You Are Dumb, which is not a blog, posts new columns every weekday, except for a couple of days each month when it doesn't. It is also a Twitter feed, @youaredumb, with content in a similar vein but much shorter. My spinoff food site, Forkbastard, can be found easily enough by the clever.
Archive - Apr 25, 2011
Memo to Minnesota Republicans and Bruce Casswell: ISN'T BEING POOR OR PARENTLESS ENOUGH?
The difference between the left and the right is often portrayed as big government vs. small government, but we all know that's not true. The true difference is the belief in who government should assist and who government should punish. It boils down to which side the government should take in the class war.
Class warfare is not a pejorative. It's not something that one side can bring about, or decide to start waging on the other. Class warfare is the natural state of affairs. When government takes the side of the poor against the rich, a sort of cold war detente is achieved, because you have two roughly equal forces (government and raw capitalism) in opposition to each other. Put government and capitalism on the same side, and what you have isn't even really class warfare. It's class genocide. And here's what the class atrocities look like.
In Minnesota, poor families on public assistance receive a couple hundred bucks a month in cash benefits. Cash benefits are, as the name indicates, cash. It's a couple hundred bucks a month to spend on stuff, because people need stuff. They need a little help with the rent. They need to buy stamps. They need to do laundry. Survival may only require food, clothing, and shelter, but unless you plan to keep poor people in zoos or labor camps, actual day to day living requires a bit more. Hence, cash benefits.
Decades of Republican anti-welfare propaganda, however, have given people the idea that the government should be able to control, to a greater and greater extent, exactly how poor people spend their benefits, so that poor people don't dare spend any TAXPAYER DOLLARS for unapproved luxuries like cigarettes, cheap beer, or anything else that might distract them from their lives.
Which is why Republicans in Minnesota have recently proposed doing away with the cash benefit entirely, and issuing benefits solely in the form of debit cards. Most of the benefits are delivered that way now, but under the new law, no more than $20 per month could be withdrawn in cash. So if you want to wash your clothes, you'd better hope you find a laundromat willing to spend the money to get a terminal that lets you redeem your benefits there. Want to pay your phone bill? Better hope the phone company takes the benefits. or that the post office takes it to let you buy the stamps you need to mail the bill with some money you hopefully were able to scrape up from somewhere else.
The bill also requires all benefits to be spent in the state, because no poor people ever have to travel to other states where their relatives live. No, if any welfare benefits are spent outside Minnesota, it must be poor people taking extravagant vacations and blowing the $200/mo they get on Disneyworld tickets and surfing lessons.
These rules come from the same people who decided that we couldn't even decide how much cash corporations who received bailouts could hand out to their executives and employees. But it's fine to micromanage two hundred dollars that goes to a poor person. It's not big government and small government. It's whose side the government takes.
And of course, once you establish microscopic controls over the lives of ANY underprivileged person the government helps, you open the door to even more blatant atrocities by the haves against the have-nots. Which brings us to Idaho's Bruce Casswell, and his ridiculous proposal to save money on the care of foster children. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!
"I never had anything new. I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes."
And that's why, if Casswell has his way, foster children will only be allowed to wear clothing from thrift and second-hand stores.
Now, the problems with this from just a purely logistical standpoint are mind-boggling. Thrift stores are... thrift stores. They only sell what they get donated. So your kid wears a size six shoe. How much time do you have to spend looking for a decent pair of used size six shoes when everyone else is out doing the same thing, in order to save the state five dollars in clothing assistance versus a cheap pair of new shoes from Target? A store that can actually arrange to have nearly any size in stock all the time?
But more importantly, this is about making have-nots miserable. It's about making welfare as miserable as possible. It's about demonizing the poor so that the working poor and lower class resent them more than they resent the wealthy. It's about taking the side of the wealthy and giving them tax cuts, then using the deficits created by those tax cuts to justify further atrocities against the lives and the dignity of America's poor.
That's class warfare, plain and simple. And no matter how many victories the upper classes score, it will never be enough. We haven't even returned to the glory days of debtor's prisons yet. But don't think we won't get there if the haves have their way.