This must be the season for state legislators to be flaunting their power over low-income citizens.
A punitive bill just passed by the Kansas Legislature contains an extensive list of activities that are off-limits to people with cash assistance, including trips to movie theaters and swimming pools.
Now comes Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, who last made headlines by proposing that women seeking an abortion must first obtain permission from the man responsible for the pregnancy. Fortunately, that went nowhere.
Brattin’s latest stroke of dumbness is House Bill 813, which seeks to decree that people may not use food stamps to purchase cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak.
The list is amazing for what it includes and what it leaves out.
Seafood would seem to include canned tuna, a nutritious and relatively inexpensive source of protein. Fish sticks would also fit into that category. And steak, without a more clear definition, could be construed to include ground beef, a main ingredient for many households.
But recipients could still use food stamps to purchase ice cream. And doughnuts. And Twinkies, even.
If he’s going to be dictating the food purchases of about 900,000 Missourians, Brattin needs a crash course on nutrition.
But instead of trying to micromanage the lives of people who need assistance, lawmakers in Missouri and Kansas should spend time on legislation that would help working people support themselves and their families.
A fairer minimum wage would be a good place to start. Policies requiring more regular hours so that workers can attend school or manage second jobs would help a lot, too.
That kind of legislation requires effort, however, and an inevitable fight with businesses. Sadly, it’s much easier for legislators like Brattin to justify their existence in office by cracking down on the poor.