It’s not a crime to be poor. Yet.


You’ve gotta feel bad for the Minnesota Republican Party. Flip just 5,000 votes in the last gubernatorial election, and they’d be the ones gleefully dismantling civil society piece by piece. But no. Tom Emmer had to lose, and now Wisconsin Republicans – frickin’ Wisconsin – get to be the poster children for the Republicans’ war on everyone who isn’t a multimillionaire.

Well, the Minnesota GOP may not be able to enact the kind of hateful, spite-filled legislation that’s turned Scott Walker into a national pariah, but by cracky, they’re going to at least force Mark Dayton to veto their viciousness:

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.

And of course, I’m sure those business would be able to enroll for free. And I’m sure that there’d be no kind of gaming the system to steer these funds to businesses that gave money to the right people. Of course this wouldn’t be a gateway to massive corruption.

But far more offensive than the fact that this would set things up nicely for those lucky, GOP-connected businesses who got in on the ground floor is the assertion that all those poor people are using their public assistance on booze and cigarettes.

First off, what if they are? I know, this shows I’m just a crazy socialist, but I really don’t care if a poor person takes their meager assistance and buys a beer or a smoke with it. Is it purely necessary for survival? Folks, very little in our lives is “purely necessary” for survival. But seriously, have we reached a point where we get angry if the poor have even the slightest moment of relaxation?

Yes. Of course we have. Silly of me to ask.

Second, is there any evidence of the massive fraud that the GOP alleges? As usual, no, there isn’t.

And third, and most important – what does it benefit us to keep those on public assistance from having cash? Leave aside the corruption angle. As Freakout Nation points out, this would effectively bar those on assistance from using public transportation. Which would kind of make it difficult for them to, you know, find a job or get an education or do anything but walk to the government-sanctioned poor person store on the corner, which charges 350% more than Target, but you can’t use your debit card at Target, now, can you?

Aid to the most desperately needy in our society doesn’t just benefit them. The money they spend on food and shelter (and yes, the occasional candy bar or cigarette) helps to support businesses. That money then can be used by businesses to expand their operations, to hire new employees, and to help people get off of assistance.

Yes, there’s a point at which a safety net becomes too comfortable. But the Minnesota GOP is now looking to make the safety net a noose, strangling those who dare to use it. Again and again, it’s a class war – with the rich attacking everyone else. I’m just glad, as ever, that we elected Mark Dayton.