It is beyond refute that Republicans have devised some truly cruel means of stealing from taxpayers and the poor to enrich their donors in the corporate world, the wealthy and banking industry. Although there is no shortage of examples of Republicans at the national and state level who find a way, and excuse, to transfer money directly from taxpayers and the poor to their donors, one of the leaders is Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.
Brownback has successfully tanked the Kansas economy by creating a revenue shortfall with outrageous tax cuts for the rich that has cost the state several credit downgrades, massive education and social service cuts, and on pace for bankruptcy. Now, Brownback’s Republicans have imposed an inordinately cruel measure to steal taxpayer money from welfare recipients and hand it to the banking industry under the guise of putting an end to their blatantly luxurious lifestyles and help them get off welfare and enter Kansas’ non-existent private job market.
It is noteworthy that Brownback touts his ‘social conservative’ (evangelical extremist) bona fides as his finest attribute, but unlike his Jesus, he is stealing from the needy to profit the banking industry in what has to be one of the cruelest tactics Republicans have come up with yet. To be fair, Brownback’s latest ploy is being put in place in several states and it is allegedly to keep welfare recipients, mostly the unemployed, the elderly and children from spending their paltry monthly allotment on luxuries. Brownback and his Republican disciples claim the new restrictions are a clever means of moving poor families from welfare to jobs. However, the evil incarnate in Brownback’s statement is that due to his epic trickle down cockup, Kansas jobs, like the state’s revenue streams, are virtually non-existent.
Kansas’ Draconian measure sets the cash limit welfare recipients can withdraw using a state-issued Electronic Benefit Card (EBC) at $25 per day. Forget that Kansas’ bank ATM’s do not dispense $5 dollar, or $25, bills thus reducing a recipients daily withdrawal limit to $20. According to bankrate.com, the average cash withdrawal fee using an EBC across America is $4.35 that on a $20 withdrawal in Kansas amounts to an over 20 percent levy on the poor; those who can least afford it. Worse, the limit also significantly harms welfare recipients’ spending patterns because regardless what hateful Republicans claim, the primary use of cash spending by the poor is to pay their rent; not exorbitant luxuries that Brownback and Republicans claim is one reason the new limit is necessary.
Kansas’ new law that Republicans claim warrant the $25 limit includes the most exhaustive list of spending curbs in America; this according to Republicans who are proud of their harsh new law. However, the same Republicans admit that they have no idea what kind of, or how many, luxury items and services the poor are spending on with the pittance they receive in assistance; especially in Kansas. Since they are unaware of just what kind of luxury items the poor are purchasing with state aid, Republicans argue it is best to preemptively prevent them from wasting tax dollars by limiting the daily amount of cash they can withdraw. According to advocates for low-income people, the poor spend what little they receive predominately on monthly rent.
According to the director of an advocacy group for low-income people (CLASP), Elizabeth Lower-Basch, the $25 per day limit “will significantly harm welfare recipients’ spending and is really disconnected from the reality of people’s lives. The single biggest expense that people have is rent, and the $25 limit will result in multiple trips to an ATM until the total amount of rent money is withdrawn. They’re just going to have to go every day to get their rent money. Also, no ATM gives you a $25 bill, so the real limit is $20. It’s a mess.” No, the real limit is $16 after subtracting the bank fees for every cash withdrawal with the government-issued social assistance cards. The banks are accruing millions of dollars each year in taxpayer money that is meant to assist those who need it most and banks do not need it at all.
As an example of bank profits at the expense of taxpayer-provided assistance, California welfare recipients spent $19 million on bank fees last year. The fees charged by banks are nothing more than an effective means of shifting public funds from those who need it most to banks according to a report from the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC). In fact, according to the CRC, an advocacy organization for low-income families, banks in most states charge a minimum of $4 to use an Electronic Benefit Card at an ATM. It is what the report said is basically an extra “tax on the poor because they are charged every time they withdraw funds from the ATM.” So in Kansas’ case, recipients can only withdraw less than $16 daily and as Lower-Basch stated, since “welfare benefits are not very high in the first place, this is just a means for banks to take money out of poor people’s pockets.” It is certainly a fact that is not lost on Sam Brownback and Kansas Republicans who have spent four years taking money from Kansas residents to enrich corporations, banks, and the wealthy; taking money from welfare recipients is just the next logical step for Republicans.
As one expects, a cretin like Brownback does what Republicans and evangelical extremists do best; lied through his teeth about why Republicans imposed a Draconian measure like a daily withdrawal limit on welfare recipients. Brownback said the only purpose of taxing the poorest people in Kansas, effectively slashing the value of what little assistance they get by 20 percent to enrich banks is “to get people off of public assistance and into private-sector employment; we’ve had a lot of success with that.”
Kansas’ job numbers tell a different story and Brownback knows it because just one of the highly-public and adverse effects of his failed trickle down experiment of giving outrageous tax cuts to the rich is that Kansas’ job creation lags the rest of the nation as well as the region. It is likely that besides a new and novel way of transferring taxpayer money intended to help the poor directly to banks, this new harsh and cruel law, and Brownback’s lies defending it, are distractions from the increasingly disastrous state of Kansas’ economy. If the cruel law can hurt the poor and enrich the banks in the process, then it is a distraction other Republican states with economic woes will soon be implementing.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.