It will be interesting, to look back on this Minnesota legislative session and try to determine what, specifically, was the most preposterous, idiotic, and disgusting piece of GOP/teabagger-inspired legislation. Here’s a candidate:
On March 15, Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee testified in front of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee on House File 171. Buechner told committee members, “We would like to address the provision that makes it illegal for MFIP [one of Minnesota’s welfare programs] families to withdraw cash from the cash portion of the MFIP grant – and in fact, appears to make it illegal for MFIP families to have any type of money at all in their pockets. How do you expect people to take care of business like paying bills such as lights, gas, water, trash and phone?”
House File 171 would make it so that families on MFIP – and disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid – could not have their cash grants in cash or put into a checking account. Rather, they could only use a state-issued debit card at special terminals in certain businesses that are set up to accept the card.
The bill also calls for unconstitutional residency requirements, not allowing the debit card to be used across state lines and other provisions that the Welfare Rights Committee and others consider unacceptable.
One might question, upon reading the proposed legislation, where the “crime” part comes from. Here’s the deal. You couldn’t have more than $20 cash from your grant. Any financial source other than your grant has to be reported. So if you happen to have $20.01 cash to your name, and didn’t run right down to declare the excess, that’s “welfare fraud.”
More below the fold.
Any politically engaged progressive reading this, knows what this is really all about, to wit:
This is in line with the GOP’s successful brand of dog whistle politics. The inner-city “young buck” on welfare eating $20 t-bones while you work your butt off for that suburban McMansion is a staple. It’s not subtle — this is being spun as a way to keep recipients of public assistance from blowing it on beer and lotto tickets.
We can actually go a little further, in analyzing the psychology of this. Many people love to act all sanctimonious and self-righteous, at least partly as a way of trying to divert attention – their own attention, first and foremost – from the sad realities, the frustrated ambitions and forestalled dreams, of their own dreary lives. I recall seeing a letter to a newspaper advice columnist, years ago, from a teenaged girl who liked to wander around a local mall with a young child in a stroller. She was fed up with all the accusatory looks, shakes of the head, and tsk-tsking she got, from people who took for granted that she was an unwed teenaged mother. The young’n was, in fact, her brother, but people just had to jump to conclusions in order to enjoy the satisfaction of indulging in a little public shaming.
The idea that this legislation would do much of anything to help deal with Minnesota’s pressing issues, the Pawlenty Deficit and the sagging economy, is ludicrous. Here are the sorts of things, that need to be addressed. But that legislative GOPers will find some political courage and integrity, and do that, is most unlikely.