In response to the Great Recession, food stamp benefits were temporarily boosted in 2009. This increase has expired and as of last Friday recipients will be receiving on average 5% less. The rollback will save a reported $5B in fiscal '14 and close to $50B over ten years. Look for additional cuts and adjustments as Congress wrestles with a new farm bill.
And why is this? Because lawmakers have to do something about the debt and they will do all they can to nibble at the margins before engaging in the heavy lifting. Letting an increase like this expire is easy.
But dig below the surface on the food stamp issue and you will find major philosophical differences relating to the role and responsibility of government Vs that of the individual. These differences are nothing new but this time around there's the national debt. It's unavoidable and the tail that will increasingly wag the dog going forward. Expect government solutions to take a back seat as more and more is placed on the individual.
This food stamp rollback will be one of many, all driving home the concept of Free Agency not only for the American worker, but for all Americans. Some people are already there. They get it and are doing their best to take charge of their vocational and economic futures. But most are still working at it, perhaps better described as coping.
And then there are those that won't or can't get it. This group probably includes many who saw their food stamp payments fall on Friday. Even though the rules of the Marketplace don't favor them, this group, which is going to grow - this cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. The challenge facing our nation/government is simply this; try to help (which will become increasing difficult given the debt situation) or let everyone fend for themselves (risking the negatives associated with a very large and entrenched underclass). Surely there are creative ideas that work the middle ground, but will they find a voice?
In the meantime, take this as another example to wake up. Like it or not we are entering an age that will focus on the individual like never before. The irony of course is that organizations of all types grow and prosper when people work together. The play-out of these polarities - plus the increasing ability for everything to be measured, graded, and rated - will be one of the stories of the next 10-20 years.
What's required is a plan that not only takes into account what each job seeker / job up-grader needs, but also one that incorporates dynamics noted above.
I can help.
John Jeffrey Lundell
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