Keeping the poor in their place

By Rod Haxton, editor

Have you ever had one of those days when you’re waiting in line for your psychic reading and wondering just how much shorter the line would be if all those welfare recipients weren’t already ahead of you, spending their food stamp money so they can get some inside knowledge about Saturday’s winning Lotto numbers?

And who hasn’t been to a travel agency booking their Caribbean cruise, worried that the people in the cabin next door will be Kansas welfare recipients who should have spent that money on food and clothes for their kids?

Be honest, now. You know that’s crossed your mind.

And if it hasn’t, we can be thankful that we have Kansas legislators and staff members with the Kansas Department of Children and Families who are thinking for us. They have decided it is well past time to slam the door on poor people who are wildly spending welfare dollars at casinos, liquor stores and strip bars.

Newly passed legislation will ban people who receive money through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (food stamps) from using the money at liquor stores, massage parlors, movie theaters, theme parks, swimming pools and cruise ships, among other places.

It’s easy to see how people would feel a little uneasy about welfare recipients spending money at Denver’s Coors Field ($102.25, according to Kansas Watchdog). The way the Rockies have played the last couple of years, just going to Coors Field can make you an accessory to a crime.

Other than a questionable taste in sports teams, what’s more interesting is the spending patterns of Kansas welfare recipients. During the three month period in which Kansas Watchdog collected data, 44.4% of the questionable spending went to smoke shops and 15% was spent at liquor stores while another 19.7% was cash advances, which presumably was spent on liquor and tobacco.

Apparently, this abuse of welfare spending isn’t happening at health clubs and nutrition centers.

Would lawmakers feel better if TANF recipients were spending their money at the local YMCA or for a gym membership?

And do we really want our kids going to the local swimming pool and seeing their young friends on welfare (yes, we know who you are because we talk about you at the dinner table)? That sends the message that you can be on welfare and be . . . well, you know . . . human . . . which is exactly the wrong message we want for our kids. It would be a far better learning experience if all these young welfare recipients had to stand outside the swimming pool with their long faces pressed against the chain link fence wishing they could join their friends.

We should feel fortunate in Kansas that we have lawmakers who understand the valuable life lesson that comes from humiliation. It’s in all of our interests to more clearly identify the haves from the have-nots.

Unfortunately, not everyone understands that.

Lawmakers and the Kansas DCF have come under a lot of criticism from the national media and late-night talk show hosts. It didn’t escape the attention of the legislature’s critics that two things missing from the long list of prohibited spending were guns and ammo.


In other words, a welfare recipient will have no problem using TANF money to purchase a weapon because, as DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed explained, “A gun could be used by a family . . . to hunt for food . . .” which is what a lot of Kansans are accustomed to doing.

This is where Kansas law just keeps getting better and better. Not only can a welfare recipient buy a gun, but they can soon enjoy the same privilege as their non-welfare neighbors by not being required to go through the hassle of being trained in how to use it.

That eight hours of firearms instruction which had been required to get a concealed-carry permit can be much better spent elsewhere, according to Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady (R-Palco). The class was simply the state “lecturing you what you should and should not do,” explained Couture-Lovelady.

The best experience, says Couture-Lovelady, is to actually go out and start shooting stuff.

When we were in high school we made that same argument about driver’s ed. Instead of being in the classroom, we felt our time would have been much better spent driving down a highway at 70 mph and learning on the fly.

Obviously, we were way ahead of our time. Or we can blame our Founding Fathers for not putting some provision in the Constitution which guaranteed our right to drive a horseless carriage.

This is what makes Kansas politics so intriguing and, at the same time, leaves it dripping with hypocrisy.

We want the government to keep its distance when it comes to protecting the right of everyone and anyone to carry a gun, regardless of their ability to handle such a weapon. Because, as Couture-Lovelady makes clear, “The government should trust its citizens.”

Of course, he wasn’t referring to all citizens.

You can’t be trusted if you’re a Kansan without a job, a Kansan who requires some assistance to feed yourself and your family, or a poor Kansan who, once in awhile, doesn’t want to be made to feel so poor, so they want to send their kids to a swimming pool, or they want to buy a six-pack of beer or even go to a movie.

That’s too bad for you, but not for the rest of us.

We will soon be able to enjoy shorter lines at Madame Ufraine’s tattoo and psychic readings shop, seating won’t be near as hard to find at the Boot Hill Casino slot machines and movie theaters will be less crowded.

It doesn’t mean that you’re any less poor or that there are fewer of you around. Think of it as an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach to poverty.

You know how that works . . . as long as you’re out of sight, you’re out of our minds.

Rod Haxton can be reached at

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