As economic malaise sweeps the nation and McDonald's transforms into an aspirational dining experience, it's becoming ever more clear that eating, in America, ain't what it used to be.

It's not just the same old wretched poors who can't afford food these days—it's everyone, except the wealthy! So don't feel so bad for asking for government cheese. Forty four million Americans are now getting food stamps, the largest number ever. But wait; there's more (ways to keep from starving because you're so poor)!

Additionally, government-affiliated food banks and other community and faith-based food pantries and soup kitchens served more than 37 million Americans, according to Feeding America's 2010 hunger study. This figure is up 46% from 2006.

Small business owners in America are growing increasingly pessimistic. And why not? Lots of small business owners sell food. If Americans can't afford food, well, that's a problem. Lots of small business owners also eat food. And if they don't make any money selling food so that they can buy food, they're going to be joining all of their customers on the soup kitchen line.

Maybe if Americans made more money, that would help? Maybe if our workers made a "living wage," so that they could buy food and pay rent and survive, rather than not being able to afford those things? Maybe if we even took a conservative approach—start out by, say, mandating that workers on projects funded with lots of public money be paid at least ten bucks an hour?

Oh...Bloomberg's going to veto that one. Business owners (except Bloomberg) are not made of money! Who can afford to pay ten bucks an hour, these days? Everyone is too broke for that.

Better to keep the wages low and make up the difference in food stamps.

[Photo: Jeffrey Beall/ Flickr]