Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Suffering is Part of Life

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke about poverty and suffering recently at a town hall meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa:

It seems Rick thinks that people ought to suffer. Poor people, that is. They get too many bennies, like food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. h/t ThinkProgress.

Mother Jones takes a look at those folks who need to suffer:

In 1996, welfare was turned into a block grant and its budget was fixed at $16 billion, so that states received roughly the same amount of money every year, regardless of how many people might be out of work and suffering. Many Republicans in Congress would like to do this to the Medicaid program. But TANF should serve as a serious cautionary tale about what happens when the safety net is left up to the congressional appropriations process. Congress hasn't increased the TANF block grant since it was created. As a result, new data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that the value of cash benefits to poor families have fallen by as much as 30 percent in some states simply because of inflation—call it a stealth budget cut.

In some states legislators have diverted funds from the TANF block grant into other areas of the budget. Some states have cut benefits this year. Since TANF became a block grant, only 2 states show an increase in the amount of TANF benefits since 1996. This graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates how benefits have failed to keep pace with current costs:


In the District of Columbia, for instance, the monthly TANF benefit for a family of three is now $342, not anywhere near enough to pay the rent, for instance. Once upon a time, welfare or TANF benefits were enough to at least keep needy families above 50 percent of the federal poverty line (about $9,000 a year for a family of three). But TANF benefits are now so low that they aren't enough to keep anyone out of deep poverty, which is a troubling development. According to CPBB, a family relying only on TANF for support during tough times would be much poorer today than such a family in 1996.

The US had, at one point in time, made significant progress in eradicating poverty, but those days are over. Poverty is on the rise, and thanks to people like Rick Santorum, the demonization of the poor is rising rapidly, too.

One wonders how well Santorum could do with a TANF budget for his 7 kids. In fact, one wonders how much suffering would be enough to suit Rick Santorum and his ilk.

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