As Food Stamp Numbers Hit Record Highs, Luxury Sales Boom

luxuryThe New York Times reported on August 4 that “even with the economy in a funk and many Americans pulling back on spending, the rich are again buying designer clothing, luxury cars and about anything that catches their fancy.” And luxury goods stores, “are more than recovering — they are zooming.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported that a record 41.8 million Americans now receive food stamps, and the numbers getting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies increased by 18% in the past year. If you want to understand what “bipartisanship” means in the third year of the Obama Administration, these contrasting stories say it all.

While President Obama bemoans the lack of “bipartisanship,” Democrats have found common ground with Republicans in prioritizing the desires of the wealthy over the needs of poor and working-class Americans. While Democrats are not nearly as zealous or extreme in their policy proposals, there is now a bipartisan consensus that budget deficits – not unemployment or poverty – are the nation’s top problem.

Yet almost entirely absent from the past month’s debt-ceiling discussion was the record number of families depending on government assistance to keep themselves fed. Congress is responding to this worsening crisis by attempting to cut food stamps in order to save money, a result that may be inevitable after the debt-ceiling deal enacted this week.

While Republicans have led this war on working and unemployed people in need, top Democrats from Obama to New York Senator Chuck Schumer have either extended or fought to preserve tax breaks for the rich. Schumer has battled to ensure that those making millions form hedge funds continue to pay taxes at an artificially low rate, which has helped sharply boost BMW, Porsche and Mercedes sales and such items noted in the Times story as $250 Ermenegildo Zegna ties and $2,800 David Yurman pavé rings.

Tiffany’s sales are up 20% in the first quarter, while Wal-Mart has had to reduce the size of its toilet paper packaging because many of its working-class customers cannot afford multi-pack purchases.

randy shawThe gap between the rich and everyone else increased during the 1990’s, but the Clinton era also saw gains for the middle and working class and extremely low unemployment. Today, unemployment is 9.8%, the highest since 1983.

We didn’t hear much about unemployment during the debt-ceiling debate, which explains why the bipartisan deal required the rich to pay nothing more – but did not extend unemployment benefits.

Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

Randy Shaw is the author of Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the
21st Century


  1. Frank says

    It’s always class warfare with these people. I bet they don’t picture Sean Penn, and Tim Robbins, and Oliver Stone when they speak of the super rich buying luxury items. I bet those rich people are OK by them. They probably mean “evil corporate guys”. Libs: stop worrying about your envy and start opening your eyes to the fact that your huge Nanny State has bankrupted us like it has Europe.

  2. Brad Bradbury says

    “even with the economy in a funk and many Americans pulling back on spending, the rich are again buying designer clothing, luxury cars and about anything that catches their fancy.”

    Ask the men and women who are gainfully employed making and selling such luxury items if they have a problem with that. As to the record increase in recipients of Food Stamps…how’s that “hope and change” thing workin’ for ya?

    The way to “stand up for a better life” is to work for it! DUH! The reason “they are starting to do it all over the world” is because their governments are running out of other peoples’ money.

  3. in_awe says

    You know, we could put $75Billion a year toward more resources and assistance for the needy if we just sunset the ineffective and wasteful Department of Education. Despite spending untold billions of dollars In its 3+ decades of existence, the academic performance of students nationwide have slipped with no turnaround in sight. The average salary for DOE employees is more than $110,000 per year.

    You’ll get a lot more dollars to spend by discarding inefficient federal programs than you ever will net by pushing class warfare tax schemes. (Think 84 teacher training programs across 4 different cabinet departments, as an example) Remember, the really rich hire tax accountants, tax lawyers, and lobbyists by the truckload and will never pay the piper more than a pittance more than they are now. And no matter how much you tax the wealthy it will never be enough (see “Eat the Rich” for details). Spending must be rationalized and re-prioritized to answer unmet needs in society.

  4. The Supportive Progressive says

    And the hits just keep on coming… wonder when folks just scraping by will stop feeling like victims and start standing up for a better life. They are starting to do it all over the world… wonder when we will see people in the streets here?

    Great points Randy. Thanks.


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