Monday, May 25, 2015

Race to the Bottom: Kansas leads states in moral bankruptcy, Arizona moves to catch up

Bob Lord writing at Blog for Arizona argues that Kansas is mere steps ahead of the rest of us in its moral depravity. Wow! What brought that on?

The proximate cause is the KS lege limiting of ATM withdrawals by welfare recipients to $25. As Bob points out, it is unrealistic (who withdraws cash in such small amounts?), corrupt (the banks get more transaction fees), and dishonest ($20 is the functional limit because ATM's don't dispense $5 bills). But, he argues, there is a deeper cause at work.

By all appearances, Kansas has reached a collective moral bankruptcy.

And this follows a spectacular financial bankruptcy that Kansans inflicted on themselves by electing, then re-electing, Brownback. ...

So, what about the rest of us? Is Kansas leading us to financial and moral hell, or is it an anomaly?

I’d argue we’ve all headed down the path, and Kansas is just steps ahead. Here’s why:

The first step down the path is an elevation of "personal responsibility" over societal responsibility. We took that step, collectively, long ago, with measures such as the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, on which Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich collaborated. Whenever a state legislature or Congress decides to cut assistance to the needy in order to save money, often to offset revenue lost from tax cuts, the measure is justified on the basis of personal responsibility.


So, what really distinguishes the rest of us from Kansas? Very little, I think. Once personal responsibility dominates the discourse and stories of personal irresponsibility run rampant, we’ve reached the point where those of us in power, and their supporters, see themselves as morally better than those whom they’ve labeled as irresponsible. At that point, setting rules for the behavior of those perceived as something less than the rest of us is a baby step. Kansas may be the first to take that baby step. I can’t see it being the last.

Indeed. crAZy is goose-stepping along with Kansas. Recall that AZ cut back life-time assistance to one year making it the only state to have done so. The AP reports.

The cuts of at least $4 million reflect a prevailing mood among the lawmakers in control in Arizona that welfare, Medicaid and other public assistance programs are crutches that keep the poor from getting back on their feet and achieving their potential.

"I tell my kids all the time that the decisions we make have rewards or consequences, and if I don't ever let them face those consequences, they can't get back on the path to rewards," Republican Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said during debate on the budget. "As a society, we are encouraging people at times to make poor decisions and then we reward them."

As I wrote before:

These lawmakers really do think that being poor or sick or disabled is a choice. Therefore, goes the reasoning, punishing that choice will make people behave differently. If we make the poor poorer and the sick sicker then they will see the error of their ways.

Being poor or sick or disabled is NOT a choice. But I argue that electing people who believe that those are "decisions" makes the electorate culpable just as Bob Lord claimed.

Back to Bob for generalizations to other "free" "choices".

... setting daily spending limits may be mild compared to other measures that tend to become law when those making the laws place themselves on a higher moral ground than those to whom the laws are applied. After all, those Kansas legislators decided it was okay to use their power to modify the behavior of others, far beyond the behavior modification associated with criminal statutes. If it’s okay to regulate a person’s spending habits, would it also be okay to regulate her other habits? And if she fails to obey the regulations, would it be okay to introduce punitive measures to ensure she does so in the future?

What happened in Kansas should be seen as a dangerous signal.

And not just in Kansas.

The country is looking into the abyss of moral hell. Is it prepared to take the plunge?

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