As the economy continues to sink deeper, forcing more people into unemployment lines, uncertainty is driving otherwise clear thinking people into a horde mentality that poses a growing danger to society. A recent episode in Tulsa involving a federally subsidized food distribution program is illustrative of the new reality of this uncertainty as increasing numbers of people begin to wonder where their next meal will come from.
Iron Gate, a church-sponsored food distribution program, and recipient of federal stimulus dollars, provides food boxes to eligible low income families. Typically these boxes, containing about 30 pounds of food, are distributed monthly for free to about 165 families who qualify based on their income and dependent status.
It didn’t take long for some bits of erroneous information to spread through viral emails and social media before the hordes converged upon the church to receive their share of free food. At the unexpected sight of 2000 people lining up one morning, the alarmed staff of Iron Gate had no choice but to suspend the food box distribution.
If you have ever witnessed the scene of a promotion van pulling up at a local fair and then throwing out samples of food, you may have been shocked at the sight of healthy, stampeding people to get their free bag. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the ugly scene of a crowd of adults, stoked with the fear of uncertainty, as they jostle for position in a line for free food boxes.
It was a frightening situation heightened by a misinformed crowd jammed together in the hot Tulsa sun expecting something for free. The same scene is likely to be repeated in many other towns and cities as local food banks are reporting a 40 to 50% increase in traffic largely from first time recipients.
As these types of federal and state subsidized free food distribution programs continue to expand, the growing throngs of economically displaced people, fearing an uncertain future, will likely become increasingly panicked at the thought of empty pantries.
The societal danger is that as the crisis worsens, demand for food assistance will grow exponentially, both because of the food shortage and rising prices. As the economic uncertainty continues to spread the entitlement mentality will creep among those who are marginally affected by financial circumstances. Observers of the Iron Gate incident noted that the line of 2000 was comprised of a broad cross section of the economic strata that included many people without immediate need for assistance.
The bigger threat is that as a liberal-minded government continues to expand the supply of free food, it will actually aggravate the problem, by creating a growing dependency class and consuming an ever-larger portion of the market for food. It has the potential of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy which can only exacerbate the problem.
A family in economic distress can be pushed over the edge when there is fear as to the source of their next meal. While this may be a way of existence for hundreds of millions around the world, American families haven’t faced that kind of uncertainty since the 1930s. As more families join the ranks of the economically distressed, their collective fear could strain the tolerances of society and the ability for the government to provide for them. It is a frightening situation.