A recent survey showed that 87% of Americans believe our economy is still in a recession; 78% of Americans disagree or do not believe the statements put forth by economists that our economy is recovering. The uncertainty over the stability and lack of growth of our economy has led to significant anxiety and a deep pessimism. Polls taken by the American Psychological Association have shown the most significant causes of stress among Americans to be money, the economy and work. Incidents of physical and emotional symptoms related to stress have been on the rise since 2007. Such symptoms include fatigue, irritability, sleeplessness and anger.
One of the worst things that can happen to people is the feeling of worthlessness. And that feeling is one that will plague any economic recovery. Bailouts such as unemployment compensation, welfare, food stamps, etc. will help people economically, but not necessarily psychologically. Think about the impact of the Great Depression on an entire generation of people. Our nation recovered economically, but the impact of abandonment, suffering, and scarcity lasted long after the recovery. At the start of the Great Depression there were no welfare systems in place. Many unemployed people found themselves without a home or food for their families. Shantytowns were a common sight as families lived in basic shelters and ate from soup kitchens. For many, these hardships changed their outlook on life after the depression years. Many became very frugal and were careful with their savings so as to protect their families from similar hardships in the future.
Most economists do not predict that our current economy will travel down this path again, but America is slowly slipping into a poverty plagued way of life. It is estimated that our dependence on the food stamp program is growing with approximately 45.8 million Americans receiving some form of food stamp assistance. This figure represents almost 15% of the country! About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7% of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50% or less of the official poverty level. Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty line. The poorest poor are in the income range of $5,570 to $11,157 for a family of four.
The latest survey by the Pew Research Center suggests that the psychological impact of bad times, rather than an actual decline in people’s financial conditions, is the principal driver for consumers cutting back or delaying purchases. Worry is the overwhelming factor in spending cutbacks being made by more affluent consumers while the fear factor still predominates among the less affluent. Demographers across the United States are seeing signs that women are delaying pregnancy because of the current economic recession and with the massive decline in housing prices, people are delaying the purchase of a home whether new or used. This is mainly due to the fact that many home owners owe more money on their current home than they can sell it for. Laura Lindberg, a researcher for the Guttmacher Institute recently said, that “everyone is frozen in place, scared to make a decision about the future.”
The politically correct number reported for unemployment today is 9% but many Americans receive some form of entitlement – 64.3 million. If you add this to those currently receiving unemployment – 30 million, the grand total is 94.3 million or 31.4% of the total U.S. population. This is a staggering figure.
I am afraid that our current economic challenges are here to stay for a number of years. What bothers me even more is the silent toll that these difficult times are having on the American population. We are not creating enough jobs to “turn the proverbial corner.” Not only is the emotional health of the U. S. residents suffering during this economic downturn, but support systems and means for coping with the related psychological problems are extremely weak. Many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their new found stress.