Kansas—the flat, dusty mecca for anyone that loves tornadoes and hates gays—is looking to make life for families on welfare just a little bit worse. Meaning that soon, families could be banned from using public funds on movies, baseball tickets, and pretty much anything falling under the category of "enjoyable."
The bill, which severely limits how families on government aid will and won't be able to spend the already meager sum, will very likely become a law if (republican) Governor Sam Brownback signs it later this week, as he's expected to. The nearly unprecedented statutes are, according to State Senator Michael O'Donnell, meant to corner struggling families into using their money "more responsibly."
While a few of the many no-no's (such as gambling and strip clubs) are somewhat understandable, far more just seem cruel. Among the various, banned purchases are:
- Concert tickets
- Lottery tickets
- Professional or collegiate sporting event tickets
- Tickets for other entertainment events intended for the general public
Additionally, families won't be able to use any of their government-granted funds in stores including—but not limited to:
- Video arcades
- Movie theaters
- Swimming pools
- Theme parks
- Jewelry stores
- Spas/nail salons
- Lingerie shops
- Psychics or fortune telling businesses
The argument, of course, is that families with low enough incomes to qualify for the program shouldn't be spending the $497 (max) they get a month on frivolities. But as state Representative Carolyn Bridges argued, "I just think we are simply saying to people, ‘If you are asking for assistance in this state, you’re sort of less than other people and we’re going to tell you how and where to spend your money.'"
In other words, the law would basically function under the assumption that people receiving welfare are irresponsible and incapable of making their own financial decisions. But not only would it be kicking these families while they're down—it would take away some of life's simplest, arguably necessary joys, too.
This isn't the first time a state has tried to impose absurd restrictions on its down-and-out. Just last month, Missouri sought to ban food stamp users from buying steak and seafood. And once again, conservative legislators are framing the bill as a service to the very people it effectively villainizes. As O'Donnell told the Topeka Capital-Journal, "This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life."