Monday, April 1, 2013

The worst "get people off welfare" proposal I've ever seen

Sometimes, you read about legislative proposals and wonder just what heartless idiot came up with that hideously awful idea. Like this one out of Tennessee. This proposal would tie a family's Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, aka welfare) benefits to the academic achievements of school children. If the kids don't test well enough, benefits cut. By 20%. Gee, that's a great idea!

We should definitely make children responsible for the financial welfare of the family. Children who might already be struggling in school should absolutely have more pressure put on them. Children whose families are in such straits that they need to turn to public assistance should without question have to share the burden.

Good grief. Happily, the legislation has at least been amended to exclude students with learning disabilities or individualized education programs (IEP). So that's an improvement. Of course, that means that the original heartless idiot(s) who came up with this idea didn't exclude those children. I guess that was just to make it clear that the drafters really are total jerks. I find it interesting that the two legislators who proposed this bill into the two houses of the Tennessee legislator never returned calls for comment. Perhaps because they know perfectly well this proposal is indefensible. Not to mention illogical, because if the idea is that cutting the families' benefits will push parents to push their children to academic success, it's going to fail. Because the two most obvious results of cutting benefits will be a) that parents have to work more and are thus around for their children even less and b) that families will have less money for food, which won't help children make up academic ground as proper nutrition is tied to academic success.

I understand getting frustrated with parents who don't provide good support for their children. But there are so, so many flaws with this discriminatory, misguided approach. First, it assumes that people who fall on hard times and need a little assistance to get by are the parents who need incentives to help their children succeed in school. What incentives exist for self-sufficient parents to help their children achieve academic success? Why not a tax penalty for parents who aren't receiving TANF benefits and whose children don't achieve the set level of proficiency? The sad underlying assumption to this proposal is that people on TANF are failures in general who won't work, won't take responsibility for their children, and are nothing more than drains on society destined to raise the next generation of worthless drains on society.

If children are really being raised by such worthless drains on society, wouldn't it make more sense to help those kids, rather than send them further into poverty? If parents turn out to be so irresponsible that they let their children fail at school, maybe we should find ways to provide the support their worthless parents won't?   Why should we insist that the children pay the price for the sins of the parents? Decent, compassionate human beings get that this proposal would only harm the very children most at risk that the bill's House sponsor claims to be concerned about. Rep. Dennis wants to target the "parents who do nothing." But if the parents already "do nothing" to help their children, what makes him think this bill will change them?

This proposal is the disgraceful work of heartless idiots. I just can't believe this proposal can go anywhere. Please reassure me that there aren't enough heartless idiots out there to let something like this pass.

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