
You mean to say that the good people of Woonsocket weren’t all provided with groovy, high-tech jobs? I thought that losing our manufacturing base was okay because the government was going to retrain displaced workers to run computers.
You wignuts don’t.
@Cermet: Here are the results:
@Cermet: Rhode Island is not exactly a Republican stronghold.
@Cermet: Here are the results:
@PeakVT: I think monthly is the standard distribution per the USDA.
I am not a kook
@Cermet: No need to guess. There’s this big newfangled googol machine on Teh Internets you can ask.
Here, let me “googol” that for you as the kids say: http://www.ri.gov/election/results/2012/general_election/woonsocket/
Hint, that googol machine can be accessed IN THE SAME BROWSER WINDOW you typed your bewilderment in. “woonsocket election results” worked for me.
WOW! 2/3 are intelligent! Who’d guess that high. I guess the remaining 1/3 are the bankers, store owners and other trash that are the parasites receiving the handouts by offering over priced services but consider themselves, self made and worthy of our tax dollars keeping them afloat.
OK, ‘I am not a kook’ – how in the hell did you answer my post (this one) before I even posted it?! I’m transparent but shit, that is just too accurate.
@Higgs Boson’s Mate: If it’s in Rhode Island, I imagine it’s more like 30% Republican. Not exactly a Republican stronghold, that.
@srv: @I am not a kook:
I notice that you aren’t actually responding to his point, which is that a substantial percentage- more than 27%, as predicted- voted Republican.
Of course, none of the increase in food stamps usage has absolutely anything to do with the wingnuts disastrous handling of the economy in the eight years before Obama came into office. Nor do they deserve any blame for the massive income inequality resulting from 30 years of the trickle down bullshit Reagan ushered in.
@Phylllis: Probably so. But my impression from the article is that the lump sum just feeds everyone’s despair. But maybe it really is the best way to distribute the money, for reasons not discussed in the article. Of course, it’s a minor issue compared to the lack of jobs. But it just stood out for some reason.
I hate to burst your bubble srv, but Woonsocket started a fast decline during the Reagan years. I know first-hand, I grew up there. Woonsocket is my home town. In the 80’s the ‘mills’ that were still functioning moved their labor force to other countries, Mexico for example. By the late 1990’s there was nothing left, and never coming back. So if you want to cast blame at a president look no further than number 40.
Still waiting to find out what a surplus dirt farmer is…
You’d think someone would notice at some point that if capitalism as preached by our Galtian Betters requires a poverty-stricken workforce in order to function, it’s probably not all that it’s cracked up to be.
Heck, even Republicans argue “well, capitalism eventually raises the standard of living for everyone.” Yeah, and as soon as those standards are raised, the locusts move on and the standard of living falls right back down. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Davis X. Machina
Sounds like Sanford. Or Skowhegan. Or Auburn. Or Lewiston. Or Biddeford and Saco, except they’re commutable to Portland, so they’re just moribund instead of dead.
Marx already did that, he called them the reserve army of the unemployed.
@Davis X. Machina: Millinocket is the best example. BUT! They brought the mill back online because of the popularity of “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
What a country!
@Central Planning: a farmer who can’t afford the seed to plant in the spring whose fields consist of whatever was plowed under in the fall.
@Central Planning: Reposted from the thread that was probably already dead when I reponded:
Britain conquered Quebec in the French and Indian War but agreed to preserve local laws and customs until they could ship over enough colonists to outvote the locals, which they eventually did in Ontario, but they should have known better than to try and out-breed Catholics. Between large family sizes and French inheritance laws that divided estates between every son equally, farms were reduced to non-viably small sizes by the late 1800′s/early 1900′s. The colonists the British shipped to Canada were the worst Protestant chauvinists this side of Belfast and they (illegally) made it almost impossible for French Canadians to move to western Canada without abandoning their culture. Moving to the United States was often considered a better option even than Montreal where the same type of Anglos dominated the business community there. Things only improved once the province’s leadership finally stood up to them and people figured out the Church wasn’t really following through on its role as their protector.
Woonsocket has been voting Democratic for federal offices since the 1930’s, when FDR saved people from starvation. At the state/local level it’s been drifting a way a bit, where there isn’t any reason like SNAP vs. the Ryan budget to even turn out. Any Democrat that has any ideas on how to bring jobs back would probably be bigger than FDR there. His/her ideas would also probably have to make an even bigger impact on the national economy too.
@Suffern ACE: Thank you. I truly had no idea. This blog is fun AND educational!
ot: anyone watching what’s going down in Cyprus?
Gartman Warns Cyprus: One Does Not Steal Russian Mafia Money And Get Away With It
Gartman refers to the levy as a “theft.” He also says Cyprus has now “angered the people in the world you’d least wish to anger.”
“One could only laugh as such a comment; of course Cyprus was complacent about laundering. To think otherwise was and is naïve. Ah, but now you’ve stolen Russia money… or soon shall depending upon the vote in the Cypriot parliament… and that is dangerous… very. One does not steal Russian mafia money and get away with it. There are fewer statements of fact that are more certain, more factual, more unyielding than this statement. Russian Mafia figures do not take well to being stolen from, and they take even less well to be made fools of. We see no reason to mince words at this point: People will be hurt over this decision; some shall be killed.”
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/gartman-cyprus-stealing-russian-money-2013-3#ixzz2O1zMmxZD
(Poor-as-)Dirt Farmers, as I recall, are the hardscrabble smallholders raising a little bit of everything (if they’re lucky) to feed their families, plus in good years a few extra baskets of vegetables to swap at the general store for whatever they can’t grow. They’re grubbing down in the dirt, because they can’t afford tractors or hire labor to do the hardest parts.
Since there’s one form of entertainment that doesn’t cost money or take much energy at the end of a long day’s toil, dirt farmers traditionally married young and bred a new farmhand every 18 months. And if not enough of that next generation died before hitting puberty & there wasn’t a war to send the young men off to die in, there would be a surplus of dirt farmers trying to split a family acreage that could barely feed one family between two or four or eight young men all looking to start families of their own.
@Anne Laurie: Nanci Griffith Trouble in the Fields.
They’ll never take our native soil
But if we sell that new John Deere
And then we’ll work these crops with sweat and tears
You’ll be the mule I’ll be the plow
Come harvest time we’ll work it out
There’s still a lotta love, here in these troubled fields
@rikyrah: I’m not one to mock the mob…but who is this Hartman fellow and how, as a financial newsletter writer from Suffolk, VA, did he come to his understanding of the corruption of the Cypriots and the working of their mob?
@Roger Moore: The original question was:
All we know is that 33% are “in that hole” and 33% voted for Romney. We don’t know what the venn diagram looks like.
Coming from a dead New England milltown myself, I associate the Republican vote as coming from the upper middle class who live in the nice Victorian houses on the hill, and the lower middle class whites who resent the change in “complexion” of the neighborhood and blame the victims for their diminishing piece of the pie. And even in those groups the R vote doesn’t always get a majority.
It always staggers me when the RCC fails to stand up to authority on behalf of its congregations – not just its own authority, but also non-Catholic and even anti-Catholic ones.
I understand them playing nice with Franco, Pinochet, Somoza, and all the rest. When they do the same with oppressive authorities that are communist (Castro) or, in your scenario, Anglo-Protestant, and fairly hostile towards Catholics – well, it’s not “worse,” really, but it’s somehow even more disgusting.
Not too long ago a Republican getting 30% in Woonsocket would have been considered an excellent showing for the party there. It was the most Democratic part of the most Democratic state.
At one time Woon. was the largest US city not served by the interstate highway system.
CVS headquarters is there. If not, it would be a ghost town.
Old joke about Woonsocket’s Francophone majority: “Throw me down the stairs my hat”.
One of my grandfathers, of French-Canadian extraction but born in the US and a native English speaker, would occasionally drop one of those sentences on me. I think the phrasing came from his dad.
Mike in NC
Lived in the Ocean State for 3+ years but never had a reason to check out Woonsocket.
The SNAP benefit is on a card. It is a SNAP account. Used to be called an EBT card. It is separate from bank card. There can also be a cash account on the card and some people have Social Security benefits put on the card.
Every month, the benefit is put on the card.
Yes, what they need to do is slash welfare and cut the upper-bracket income tax rate, and prosperity will trickle down for everyone. Oops, they’ve tried that for the last thirty years.
Gartman is sometimes a guest on Bloomberg radio. He knows about financial markets and banks.
@Kyle: Recalibrate your snark detector.
@Kyle: Readjust your snarkometer.
I’m never surprised by that crap anymore. They’re always willing to cut a deal that protects the institution at the expense of the membership. This is absolute bog standard behavior on the part of organization men everywhere throughout history; you protect the organization (and hence the guys at the top) first and the worker bees last. The RCC will justify it by saying that they have to protect the organization or their congregants will suffer from lack of a priesthood, but the net result is that they benefit themselves. It sucks, but that’s the way it’s always worked.
OT, but fuck Bank Of America.
That is all.
I’m hoping that at the end of this crisis I’ll be able to spell Cyprus correctly 9 out of 10 times without google’s help
Twenty seven percent still think the Gov should have bailed out Curt Shelling. My gosh, he had to sell his bloody sock.
@Maude: ok. But what does he know about the mob? I know it would suck for goverment officials to be as sainted for stealing mob money at the behest of Angela Merkel. But it’s an odd thing to make the centerpiece of ones predictions about this situation in a financial newsletter.
@Suffern ACE: He seems confused, and K-Thug explained it earlier. It’s not the Cypriots robbing the mob, it’s the Germans saying they don’t want to bail out the mob so they’re making the Cypriots take the haircut.
Poor Island states, between a rock and a sickle.
Hmmm….something like this: http://grooveshark.com/s/We+Can+t+Make+It+Here/3XcPGL?src=5
True. That describes the behavior of everyone from corporate execs when a company goes bankrupt to the governments and elites of a conquered country facing an invader.
It’s just still even more nauseating when it comes from organizations that preach absolute values and “suck it up, do the right thing even if it’s hard.” Yeah, if you’re a woman with a life-threatening pregnancy, or anyone who happened to be born gay. But the princes of the Church get to be all morally relativistic and shit.
I grew up in rural RI in the ’70s. My driving instructor took a carload of us country kids to take our driving test at the Woonsocket DMV rather than closer offices because presumably there was less traffic on the streets than in any of the state’s other rusting cities.
People in the financial industry talk to each other. That’s US and Europe and Asia. They understand money flowing around the globe. I don’t.
It is not a secret about Russian money in Cyprus. From what I read. there are large deposits there.
The Russian mob is know for brutality.
@Omnes Omnibus: @raven:
It’s damn hard to tell snark from wingnut.
@Suffern ACE: hmm. As sainted = assassinated. I don’t the the mob or the folks in Cyprus or Berlin consider the Cypriot officials saints, although they may be expecting miracles from them.
@Chris: Why else would they do it? For the money.
It wasn’t so much that they didn’t stand up to the Anglo-Protestants. They usually supported the less Protestant chauvinist Liberals in Ottawa, which gave them enough Catholic votes to win almost every election, which meant the most savvy money men also supported them. And that meant plenty of, shall we say, fundraising opportunities for everyone.
It’s what they did in Quebec City that was the problem. The Church had a virtual monopoly on health care and French language education until the 1960’s. So good luck finding out about birth control or learning about any subject not approved of by the pre-Vatican II hierarchy. Give generously on Sunday because that’s all the funding your school and hospital will get. And don’t form a union, that’s a sin. It wasn’t until the Church’s party was finally defeated for election in the early 1960’s that the province could finally modernize and escape from poverty. Without the clergy in the way it was accomplished very quickly, probably due to all the pressure that had been building up finally able to be released.
@Anoniminous: Sometimes you need a scorecard to know the players.
Alot of the folks who have the SNAP card spend what little money they do have to spare on a taxi cab to the grocery store once a month, because they live in a “food desert”, they then stock up for the month on all of the food they can so they don’t have to use up more of their available cash for another taxi cab to the store. I think nothing of stopping by the grocery store every night on my way home from work, but it has to be remembered that a lot of people on SNAP benefits are also without transportation. It is a vicious circle.
That’s interesting. In America, they were neck deep into labor union activism in the early 20th century – heck, Catholic immigrants (the Irish, the Italians, the Poles) in the industrial Northeast/Midwest were the backbone of our unions. Disgusted as I am by RCC history in a lot of ways, that’s one place where I have to give them their props.
Why was it so different in Quebec? Was the clergy more closely tied to economic elites there than it was here?
Davis X. Machina
Funny, because Quebec was ground zero for the credit union movement in North America. All the Franco mill towns in Maine still have parish credit unions — Holy Cross in Lewiston, St. John in Brunswick are two that come to mind — or did until recent mergers with other CU’s. Self-help was not an alien notion with these folks.
I just joined a local Maine Credit Union. I feel righteous for doing so. Let the banks go fuck themselves.
@Davis X. Machina: a huge blow to Woonsocket was when Marquette C U went under.
@Davis X. Machina: Not credit unions, labor unions.
Pretty much. There was some significant labor activism mid-century, but the red beanie types didn’t approve, which meant the provincial government didn’t approve. Lower in the church hierarchy there was some sympathy though.
@p.a.: It was a blow to the entire state. Credit unions aren’t FDIC insured. That’s why unless somebody tries to pull a Cyprus over here I’m sticking with my icky bank.
@Maude: The money isn’t “on the card”. The EBT cards access money that is in an account at some financial institution. According to the USDA, the RI system is managed by JP Morgan EFS. My question was whether there was some cost associated with distributing the money in smaller amounts more frequently.
Credit Unions have their own depositors insurance fund backed by the “full faith and credit” of the Federal government.
Keep your eye on it. My CU started charging my bank account $5 a month about Oct 2012. No notice and when I called them on it they informed me there was no way to keep any minimum or meet any threshold to get out of the fee. So basically they were just going to take $5 a month from me, whether I used their services at all.
Nothing I could do about it. So I said, CU, FU and CU. Cashed out and closed out.
@srv: Oklahoma is all filled up. The West is a desert and becoming more so with cimate change accelerating. If you don’t invest in humn capital and physical infrastructure you got nothing and the 1%-ers are uninterested in either routes.
I was listening to NPR this AM. They mentioned how the 2nd year of the sequester affects crop insurance and the Farm Bureau guy is freaking out about it because OMG farmers cannot plan their crops without crop insurance. I don’t quite understand that part but whatever. I just want to have the farmers in Paul Ryan’s, in Nebraska, in Kansas, the Dakotas … call their Republican congressional reps and Sens about how they don’t quite grow it all by themselves.
@mdblanche: Wrong! Credit Union deposits are very much insured. They are insured by the NCUA. Up until 2005, they were insured by the FSLIC (which I worked for briefly in the 1990’s).
That is very bad, wrong information that we don’t need out there if we are going to get rid of these too big to fail banks.
@mdblanche: You’re kind of eliding the fact that the Duplessis government, in power with only one term break from 1939 to 1959, was essentially fascist and definitely in line with the sort of Catholic theocracy the Quebec church had in mind. Let’s not forget that a lot of what was keeping Quebec down for an entire generation was its own Church-approved government…
Also, have you noticed how many English-speaking Catholics there are in the rest of the country, or that allegedly Catholic-hostile Ontario has a publicly-funded Catholic school board system? We’re hardly as “Protestant supremacist” as you make us out to be.
A major factor in your ancestors’ going to New England as opposed to the rest of Canada was also probably that New England is a hell of a lot closer to the parts of the Quebec border that you can reach easily from the rural areas than anywhere in the rest of Canada that anyone might actually have wanted to be during that time frame. Going east would have landed them in the Maritimes, which have never not been poor; going west past Ontario would have landed them in the prairies, which, prior to the oil money, were depending on Atlantic salt cod and Ontario apples to keep fed, more or less, particularly during the Dust Bowl years.
Chuckie Lane read the article on Woonsocket and responded with an op-ed in the same paper complaining about food stamps being used to buy cheetos. Our Chuckie, he doesn’t miss a beat, does he?
from the article: