Are there no workhouses? by @BloggersRUs

Are there no workhouses?

by Tom Sullivan

Still from Oliver Twist (1948)

Remember, the leading lights of the Republican Party don't really care about the size of government spending. They care about into whose pockets that spending flows. Those who need it less should should get more. Those who need it more should get less. It's not the Laffer Curve, but it is laughable. And twisted.

Last week, the Trump administration approved Indiana's plan to require some Medicaid recipients "to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week" in exchange for benefits. Indiana joins Kentucky as the second state to require the poor to work to remain eligible for medical treatment. The demonstration project will exempt pregnant women, the “medically frail” and a few other categories. Given the sentiments behind the program, why is unclear.

Food is next. From the Boston Globe this week:

President Trump’s proposed budget released Monday reinforced the emerging theme, with cuts of $17 billion from the nation’s food stamp program, known as SNAP, next year and a claim that “millions of Americans are in a tragic state of dependency” on the federal government and should be funneled into the workforce.

Trump’s plan dovetails with proposals from House Republicans to reduce spending on entitlement programs, an initiative that House Speaker Paul Ryan recently branded as “workforce development.” GOP lawmakers acknowledge the phrase could make slashing eligibility more palatable to the broader public by focusing on the job requirements and job training aspects of their plans.


In his budget, Trump has also asked for a significant chunk of food stamp money to be delivered to the program’s 43 million recipients in the form of a box of food from the Department of Agriculture instead of money loaded on a debit card to be spent at the grocery store.

How the "America’s Harvest" boxes would be assembled and distributed, and how much they would cost compared to simply giving SNAP recipients debit cards, has not been thought through.

Ben Howe of the conservative Red State blog described it on MSNBC as a "Soviet-style" proposal.

Trump's unpopularity and his party's special election losses are not dissuading Republican lawmakers from attacking the vulnerable. They are doubling down..

Paul Waldman writes, "It can’t be said strongly enough: The difficulty of navigating these bureaucratic requirements, with all their forms and notifications and deadlines, is exactly the point." If Republicans cannot eliminate popular programs, they erect more barriers to using them. It's the same approach they use with voting.

Waldman continues:

This is generally presented to the public as a way of improving the lives of the program’s recipients by getting them to get jobs and become part of their communities. But the idea that getting health-care coverage through Medicaid somehow keeps people from seeking work is utterly ludicrous. First of all, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “nearly 8 in 10 [adults on Medicaid] live in working families, and a majority are working themselves.” And those that aren’t tend to have good reasons, like disability or caring for a loved one. Second, it just makes no sense. Nobody says, “I was going to get a job, but now that I’ve got this sweet health coverage, I don’t need to anymore!”

Meanwhile, a group of Republican states is asking the administration for permission to impose lifetime limits on Medicaid, which would inevitably leave millions of low-income people with no ability to get health-care coverage.

Republicans will sell these policies with various buzzwords. One is “reform.” Another is “welfare.”

The administration and its enablers in Congress now brand cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other government support systems as “welfare reform,” says Waldman, and "gullible reporters and editors" are already repeating the new GOP branding.

After years of Republican leaders condemning liberals for promoting a "nanny state," the Trump administration now makes it clear why they use that term as a pejorative. Nannies are typically women. Republican leaders prefers a daddy state where the poor will work when they are told or get no medicine, where they will eat what they are given and be grateful for it.

Grover Norquist famously wanted to roll back the 20th century, to restore America to the robber-baron greatness of the Gilded Age, with a William McKinley back in the White House as it was at the close of the Victorian era.

Perhaps the daddy party will bring back workhouses and have children with their small fingers assembling cell phones for sub-minimum wages to make America great again?

Democrats should vigorously oppose this cold vision of a society of, by, and for "the better half." It is a vision of a society where humans serve the economy and not the other way around. If it was not ultimately the founders' vision when they overthrew the British, it should have been. Two hundred forty-two years later, that's the country America's royals want back.

This November may be voters' last chance to tell them where to go.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.