The Arizona legislature, facing a billion dollar budget deficit, put forth the proposition, like many red states, that you can solve your problems by giving the poor the finger.
Their big plan to save the state oodles of money isn’t to raise taxes on the wealthy or take away some of their gifts to big business, it’s to set a limit on families receiving welfare to just 12 months, the harshest limit in the country.
Families receiving Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) are at the mercy of their state when it comes to benefit restrictions. After the program was turned into a block grant in 1996, states were given the right to build their own program restriction, built around federal guidelines. While most states set their limit on benefits at five years, the recent war on the poor has seen those limits decrease in a large number of states, but none so cruel as 12 months and done.
Studies have shown that people thrown off of welfare have few places to turn, and with issues of childcare, low job availability, and educational restrictions, a disastrous outcome of extreme poverty, homelessness, and criminal activity is almost inevitable.
Arizona’s proposed restriction of 12 months is not only archaic and cruel, it won’t save all that much money. With a budget deficit of a billion dollars, is the $4 million really that important? Is taking away the sole source of income for 1,600 families going to solve your problems?
Of course not, but Republican politicians campaigned very successfully by vilifying the poor in 2014, so why not keep the trend going?
It makes no sense. Arizona’s economy is recovering with the rest of the nation. They rank 14th in job growth. With all of the positives, sending poor people into the streets, increasing homelessness and crime, so you can have a “we’re tough on welfare” soundbyte proves just how far the right will go to pander to their ignorant base.
Giveaways to big business are commonplace in Arizona. A $17 million sales tax exemption for manufacturing businesses that employ only 6% of Arizona’s workers could have covered that $4 million, no?
Who pays the price? Arizona’s families, particularly their children. The state currently ranks 46th in child welfare. Maybe by kicking more people off of public assistance to gain a few votes they can make it all the way to 50.
Featured image: screen capture from AZCentral