Our Common Good

Last year, the Census Bureau began releasing the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) alongside the official measure its been using since the 1960s, in order to provide lawmakers with a more sophisticated picture of poverty in America. The Census Bureau today released its updated report on the SPM for 2012, which showed that about 16 percent of the country is living in poverty, roughly the same as last year. Using that new data, the Center for American Progress determined that federal programs aimed at helping low-income Americans — not including Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid — lifted more than 25 million people out of poverty in 2011

Seventy percent of counties with the fastest-growth in food-stamp aid during the last four years voted for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg. They include Republican strongholds like King County, Texas, which in 2008 backed Republican John McCain by 92.6 percent, his largest share in the nation; and fast-growing Douglas County, Colorado.

That means Romney is counting on votes from areas where lower-income people have become more reliant on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps. Mark Baisley, who heads Douglas County’s Republican Party, said many recipients will back Romney in hopes he’ll improve the economy.


A Pennsylvania House bill seeks to limit the amount of TANF assistance that low-income women receive based on the amount of children they give birth to while covered under the program.

Despite the fact that low-income women who give birth to children would logically need increased assistance to care for their larger family, Pennsylvania lawmakers — State Reps. Rose Marie Swanger (R), Tom Caltagirone (D), Mark Gillen (R), Keith Gillespie (R), Adam Harris (R), and Mike Tobash (R) — don’t want their state’s welfare program to provide additional benefits for that newborn. If a woman gives birth to a child who was conceived from rape, she may seek an exception to this rule so that her welfare benefits aren’t slashed, butonly if she can provide proof that she reported her sexual assault and her abuser’s identity to the police:

“In determining the amount of assistance payments to a recipient family of benefits under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program, the department shall revise the schedule of benefits to be paid to the recipient family by eliminating the increment in benefits under the program for which that family would otherwise be eligible as a result of the birth of a child conceived during the period in which the family is eligible for benefits under the TANF Program. […]

Elimination of benefits under subsection (d) shall not apply to any child conceived as a result of rape or incest if the department: (1) receives a non-notarized, signed statement from the pregnant woman stating that she was a victim of rape or incest, as the case may be, and that she reported the crime, including the identity of the offender, if known, to a law enforcement agency having the requisite jurisdiction or, in the case of incest where a pregnant minor is the victim, to the county child protective service agency and stating the name of the law enforcement agency or child protective service agency to which the report was made and the date such report was made.”

The languageof the bill goes on to note that a sexual assault victim applying for an exemption will be required to sign a statement affirming she understands that “false reports to law enforcement authorities are punishable by law,” and stipulates that Pennsylvania will report any “evidence of false statements or fraud” to the correct department, all the way up to the Attorney General’s office.

Aside from punishing women who have children — particularly low-income women who may not have reliable access to affordable contraception— the proposed bill perpetrates a dangerous attitude toward survivors of sexual assault. Forcing women to prove the legitimacy of their sexual assault, and warning them about the serious consequences of “crying rape” to cheat the system, puts forth the misguided assumption that victims of sexual violence are not to be believed. Furthermore, countless women choose not to report their rapists to the police because they fear repercussions from their abusers, who could threaten their lives. An estimated 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the authorities.

This is not the first type of legislation of its kind. Last month, New Mexico proposed a bill that would have required women seeking childcare assistance to prove they were “forcibly raped,” although Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has requested to remove that language.

MORE PROOF that anti-choicers don’t give a shit about children - just punishing women* for having sex.

Family values…

Part of the problem is the campaign doesn’t have a deep bench of sympathetic spokespeople. So they lean heavily on Ann Romney, hoping that her obvious femaleness makes an adequate substitute for empathy.

Perhaps they’re running her too ragged, as she seemed tired and off her game in an interview with a Denver news station that the campaign first posted and then swiftly yanked, perhaps realizing that “Mitt doesn’t disdain the poor” doesn’t sound that comforting to the nonmillionaire masses.

In the interview, Romney defends her husband by claiming the quotes sound better in context. She adds: “He is talking about what’s happening right now in America, and how more and more people are falling into poverty. More, in particular, women, are falling into poverty.”

All very true. Women, especially mothers, are more likely to be members of the working poor, and therefore make too little money to pay federal income tax. Which means, by her husband’s accounting, women are more likely to be “dependent on government” and to constantly be making overbearing demands for housing and food.

It also means that working mothers with children at home are, in vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s parlance, “the takers,” who contribute nothing but simply siphon from the “makers,” such as wealthy Republican donors who live off their investments.

The fact that mothers with dependent children are more likely to be working poor or rely on government assistance doesn’t do much for the Republican claim that these are folks who need to have their help cut off so they can learn the value of a hard day’s work.


After all, it was Ann Romney herself who recently and indignantly described raising children with these words: “Believe me, it was hard work.” But not, alas, work that brings in income the federal government can then tax.

How to square her claim that this untaxable labor is hard work with Romney’s claim that those with untaxable labor cannot be convinced to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives”?

The House voted 250-164 Thursday to block the Obama administration’s controversial welfare policy, which has inflamed partisan tensions and become a flashpoint in the presidential race. The move came after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said lawmakers could weigh on in the waivers policy because they count as federal rules.


About $59 billion is spent on traditional social welfare programs. $92 billion is spent on corporate subsidies. So, the government spent 50% more on corporate welfare than it did on food stamps and housing assistance in 2006.

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan is returning to Washington today to cast what will likely be his last vote before the November election. House Republicans are holding a vote to block the much-maligned welfare waivers that the Obama administration granted states that wanted to experiment with their welfare-to-work programs.

For the last 30 years, less than 4% of the U.S. population has received a full year’s worth of payments, like food stamps, which are based on level of income.


Republicans have embraced a widely debunked premise to attack President Obama for “gutting” welfare reform. But a House GOP bill that has already cleared a major committee would actually ax the welfare program’s work requirements, according to Congress’ nonpartisan referee.

Welfare Recipients Are Actually Mostly White And Less Likely Than The Average American To Use Drugs



Here’s a graphic circulating around Facebook AGAIN. I’m sick of it, and I think it is stupid:

Short answer: No, and fuck the people who made this graphic.

Long answer: Let’s learn from what happened in Florida.

Gov. Voldemort Rick Scott (who, not coincidentally, has a financial interest in a drug testing facility; he just transferred legal ownership of it to his WIFE) decided to drug test welfare recipients. This cost taxpayers millions of dollars and lined his wallet, and they found that only 2% of all welfare recipients tested actually tested positive for drugs. Of that 2%, ALL of them had family members who were eligible for welfare, so NO welfare money was saved by attempting to deny it to people on drugs. (I’ll also note that I heard nothing about getting people who tested positive into a rehab, or any concern for innocent minor children who rely on welfare to, you know, not starve.)

Now considering that data exists that has found that 5% of Americans use illegal drugs (that’s the LOWEST percentage I have found; other data puts it at 22 million people, or 9% of the population), that means that, according to the findings in Florida where only 2% of the tested population tested positive, people on welfare are LESS LIKELY to use illegal drugs. In fact, people on welfare are anywhere from 3% to 7% LESS LIKELY to be using illegal drugs than the general population as a whole.

Also, let’s not pretend that there are not “false positives” when drug testing, because there are. Your legal doctor-prescribed medications can show up as opiates or other “illegal” drugs. You can eat a poppyseed bagel and have a false positive. If there is a possibility that a test could be WRONG and deny a family some needed assistance so they can EAT, there is something gravely wrong with the idea.

Also, just as an aside, if you think that people on food assistance are rolling in free Government Cheese Bucks, consider that the average allotment comes out to about a dollar and change per meal. What can you buy to eat for less than two bucks a meal? Think on that. Now imagine doing that forever. Until you are denied benefits, of course.

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I don’t know where people get the idea that welfare recipients are living some kind of high life.

Let me repeat that: 358,000 black adults in the entire country receiving cash welfare.

That is 358,000 black adults out of approximately 29 million African American adults in all, which any calculator — even the kind used at FOX or by Paul Ryan — will readily indicate is only 1.2 percent of the adult black population.

And even this number is not indicative of how many are truly “dependent” on the program in any rational sense. According to the same 2011 data, 41 percent of adult TANF recipients are engaged in some form of work activity (either unsubsidized employment, for which they receive TANF as a substitute for actual wages, or job training, or actual low-wage part time jobs), and according to a 2008 report on welfare dependency, roughly half of black TANF recipients receive benefits for four months or less. In other words, we would need to reduce the 358,000 number by at least half, since few people consider short-term beneficiaries to be dependent on welfare. So rather than 358,000, we might more properly be looking at, say, a maximum of 180,000 black adults who might conceivably be considered dependent in a given year: approximately six-tenths of one percent of the black adult population.

How anyone with even a modicum of intellectual integrity could suggest that the adults of an “entire race” can been infantilized by a program that only reaches about 1 in 100 of them, and upon which only about 1 in 165 truly depend, is beyond the rational mind to comprehend. And needless to say, if the Democratic Party were really hoping to get black folks dependent on government handouts so as to secure their vote — which has been alleged time and again this campaign season by conservatives — they are failing miserably to secure said dependence: 0.6 percent down, just 99.4 percent more to go!

At the Republican convention last week was a touching piece on Mitt Romney’s father, George. Born in Mexico, George fled to the United States at the age of 5, arriving here with absolutely nothing, little George worked his way up until he eventually became a cabinet member under Richard Nixon. A heartfelt and touching story.

And it left out a very big piece, one which destroys the entire foundation upon which he had built his very nomination.

You see, George Romney arrived in El Paso, Texas, as part of 4,000 other refugees fleeing the Mexican Revolution. Once they arrived, the United States did not just wave them by, to let them fend for themselves. Instead, it opened up its arms, welcoming them not only into the United States, but granted to them $250 each, equal to just under of $6,000 today. On top of that, the US provided food, clothing, and supplies. George Romney grew up with his food, housing, and schooling taken care of by the US Government. And he had a large sum of money granted to him, which the family had used to buy stocks and bonds, which George then used to pay for his college, and getting started in life.

Where would one get such a shocker of a story? Why, from George’s wife, Lenore, in this 1962 interview.

(via Romney, Son Of Welfare Receiving Mexican Immigrant (VIDEO) | Addicting Info)

I don’t know yet if this headline from the LA Times will show up in their print edition tomorrow, but it’s about time reporters and copy editors started putting this stuff front and center. It won’t stop until politicians start paying a very visible price for spouting these lies. ~Kevin Drum
(via LA Times Gets it Right on Welfare Attack | Mother Jones)

I don’t know yet if this headline from the LA Times will show up in their print edition tomorrow, but it’s about time reporters and copy editors started putting this stuff front and center. It won’t stop until politicians start paying a very visible price for spouting these lies. ~Kevin Drum

(via LA Times Gets it Right on Welfare Attack | Mother Jones)