Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback recently passed a law restricting what welfare recipients are allowed to spend their money on.
According to CNNMoney, the new restrictions will include luxuries such as alcohol, casinos, cruise ships and strip clubs. The law also limits welfare recipients from using their Electronic Benefit Transfer card (EBT) to withdraw $25 per day. Withdrawing $25 does not even make sense because ATMs dispense in multiples of 20 so there’s really no way to use the whole $25. Not to mention the average ATM in Kansas charges a $4 transaction fee, thus $25 quickly becomes $16. These are the laws in place now.
On the surface, there’s some logic behind what the Kansas government and Brownback are doing. If people on welfare are not allowed to enjoy life at all, they will be forced to get a real job and stop mooching off the system. However, what this law really does is enforce a harmful stereotype and stigma that already casts a shadow on the world of poverty.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 90 percent of welfare recipients are working, elderly, seriously disabled or children. In other words, the vast majority of people receiving help legitimately need the help. How insulting is it to assume people on welfare can’t be trusted to manage their own money? Do you know what struggling people are usually spending their money on? Rent and food. There aren’t many people abusing the system to go on cruises or casino trips. The “people on welfare are lazy” sentiment has been proven factually wrong, yet it still remains a calling card for the right to promote their anti-poor agendas.
According to Kansas.com writer Phillip Brownlee, there is one success story. Brownback keeps reciting to justify the new legislation. Valerie Cahill was once a welfare recipient, but she is now a government employee for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, which is the agency pushing for the new law. It’s pretty ironic that someone who benefited from welfare and never had to be told where to spend her money would now push for such a belittling law. And yes, good for Cahill. A rags-to-riches story is always nice when addressing large societal issues; cherry picking is never the logical way to establish an argument. Stories like Cahill’s aren’t common, nor do they provide any grounds for Brownback’s new laws.
Other GOP-led states have begun implementing similar laws to Kansas. Missouri is passing a law that will prevent welfare recipients from buying chips or soda. Maine is pushing to pass an almost identical legislation as Kansas. People on welfare are indeed people who need help. We don’t need to treat them like incapable, lesser citizens who can’t even be trusted to manage their own money.