There’s no real relationship between these two topics except they’re both on my mind.
I was just reading in today’s New York Times about Spain’s growing and worse than expected jobless rate. I spend about a third of my time in Spain and the strange thing is that the bad economy isn’t nearly as noticeable in day to day life as it is where I spend the rest of my time here in New York City.
While real estate prices in Barcelona have really taken a hit and people are losing jobs in the construction and tourism sectors, people seem to be making it work. Of course, as you can read in this article, the government is getting stretched pretty thin as they try to hold the social net in place. The system may break before recovery can start to pick up the slack. Additionally, being tied to the Euro, Spain does not have the ability to print its own currency like we can in the US to stimulate growth. And the rest of Europe, although struggling, is doing a lot better than Spain is right now. So, Spain’s economy is likely going to take longer to recover and European policies aren’t going to cater very much to only one of its member countries. In short, Spain is going to have to sort out much of its own mess.
As you know, in the US we don’t have the same kind of social net. We rely a lot more on charitable organizations and volunteer-ism to take care of our needy. But that seems a lot less dependable than a government-backed program to insure people don’t fall through the cracks.
Today, we volunteered in one of Manhattan’s largest soup kitchens. One of the most surprising aspects was how many people who came through looked just like you and me. Sure, there was a fair amount of homeless-looking people. I didn’t see any families but I did see plenty of people I could pass on the street or see in a subway car and never think they might be needy. I got the impression that there are a lot of people with a white-knuckled fear grip on keeping their lives together.We did some digging and found an article from The New Yorker on this soup kitchen. If you’re interested you can read it for yourself but one of the most interesting lines is this one:
“Every year, the city has been getting hungrier. The New York City Coalition Against Hunger estimates that 1.3 million New Yorkers can’t afford to buy enough food for themselves and their families all the time. That works out to about one person of every six in the city.”
That is an amazing statistic to me and it generates all sorts of thoughts about volunteer-ism vs. government help. That’s a topic for another day. For now, here’s to 2010 being a year of recovery across the board!