Let’s Criminalize Poverty

Everything you think you know about welfare is wrong.

 Recessions are just so darned entertaining. Every time we have one, two things happen. First, politicians try to deflect attention away from their fiscal failures by turning Americans against each other. Then the great American middle class gets an education. They find out that there is not a bottomless well with buckets of cash and free stuff for the taking.

 A segment of our elected representatives declares that the nation’s economic woes are the fault of GAAAAASSSSPPP!!!! POOR PEOPLE. They tell us that if we weren’t giving so much money away in “entitlements” we would all have high-paying jobs with oodles of fringe benefits. They tell us that the poor are somehow evil and inferior, but that poverty can’t get “us” because “we” are “better”. Slimy politicians create a fear of poverty and the poor, and then exploit it to benefit themselves and their corporate buddies. They construct barriers to public benefits at the exact moment when millions more people need those benefits to survive.

Unfortunately, there’s always a segment of the newly unemployed that falls for this malarkey. Public scorn and ridicule of “welfare recipients” always increase. Unemployment benefits eventually expire and a large chunk of the “deserving poor” apply for public assistance benefits through several programs. Then they are suddenly the “welfare recipients”. That’s where the education comes in. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard freshly minted public benefits consumers tell me that they’re not like “those people”. Sorry, folks, you’re just like them. They just got there before you did.

For the record:

Since 1996, able-bodied cash assistance recipients can collect benefits only for a maximum of 60 months in their lifetimes. Yes, really.

The average TANF household size is 2.37 people. The average monthly benefit is $455 per household. Every able-bodied adult TANF recipient must actively search for work or attend an approved education or training program.

The average SNAP (food stamp) household size is 2.16 people, and the average monthly household benefit is $289 per month or $1.49 per meal. 74 percent of SNAP benefits go to children, elderly, and the disabled. One third of eligible Americans do not participate in the SNAP (food stamp) program.

Contrary to what the republithugs tell you, ONLY American citizens and certain classes of LEGAL immigrants can receive public assistance benefits.

Right now, several bills pending before the Pennsylvania General Assembly are specifically designed to punish people for being poor.

Senate Bill 719 would require drug-testing and periodic re-testing of all cash assistance recipients in the state. Sure, I’ll go along with that – just as soon as Pennsylvania’s most famous welfare queens stand in line to urinate in a bottle.

Let’s see. That would give us:

Dan Rooney and family (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Bob Nutting (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Jeffrey Lurie (Philadelphia Eagles)

Ed Snider (Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers)

Bill Giles and David Montgomery (Philadelphia Phillies)

the Chief Executive Officers of every Marcellus Shale drilling company in the state

and the CEOs of Exxon Mobil, Bank of America, General Electric, Chevron, Boeing, Valera Energy, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Conoco Phillips, all of whom do business in the state.

Cash assistance benefits are distributed to recipients through debit cards that work at standard automatic teller machines and in-store cash register terminals. House Bill 800 would forbid cash assistance recipients from getting cash from their own benefit accounts. That means that they could only spend their benefits in approved stores. They would not be permitted to pay their rent, or utilities, or buy a bus pass. Do you really think that’s a good idea?

You can get more information on the other bills from Just Harvest.

Meanwhile, Governor Tom Corbett’s budget will cut one billion dollars from public education, thereby giving all of us a local tax increase. Now, how is anyone supposed to get a decent job without a decent education?

This is just another plank in the republithug platform of criminalizing the poor, public employees, and the middle class. They don’t believe that everyone who needs help now and then is lazy, stupid, and morally inferior. They want you to believe it.

Please don’t fall for it.

If you need help, you can look at the Government Benefits Eligibility Tool. The online questionnaire will give you links to all of the programs that you might qualify for. You don’t have to give your name or identify yourself in any way unless you actually apply for benefits.

For more information:

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Just Harvest

Food Research and Action Center

Pennsylvania General Assembly

Government Benefits Eligibility Tool

Unemployment Lifeline

If you want peace, work for justice

Contact your legislators

Read the U.S. Constitution


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s