Because reading comprehension seems to be at a premium

by Karoli on March 19, 2011 · 10 comments

Note: I’ve updated this post to include the full quote, since Lee Stranahan seems to think that somehow changes the meaning of things. It doesn’t. This whole post was all about how $21 in one’s pocket can be a crime, even if the law doesn’t say “crime”. The term “prohibit” carries a counterweight called “consequence.” Had Stranahan bothered to read what I actually wrote, he wouldn’t have had to sic the Breitbots out with their peculiar invective.

Also? As expected, Stranahan puts the focus on those of us who actually bother to point out the malfeasance of the right. Stranahan, a self-proclaimed lefty, devotes the majority of his words and time to ginning up malfeasance of the left. With friends like him, none of us need enemies.

See this title?  War On The Poor: Minnesota Republicans Want To Bust Poor People Who Carry Cash | Crooks and Liars

That title was written by Susie Madrak in a post at C&L yesterday. And here’s what Susie said:

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:

Here’s the piece of the article Susie quoted:

[added 3/21] 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.

House File 171 would make it so that families on MFIP – and disabled single adults on General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid – could not have their cash grants in cash or put into a checking account. Rather, they could only use a state-issued debit card at special terminals in certain businesses that are set up to accept the card.

The bill also calls for unconstitutional residency requirements, not allowing the debit card to be used across state lines and other provisions that the Welfare Rights Committee and others consider unacceptable.

Buechner testified, “We’ll leave you with this. It is not right to punish a whole group because of the supposed actions of a few. You in this room could have a pretty rough time if that was the case. It is not right to stigmatize and dehumanize women living the hard life of trying to raise children while living 60% below the poverty level. It is not right to use racist, bumper-sticker hate to inflict human misery for political gain.”

Nowhere in that paragraph quoted or Susie’s opener does she say anything about being arrested. She does talk about being busted, and rightly so. However, some have interpreted her post and use of the word “busted” in particular as “arrested”.  This law clearly attempts to criminalize the poor by suggesting that if they could actually get more than $20 in cash, they’d be committing fraud…buying drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, whatever. The underlying message: If you are poor enough to ask us for assistance, you are either an addict, a ne’er-do-well, a smoker, or an alcoholic, and so we, the state will track and limit what you do.

If you actually visit the Minnesota House legislative site and look up the proposed law, it looks so benign. How could it possibly be spun into criminalization of poverty by liberals? Or “lockstep liberals”, as one used-to-be-a-liberal-until-Breitbart-hired-him type characterized us last night.

To be fair, you should also watch the video of the committee hearings on the bill and accompanying legislation for Minnesotans on Medicaid and other relief programs. That would be the video where they talk about profiling recipients in advance to pre-identify fraudsters so they can watch them and bust them as soon as they hand them their bright, shiny, new state-issued debit card which can only be used at state-approved vendors.

So now we’ve established the fact that those who misstate what Susie wrote are the ones lying, not Susie. But this is bigger than Susie. Let’s talk about how the dude with $21 bucks in his pocket becomes a criminal. Keep that pre-identification/profiling thing in the back of your mind.

He/She becomes a criminal if those who review purchase records decide purchases don’t square with expected purchases fitting that particular recipient profile. Part of the requirements of this proposed law is for recipients of aid to use state-issued cards only at state-approved vendors using state-approved equipment, something most regular debit card holders don’t worry about. You don’t think there’s intent to track purchases? What if the state decides all purchases should be of state-approved products? There goes the farmers’ market purchases. No fresh fruit or veggies for you! How long before it’s also state-approved products?

What about bus passes? If they’re not sold via state-approved vendors, then what? No job hunt for you, madam, you can’t get from here to there without a state-approved ATM at your disposal. Or what if, God forbid, they decided to look for a job in a neighboring state? No, no…can’t use those cards out of state, not even for transportation back to your home state. Child care payments? Nah, none of that for you.

Those are just a few of the ways to take what appears to be a benign measure and turn it into a war on the poor.

The larger message to these poor people really is this: If you’re going to take our hard-earned money because you’re a slacker, then you give up your dignity, your right to privacy, and a presumption of innocence. This is the message conservatives in Minnesota fully intend to convey.

Ironically, some apologists out there slamming Susie and others as “lockstep liberals” are the same ones who were most in need not that long ago. Now that they’ve moved beyond that and found better circumstances, they’ve become a bit mean-spirited and even selfish. What was good enough for them isn’t good enough for anyone else. I don’t claim to understand that, but there it is.

Whether you’re against assistance to the poor or not, there is a reality in this country right now. There are poor people. There are no jobs for them. Maybe they’re disabled, too. Maybe they’re sick. Maybe they’re taking care of sick people. Maybe they’re just scratching through with what they can find when they can find it. Maybe they even get paid ten bucks in cash from time to time to fix a fence or walk some dogs. Whatever their circumstances, it is selfish and mean-spirited to construct laws which shove them into a pigeonhole as slackers and leeches.

Just because you’re not there doesn’t mean you couldn’t be. Too many are there. And too many more are trying to shove them into a permanent parking space there. But let’s at least require those doing the shoving to read the actual words written in front of them instead of projecting their own.

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