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Boom Times: Wall St. Luxury Spending Rises. So Does Food Stamp Use!

From the New York Times, we find out just how many Americans now qualify for food assistance: MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record

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From the New York Times, we find out just how many Americans now qualify for food assistance:

MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs.

Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare.

But look, not everyone's doing poorly. In fact, the Masters of the Universe are back to their old free-spending ways, thanks to the massive government bailout funded by our tax dollars:

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Conspicuous consumption is making a comeback on Wall Street. But no one wants to admit they're doing it.As traders and investment bankers near the finish line of what looks like a boom year for pay, some are spending money like the financial crisis never happened. From $15,000-a-week Caribbean getaways to art auctions to $200,000 platinum wristwatches that automatically adjust for leap years, signs of the good life are returning.

"What we're seeing in the last four to eight weeks is a fairly substantial uptick" in demand for extravagant purchases as Wall Street employees grow more confident that the market's steep rebound so far in 2009 will soon bring them fat bonuses, says David Arnold, senior vice president at Robb Report, a magazine targeted at the super-wealthy.

Isn't that heartwarming? We can be glad that someone's doing well, even if it's at our expense!

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