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Monday, February 26

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The Mechanics
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Chicagoland Mon Jan 19 2009

Chicago's "Vital Signs" January 2009

The Chicago Community Trust has released some disturbing numbers today, indicating homelessness continues to rise in the city. And across the board, all of the indicators of economic collapse are on the rise over 2007 -- homes dependent on food stamps, the explosion in foreclosures, unemployment, everything.



The work of the Trust in distributing these "vital signs" of our city's economic health are critical to understanding what "hard times" means in real terms. In 2008, nearly 40,000 more households -- somewhere over 100,000 people -- came to be dependent on food assistance to make sure they had enough to eat. The type of social and political instability that kind of economic insecurity causes is hard to comprehend unless you've lived in the middle of it. To have tens or hundreds of thousands of people plunged into economic insecurity creates the atmosphere of desperation that, often, only radical change can address.


Jump the jump for the January reports from the Chicago Community Trust.

Are the economists right in saying we'll be lucky to start pulling out of this in 2010? That 2009 will be worse than 2008? If so, we could be looking in this city at a very sudden -- potentially violent -- plunge into some degree of social chaos. Poverty will creep upwards and upwards and the line between the haves and have-nots could become ever more stark.


In our industrial economy, the unemployment figure is so critical. People who cannot find work do not sit patiently at home waiting. If we are getting to the point where one in every five people is either unemployed or so underemployed that they may as well be unemployed -- that's 20%, not far off from the 13% that some economists are estimating our "true" unemployment rate to be at -- our entire social infrastructure could be undermined. When one out of five people has been pushed out of the system through no fault of his/her own, how long can we expect that system to survive unchanged?




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