Florida economic news

It's bad.

If you live down here, and you're not in a bubble, then you knew that, but maybe you didn't know just how bad it is.

The trend is statewide. Between February 2007 and February this year, the number of Florida households using food stamps jumped 19 percent — the largest statewide gain in the country and about three times the average national increase, according to figures released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And it's not like homeless people are flocking down here for the grand benefits, either--it's the working poor who are finding themselves on food stamps and at food pantries. The stories that follow are powerful--a single mother of two who has two jobs who tried to avoid applying for food stamps by buying bulk items, but just couldn't make it work; a woman who worked her way off food stamps several years ago, but finds herself back on them while her husband tries to start a new career; a nurse's assistant with two teenagers who's living out of hotels while trying to save up enough money for an apartment because she left an abusive relationship.

The idea that people on food stamps are too lazy to work has long been a pernicious lie passed along by greedy people who care more about their tax rates than about the people who fill the service jobs that help keep this society moving. This became especially true in the last few years down here, when housing prices skyrocketed and wages didn't follow--as a result, working class people had to work multiple jobs just to survive. Forget about getting ahead, and perhaps improving their situation--that was just to make the rent every month.

And it's only going to get worse. Services which make it possible for working class people to get by are being cut--Tri-Rail, despite having record ridership because of increasing gas prices, is talking about reducing services because local governments don't have the money (though somehow Miami-Dade can afford to build the Marlins a new stadium), and the Broward public transit system is a joke.

Higher Ed is being slashed at the state level--UF took it on the chin to the tune of $69 million in budget cuts over the last two years, and has said they will cut enrollment for the next four years as a way to cope, as well as raising tuition, cutting temporary faculty, freezing new hires, and not replacing people who leave. Those effects will be felt throughout the FL system--it's the same story at FAU.

And yet what's the word coming out of Tallahassee? More tax cuts. The legislature is trying to sell it as a tax swap--property taxes for sales taxes--but anytime you "swap" $9 billion for $3.5 billion, that's a cut. And we, the short-sighted voters of Florida, get to vote on it this November. And if we pass it, the cuts you see now will be piddling compared to what comes then.

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