Republicans Find Their 'Welfare Cadillac' Issue of 2012

JESUSLAND—Attention adult cabaret owners, liquor store owners and clerks and operators of casinos or other gaming establishments: The Republicans in Congress have got it in for you—as if you didn't know that already.

More specifically, the conservatives are targeting a group of people that Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) thinks are your main clientele: Welfare recipients. And what he's doing about it is introducing a bill to prevent recipients of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (aka "welfare") from spending any of ill-gotten funds at your establishments—a "problem" that Boustany insists is "pretty rampant around the country."

Boustany's been on this kick for a couple of months now, having first introduced the idea as part of a payroll tax bill that the House passed back in December, but apparently the issue is so important that he's introducing it as a separate bill today.

Although the text of the new bill is not yet available, the bill that was introduced back in December, HR 3567, which was later incorporated into the payroll tax bill, would have required, "A State to which a grant is made under section 403 [of the Social Security Act] shall maintain policies and practices as necessary to prevent assistance provided under the State program funded under this part from being used in any transaction in (i) any liquor store; (ii) any casino, gambling casino, or gaming establishment; or (iii) any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment."

Since most states now issue TANF benefits in the form of ATM-type credit cards, this would mean that strip clubs, liquor stores and casinos would be unable to successfully swipe the cards for payments to those businesses. And while states are given two years to put the law into effect, any state which fails to do so after that point will see its federal TANF funds reduced across the board by five percent per year of noncompliance. There is, however, no penalty contained in the December bill for the businesses themselves.

Melissa Boteach, of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, has commented that the anti-adult bill is hardly a "pressing national crisis" but rather a political ploy by conservatives to paint low-income Americans as "delinquent and criminally inclined"—a message that conservatives press on their constituents at every opportunity.

"Many low-income workers on TANF are unable to access the child care they need to make work possible and ultimately end up paying nearly half their income towards care for their children," Boteach said. "And low-wage workers are constantly facing the threat of a layoff because more than 80 percent lack access to a single paid sick day to take care of themselves, a sick kid, or an elderly relative."

"This vote represents yet another instance in the creeping trend of conservatives to demonize the poor—and then threaten anyone who votes against the legislation with supporting 'welfare spending' for strip club admissions," she continued. "The tactic enables conservatives to imply that tough economic circumstances somehow make poor people delinquent and criminally inclined."

This reduction would come on top of the fact that since the Great Recession began, TANF benefits have already been cut by more than 20 percent.

"At a time when nearly half of the U.S population is just one financial shock away from poverty, Republicans should focus on bolstering the very programs that ensure the economic security of families," opined Tanya Somanander of "Instead, Republicans seem committed to push a strip club stereotype for a political win while stripping vulnerable Americans of a safety net."

But that's okay; during the '76 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan supported cuts to welfare because he'd heard of a recipient on Chicago's South Side that had "eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000."Of course, no such woman existed. And more recently, presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said repeatedly that he was "not concerned with very poor Americans, but was focused instead on helping the middle class" since he was "confident that food stamps, housing vouchers, Medicaid and other assistance would keep the poor afloat," and "pledged to fix holes in that safety net 'if it needs repair.'"

And if you believe that, he's undoubtedly got a great deal on a "welfare Cadillac" for you.