[promoted from the diaries-- streiff]
As part of the Left's ongoing quest to make every attempt at welfare reform look like the opening scene from Oliver Twist, Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars has written a profoundly misleading and wrong-headed piece that might better have been entitled "Please Sir, Can I Have Some More Cash?"
Relying heavily on unimpeachable sources such as FightBack!News ("News and Views from the Peoples' Struggle") Ms. Madrak weaves a tale in which Minnesota has surpassed Fascist Arizona in sheer villainy with its now infamous "Show Me Your Paper Money" law. On the off-chance you haven't heard of this law, and aren't already vibrating with outrage, Ms. Madrak is quick to enlighten you.
They're not just crazy, they're evil — and un-Christian, should they have the audacity to claim otherwise. If only we could force them to live like this, they wouldn't last a week:
"St. Paul, MN - Minnesota Republicans are pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. This represents a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any money at all."
[From "Minnesota Republicans say: Poor people with money should be outlaws" — FightBack!News]
The apparent source of this whisper down the lane exercise was one Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee who testified on March 15 in front of the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee:
Buechner told committee members, “We would like to address the provision that makes it illegal for MFIP [one of Minnesota’s welfare programs] families to withdraw cash from the cash portion of the MFIP grant - and in fact, appears to make it illegal for MFIP families to have any type of money at all in their pockets. [Emphasis mine.]
It should be axiomatic by now that what appears to be true to groups like the Welfare Rights Committee isn't necessarily the reality of things, and that rhetorical flourishes — to put the most charitable face on Ms. Buechner's remarks — such as these should not be presented as undisputed fact, but I don't get the feeling Ms. Madrak and her comrades spend a whole lot of time pondering issues of logic.
Instead, like other such sober and measured assertions ("Republicans Want to Beat Poor People with Flat Stick!" comes to mind) this one predictably went viral more or less immediately. Unhappily for the Keebler cookie elves who dutifully reproduce such things the story is palpably false.
Not that a web site offering "News and Views from the Peoples' Struggle" shouldn't always be taken at face value, but perhaps if Ms. Madrak had taken a quick peek at the actual bill -- before picking up the cudgels -- it might have dawned on her that the chroniclers of the peoples' struggle had let her down this time.
Section 1. [256.9870] ELECTRONIC BENEFIT TRANSFER DEBIT CARD.
Subdivision 1. Electronic benefit transfer or EBT debit card. (a) Electronic benefit transfer (EBT) debit cardholders in the general assistance program and the Minnesota supplemental aid program under chapter 256D and programs under chapter 256J are prohibited from withdrawing cash from an automatic teller machine or receiving cash from vendors with the EBT debit card. The EBT debit card may only be used as a debit card.
Beginning July 1, 2011, cash benefits for programs listed under paragraph (a) must be issued on a separate EBT card with the head of household's name printed on the card. The card must also state that "It is unlawful to use this card to purchase tobacco products or alcoholic beverages." This card must be issued within 30 calendar days of an eligibility determination. During the initial 30 calendar days of eligibility, a recipient may have cash benefits issued on an EBT card without the recipient's name printed on the card. This card may be the same card on which food support is issued and does not need to meet the requirements of this section.
Notwithstanding paragraph (a), EBT cardholders may opt to have up to $20 per month accessible via automatic teller machine or receive up to $20 cash back from a vendor.
Please note the remarkable absence of references to grandpa shelling out $21 in crumpled one dollar bills for the kids' ice-cream (in the same imaginary Baskin Robbins where our president spends most of his time) and suffering a living hell of prosecution and public humiliation as a consequence.
In fact, you can examine this passage with any number of decryption algorithms and you won't find anything remotely resembling a penalty on how much cash a public assistance recipient can have on him at any given time. What you will find is an altogether sensible, and probably way overdue, prohibition against converting the electronic equivalent of food stamps into untraceable cash.
Put more bluntly, when abuses — like using the EBT card to get tattoos — are so flagrant that local news outlets are catching on, people's noses -- especially those people whose taxes are actually paying for those tattoos -- get out of joint. It's nothing personal, it's not about your body design decisions. It's just that if you want "Born to Raise Hell" carved into your arm you should pony up the cash yourself, as well as sufficient cash for whatever distilled beverage makes that seem like a good idea.
The fact that government stewards would actually want some accountability and control over how taxpayer money is spent exercises Ms. Madrak no end. How will these people pay their bills, ride the bus, live a LIFE for God's sake?
Angel Buechner again:
How do you expect people to take care of business like paying bills such as lights, gas, water, trash and phone?”[...]
And Freakout Nation:
GOPers in Minnesota seem to be suffering from memory loss; an unemployed person has to utilize public transit to go out in the world and be proactive in seeking work. Instead, they present the poor with isolation, not letting them use their debit card, sit home and not seek employment. The poor can stay poor because they don’t give a damn.
Again, this is basically about food stamps – particular delivery system notwithstanding – and the wild and crazy notion that they should be used essentially for -- oh I don't know -- food. The idea that recipients have a God-given right to use the EBT card as a kind of rolling slush fund evinces a form of memory loss well in excess of anything the GOP is capable of. As these self-appointed defenders of the downtrodden well know -- even as they spin these Dickensian scenarios -- there is an array of other programs that the truly needy (and, unfortunately, some not so needy) can tap into that have nothing to do with the bill in question.
But that's not the most egregious falsehood.
While this will doubtless come as a bolt out of the blue to Ms. Madrak and her ilk, people – even poor people – are not helpless. They are not merely passive receptacles of government largesse, and, given half a chance, will make economic decisions that will keep a roof over their head and the lights on. Someone who is truly looking for work will scare up the bus fare to go to an interview. Someone who needs to keep his telephone connected will cut the cable for a while. (Susie, I know it will come as a shock to you that the poorest among us have amenities unavailable to all but the wealthiest in truly poor nations, but cope.)
But inasmuch as this does not conform to the Left's default scenario of evil plutocrats in stove-pipe hats tying poor people to the railway tracks it will be largely ignored. Disinformation is a terrible thing to waste.
(Cross-posted at NewsReal Blog.)