Everything Gov. Tom Corbett does comes right out of the ALEC playbook. But because he rarely speaks to the press, preferring to fly under the radar, there are no outrageous sound bytes on the local news and public outrage is hard to generate. Maybe this latest decision will finally get Pennsylvanians to speak up. From the Philadelphia City Paper:
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has announced a major assault on the food stamp program that feeds 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, including 439,245 in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfareannounced that on May 1, people under 60 with more than $2,000 in savings or other assets will be barred from receiving food stamps. People over 60 would have a $3,250 cap.
As the Inquirer points out in a detailed look, the move to cut food stamps is way out of line with what other states are doing: “Pennsylvania plans to make the amount of food stamps that people receive contingent on the assets they possess — an unexpected move that bucks national trends and places the commonwealth among a minority of states.”
The trend during the Great Recession, with millions falling into poverty, has been to remove such barriers to assistance. Gov. Ed Rendell eliminated the state’s asset test in 2008. Pennsylvania now joins 11 states with asset tests — including Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota.
Eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse” is an old and recurrent refrain from those who seek to dismantle the country’s social welfare system. But it’s a cynical ruse: 30 percent of those eligible for food stamps in Pennsylvania don’t receive them. According to federal data, the Inquirer notes, Pennsylvania has a fraud rate of just one-tenth of 1 percent.
Conservatives frequently bristle at the idea that poor people might have nice things while receiving public assistance (“they have a television on welfare!”). But Pennsylvania will now create the most bizarre of disincentives: dissuading poor people from saving.
“We all know that families need to save money to get off government assistance and achieve self-sufficiency,” according to a press release from Carey Morgan, Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
“So it’s not only inhumane, but counterproductive to force people to drain their savings before they can get any help. Someone with less than $2,000 in the bank would easily be wiped out by one visit to the emergency room.”
[…] “Food stamps are really the only functioning part of the safety net,” the New York Coalition Against Hunger’s Joel Berg told The Nation. “It’s the only thing left.”