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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Great Secret of the Suburbs

I was was talking to a friend the other day who said his kid had lost their food card. I stared at him and said your food card? He shrugged and said yeah. Our food card. We’ve had it for a couple years now. And then it hit me. Food stamps. This friend lives in a comfortable five hundred thousand dollar suburban home but his kids are on food stamps and he is on medicaid. He had been a realtor and basically lost his job. But then it go me to thinking, how many other people in the land of wide lawns are on food stamps?


It turns out a lot. Forty six million people or fourteen percent of the population is now on food stamps. That is an amazing amount of people depending on the government so they wont go hungry. And here is the kicker, half of them are in the suburbs. The suburbs are no longer the place where people go to raise their kids. For a lot of people it is where they went to go into debt and lose their homes. And what has happened now is we have created a huge subclass of people living under the radar.

This type of family is probably your neighbor or lives down the street. They drive old cars because they can’t afford the payment of a new one. They are on food stamps because they need every nickel to pay utilities and keep their kids in clothes. They are on medicaid because there is no health care when you are broke in America. They might or might not be in foreclosure or in a loan modification. They are living in a twilight land of the American nightmare.

It now takes years to get someone out of their home. If they know how to file in court they can stretch it out indefinitely. This is exactly what is happening. There are now squatters in their own homes. The American Dream depends on a vision if not a mirage and this must remain intact for the kids and the neighbors. And outwardly everything seems normal. The lawn may not get cut and the cars may be old but it is all stitched together with rubber bands and paperclips. One catastrophe can bring the whole thing down.

Yet there are millions of families living this way. We have a huge underbelly of people who have fallen out of the middle class but like a ship that refuses to sink, they can keep pumping out just enough water to keep the mirage in place. But eventually they will take water. Once the banks catch up with them or someone slashes entitlements then it is game over.

Until then, the dirty little secret of the suburbs remains just that.
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Rocket Man...one mans struggle to find the American Dream

Books by William Hazelgrove