Gallup last week reported that one in five American workers is underemployed and a similar percentage of those with jobs think they are very or fairly likely to lose their job in the next 12 months. While good personal financial management suggests people should have savings to handle six months of unemployment, few Americans can meet such a standard. Nearly half say they could only last up to one month without a paycheck until encountering significant financial hardship and this increases to 8 out of 10 for those making less than $30,000 a year.
With so many people living on the edge of real financial hardship, many recent debates over how the nation might make cuts in the social safety net seem totally out of touch with today's main street reality. For example, the president signed an extension of emergency unemployment benefits on April 16. But, the bill was delayed as the Senate battled over whether the benefits should be paid for by other budget cuts or added to the federal budget deficit.
Similarly, Saturday's Forbes on Fox held a discussion about doing away with the school lunch program. Arguments over the quality of food provided were mixed with those about its inefficiency leading some participants to suggest the whole program should be eliminated.
There are good reasons to be concerned about the federal budget deficit. Tomorrow, the president's commission will meet to begin its deliberations. While its challenges are daunting, hopefully, it will focus on the big issues surrounding the deficit.
On the other hand, those on Wall Street do themselves no good -- nor do they bolster the case against big government -- when they argue for nibbling on the edges by cutting school lunches and against extending unemployment benefits while so many American workers are either underemployed or fearing for their jobs.