This Is Class Warfare

[Content Note: Class warfare; choice policing; poverty.]

In yesterday's In the News, I linked a piece about several state proposals to limit the food choices of recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), i.e. food stamps.

Today, I read this piece about a proposal in Kansas which would limit how recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), i.e. welfare, are able to spend their government assistance:
If House Bill 2258 is signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) this week, Kansas families receiving government assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state's dime.

Those are just a few of the restrictions contained within the measure that promises to tighten regulations on how poor families spend their government aid.

State Sen. Michael O'Donnell, a Wichita Republican who has advocated for the bill, said the legislation is designed to pressure those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to spend "more responsibly."

"We're trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended," O'Donnell, vice chair of the state senate's standing committee on public health and welfare, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life."
Bullshit. BULLSHIT. If the TANF program was about "prosperity" and "having a great life," then the payments would be enough so that people could prosper and have a great life, in whatever way they define that for themselves. But, as it is, the payments are barely enough to ensure that the people reliant on them can fucking survive month to month, no less build up meaningful savings, a nest egg, a personal safety net.

The law prohibits recipients from spending any money at all "on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics" or at a "theme park, dog or horse racing facility, parimutuel facility, or sexually oriented business or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment, or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted."

So, if you don't have healthcare coverage for physical therapy, and treat aches and pains and misalignments by going to a private masseur, you're shit out of luck.

If you're addicted to tobacco or alcohol, you're shit out of luck.

If you want to take your kid to a theme park for their birthday, or an arcade, you're shit out of luck.

If you are getting married, and wanted to have a bachelor or bachelorette party at a club or a bar, you're shit out of luck.

Basically, if you thought that you were an adult human being with dignity who should get to spend your money however damn well you want to spend it, you're shit out of luck.

Further, the bill "limits TANF recipients from withdrawing more than $25 per day from ATMs." You know, to make sure they're "responsible." Never mind that even responsible people have emergencies, and sometimes need to spend more than $25 on one urgent purchase.

This is despicable. Just utterly infantilizing, dehumanizing shit.
The measure was passed by the Kansas House and Senate last week and is widely supported by Republicans, who control both legislative chambers, according to the AP.

Brownback is expected to sign the bill, according to reports, though spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor plans to review the measure carefully. If the bill is signed, the AP noted, the law will take effect July 1.

"The governor believes strongly that employment is the most effective path out of poverty and he is supportive of work requirements that help people become self-sufficient," she said in a statement.
And, apparently, he is supportive of choice-policing garbage that Boostraps Bullshitters think will shame people into magically becoming wealthy.

Look, taxpayers' money being used for welfare is not the same as people giving money to charity, and they need to stop acting like it is. If you donate your money to a charitable organization, that organization has a charter which delineates how contributions will be spent and is thus answerable if they are misspent.

But when your tax dollars are disseminated to people in need of government assistance, you don't get any say in how that money is spent. At least, you shouldn't. Because their choices are none of your fucking business, and because respecting the right of adult humans to make decisions for themselves is both the decent thing to do and part of how adults, given the opportunity, do learn to prosper and become responsible.

And, for the record, when you've got no meaningful disposable income, treating yourself to pierced ears or a tattoo or a day at the spa or a night at a casino is hardly "irresponsible," when that little bit of indulgence, in lieu of a holiday people with more money can afford, is the only thing standing between you and total emotional collapse. So fuck this sanctimonious judgment.

I have nothing but undiluted contempt for anyone who would lay the blame for entrenched poverty at the feet of aid recipients, belligerently dismissing them as intrinsically unhelpable without legal constrictions on their spending, because they haven't demonstrated sufficient ability to overcome heaping fuckloads of privileged exploitation and institutional neglect to satisfy wealthy legislators' pithy, ignorant expectations.

This isn't about helping anyone. It's about punishing people for being poor.

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