The idea of directing unemployed welfare recipients to seek some sort of employment, or to contribute something to the taxpayers in the form of volunteer work, isn’t a new one. It’s not even necessarily controversial in the partisan sense, since many of those on both sides of the aisle recognize that these requirements can benefit all involved, including the recipient and taxpayer. But there’s a difference between phasing in a fairly reasonable requirement, and twisting that requirement into an axe to drop on the necks of ones’ political opponents.
That’s a difference Ohio’s TEAlord in General has recognized all too well, as the last few days have proven. With Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular clinging to life only through corruption, coercion and gerrymandering, John Kasich has proven that he’s still a dyed-in-the-wool Koch slave by re-instituting the food stamp program’s 20 hour a week work requirements that Ohio suspended following the Bush Recession.
For those unfamiliar with it, Ohio once and again mandated that all food stamp recipients who don’t have dependent children must spend at least 20 hours a week working, attending class or job training or volunteering. Out of the 1.8 million people statewide on food stamps (about 15% of the total population), this reinstatement affects about 140,000 adults.
Of them, more than 10,000 will lose their food assistance effective immediately. Like, today.
Much as the Kochs’ local representative would have us believe otherwise, this isn’t simply because those 10,000 people are too lazy to work. In large part, it’s because the state’s welfare caseworkers are incredibly overloaded, and many have been waiting for months for job or volunteer placement. Many of the rest don’t even know they’re not exempted from the work requirement, because their overloaded caseworkers haven’t contacted them.
The state says that the biggest problem by far is that after being contacted, many weren’t able to show up for exemption assessments. About 75% of those contacted in some counties didn’t show up for exemption assessments after being sent letters, and that of those who did, about 50% were granted. But even assuming they had, that’s still many thousands of people who will lose their food stamp benefits almost without notice, and before they’ve had the opportunity to volunteer or find work.
Of course, Kasich justifies his decision by saying that Ohio’s economy has improved, and unemployment has dropped enough, that those on food stamps should be expected to fulfill the work requirements. And he is partially correct; unemployment did begin to drop under his predecessor.
That’s an improvement…though Ohio still remains number 46 in the United States in job creation, even since the Bush Recession ended.
Still, though, this does seem like something of an oddly arbitrary measure, especially given the speed with which Kasich dropped the axe on the poor. It almost seems deliberate, as though Kasich himself took a page from Chris Christie’s playbook on petty partisan revenge.
Red counties Kasich, blue counties not Kasich. Now, let’s see if we notice a certain pattern developing on this map, detailing the unemployment rates in Ohio by county.
Indeed. And now this one, detailing income by county:
Certainly, we see a few anomalies develop in certain counties, but the overall picture is pretty clear. The broadest areas of both high unemployment and low-income are squarely in the anti-Kasich camp. And you can be sure he knows it. Given this, it’s hard to imagine Kasich losing any sleep over the bureaucratic nightmare that is the food stamp system, starving people in districts that didn’t vote for him.
A lot of people in Ohio won’t be laughing in February, though — and from these maps alone, it looks as though Kasich might have sacrificed a few lambs too many in this latest Koch-lead jihad on the poor. Half the people in Kasich districts are already working for almost nothing, a condition he seems quite content to maintain given his other assaults on the minimum wage and workers’ rights. Having barely squeaked out a win in the last election, and with his poll numbers at an all-time low of 42 percent…
Start filing for your 20 hours a week now, Johnny. We hear it takes a while to go through.