When I think back about growing up poor in a family of four children raised by a single mother who only earned $12,000 annually even with a college degree (thanks gender pay gap! You taught me to do less with more!), I think, if only there had been more threats in place to take away what paltry assistance we could get to actually eat, then surely we'd have rallied harder to make sure my sister didn't fail math.
And I'm not the only one, pa! Stacey Campfield thinks so too! Yes, his proposal to deny welfare payments to families if their children can't get their shit together at school — SB 132 — has been roundly and appropriately mocked and scorned. Yet it has bewilderingly been approved by committees in the state House and Senate last week. Someone tell me this is all just an April Fool's joke?
Nope, as the Knox News Sentinel reported on joke-free March 31:
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.
As amended, it would not apply when a child has a handicap or learning disability or when the parent takes steps to try improving the youngster’s school performance — such as signing up for a “parenting class,” arranging a tutoring program or attending a parent-teacher conference.
Dennis told the House Health Subcommittee the measure now only applies to “parents who do nothing.” He described the measure as “a carrot and stick approach.”
Ohh, I get it, the parents who do NOTHING. Which ones are they? The ones who are working shit jobs for little pay, are possibly depressed, are in a cycle of poverty themselves, lack the time off or resources to hire a tutor, take time out of work to have parent-teacher conferences, or sign up for parenting classes? (Being poor, after all, is no leisure-suited barrel of monkeys.) Yes, let's give them another series of inconvenient hoops to jump through to get that assistance. Any way we can add more shame and stigma to the mix? I don't think they feel bad enough about how awful they are yet.
You know, Stacey Campfield, one man's parent who does nothing is another man's parent who needs more resources, not fewer. Although, let's be honest, the majority of these people will be women. Single mothers barely getting by. We love to teach those women a lesson for raising children without men.
But now that I think about it, this idea makes sense. Pulling the rug out from under people who are already standing on bare thread fits with the notion that poor people are lazy instead of disadvantaged. And this kind of dehumanizing way of regarding those who are least fortunate and in greatest need of resources among us is an incredibly convenient mental sleight of hand to pull, right before you screw someone over.
That well-regarded carrot and stick approach, indeed — if by carrot and stick you mean the carrot is removed and instead replaced with the services you already qualified for, not a "reward." The stick, of course, is just there to scare the shit out of you.