Conservatives are being mean to people again. Yesterday, an Assembly committee held a hearing on proposals to place a few new restrictions on recipients of Unemployment, welfare and food stamps in Wisconsin. They would include drug testing to receive benefits (with treatment provided to those who fail) and tighter limits on what can be purchased with the ETF cards provided to those in the Foodshare program.
Personally, I have a bit of a problem with the drug testing requirement--as other states have found out that relatively few people fail. That would seem to make it a waste of money. However, when you talk with employers in this area, they still find the majority of applicants can't pass a pre-employment drug screening--so maybe the threat of testing for benefits actually does serve a purpose other than to catch dopers and crackheads.
My favorite measure though, is the new limits on what you can buy with food stamps. That is where Democrats accuse Republicans of "being mean". Shellfish like crab, lobster and shrimp would no longer be qualifying purchases. Democrats are quick to claim that nobody is buying lobster with FoodShare cards. However, audits and media reports seem to indicate the opposite--as it is not the people actually filing the claims for benefits that are making those purchases, but rather the people buying the cards on the illegal secondary sales market. You see, all a person has to do is claim they "lost" their original ETF card and they get a new one--which is reloaded with the full value that the fraudster just got cash for on Facebook and Craigslist.
The Wisconsin GOP is not alone in their "mean-spiritedness". Kansas just passed sweeping welfare reform that included legislation banning the use of government-issued ETF cards at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs. Democrats there have also cried foul, accusing the Republicans of trying to legislate against a person's "right to have fun" regardless of income. There are also jokes that lawmakers themselves shouldn't be allowed to spend their government-provided income at such places either--just to make things "fair". I have seen here in Wisconsin liquor stores with "We accept FoodShare" signs in their windows--plausibly for the large selection of "nuitritious food items" that populate two shelves in the whole store. And there isn't a casino in the state that doesn't have ATM's loaded with cash--that likely don't know the difference between a card issued by a bank or one issued by a government agency.
But to bring this to a point, if you gave the same amount of money to charities to help the poor and unemployed as you did to Uncle Sam and the state for similar programs, would you have no problem if the charity gave the people it helped money to buy drugs? Would you be okay if it set up tables at strip clubs and casinos to help those who "can't quite make it rain" or who are "just one slot machine pull away from striking it rich"? And would you write a check to fund a "all you can eat steak and lobster dinner for your friends" event at the soup kitchen? Well apparently if you aren't willing to do that, you are just a really mean person.