Falling Further Behind
At the national level, the Republican Party has been engaged in an introspective and lengthy dialogue. Having lost both the presidency and a number of seemingly secure senatorial seats, the GOP concluded that its party was facing an image problem. One central theme in the now-famous party autopsy report was the feeling that average voters got about how the Republican Party was “out of touch” and “did not care about them.” More specifically, the party was concerned that it was becoming – or was at least was perceived of becoming – the party for plutocrats and not every-day Americans.
The report is one that’s been greeted with relief, joy, and praise by moderate liberals and conservatives across the American political and ideological gamut. Yet it clearly carries a message that hasn’t taken to the grassroots conservative movement, which this week introduced one of the most disgusting bills I’ve ever read in my life.
Tennessean lawmakers have proposed legislation that would link a family’s welfare benefits with how well their children are doing in school. According to the bill, which has cleared both the House and Senate committees, parents whose children “are not making satisfactory progress in school” can expect to see a thirty percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah told the House Health Subcommittee that the bill is targeting idle parents “who do nothing.” The state congressman explained that the measure is more of a “carrots and sticks approach” to education.
Living in Tennessee under TANF benefits is already rough. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, TANF benefits in Tennessee for a family of three are only 26.4% of the estimated cost of renting a modest two-bedroom apartment. Think about it again. You can barely pay for a quarter of rent, let alone a meal, with TANF benefits.
Most students living with TANF probably come to school hungry and from homes with a dismal future where ‘getting by’ literally means scraping from one meal to another or fighting to pay this month’s electricity bill. Now Tennessean Republicans want kids to ask their teachers what score they need on the next test to keep their food on their family’s table.
Not only is this an extremely unfair and cruel imposition upon already poor and struggling kids, but it’s also extremely regressive. Do rich parents get off scot-free if they “do nothing” for their kids?To those who wonder how the Republican Party can rectify its image problem, maybe retracting this bill from the Tennessee legislative assembly could be a start.