I’m watching state after right-wing state in a competition to see who can be the most mean-spirited to people on government assistance.
A bill in Missouri would prevent people using food stamps from buying steak or seafood. A bill in Kansas would restrict people on public assistance from buying any kind of entertainment, going to psychics or having tattoos.
Under the bill, which passed last week by large majorities in both the House and Senate, public assistance recipients can’t spend their government aid on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics, according to CNN.
The bill also forbids spending the money at theme parks, dog or horse racing tracks, a “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.”
And it limits cash withdrawals of the funds to $25 a day, an attempt to prevent recipients from using their funds on inappropriate expenditures.
These are the same people complaining about how Democrats are setting up a “nanny state,” yet they have the temerity to tell poor people how they can and can’t spend the money they receive.
God forbid we should allow poor people to have any dignity.
As we cut taxes on the wealthy and refuse to increase minimum wage to make it even half of a true living wage, we become increasingly punitive toward the poor, while still hailing ourselves as a “Christian” nation.
I have news for the so-called Christians who seem to get a kick out of kicking the poor: Jesus would be ashamed of you.
If you go back and read about the man you supposedly follow, you’ll read about how he helped the poor, people with disabilities, mental illnesses and even leprosy, which was about as unclean as a person could get.
There was the woman who’s been bleeding (as in menstruating) for years. No one would go near her because she was unclean, but Jesus healed her.
Jesus reached out to “the least of these,” as are described in Matthew as people who are sick, hungry, thirsty, naked and in prison. And, he added, “whatever yo do unto the least of these, you do also unto me.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said it in another way in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.”
Instead of thinking poor people are somehow immoral, we should look at the circumstances that led them to be poor. Perhaps they’re working (most poor people do work) for minimum wage, which is less than half what it takes to live in just about every city in the nation. Perhaps they had huge medical bills after an accident or illness that was no fault of their own. Perhaps the family is headed by a single mom who has escaped a violent partner.
So many roads lead to poverty in this country, including the superhighway of low-wage work. The jobs that were lost in the 2008 economic meltdown have been replaced by low-wage jobs and states like North Carolina have cut unemployment compensation so far that people are forced to take these low-wage jobs or have no income at all.
So, we’re forcing people into poverty and then shaming them for being poor.
When I talk to conservatives about this, their answer is inevitably, “I know a guy who …”
Well, I know dozens of poor people. I work with them all the time, and almost every one of them works hard, or wants to.
I know people with illness or disability who would love to work but can’t. They’re lumped in with the “lazy” people who are working two or more minimum-wage jobs while trying to make ends meet.
The people we need to shame are the wealthy and the mean-spirited. We also need to tax the hell out of them. When we start doing that, we might see an improvement in the plight of the poor.