Welfare reform is an oft-touted, but little-realized platform point for many legislators. The good news is that reform bills in Missouri and Kansas are up for votes which would set some precedents in how assistance funds can be used.

The Kansas bill would affect those people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds (TANF) and the Missouri bill would affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Both programs give families with limited financial means funds or resources to purchase basic items of necessity.

However, the reform bills in Kansas and Missouri are finally taking a necessary step in welfare reform: the bills would list strict requirements about what could and could not be purchased using the assistance funds.

The reform bill in Kansas would prohibit recipients paying for tattoos, strip club visits, casinos, movies, swimming pool expenses, massage visits, and cruise ship vacations, among several other restrictions. Reading over the list makes you want to cringe. People are really using assistance funds for these sorts of things?

The Missouri bill would affect food items, rather than recreational spending like the Kansas bill, and would restrict assistance recipients from purchasing energy drinks, soda drinks, cookies, chips, as well as seafood and steaks.

Looking at the list, you might be tempted to think of it as quite restricting and over demanding.

Think again, however, because it’s important to remember where these funds are coming from.

Many working-class Americans don’t have extra spending cash to blow on trips to the casino or on an expensive steak dinner. Yet taxes taken from these workers’ wages are being used to fund these assistance programs.

There’s a famous line that says, “He who has the gold makes the rules.” In a sense that must hold true when it comes to welfare reform.

If money is simply given to individuals without any expectation, then people begin to develop a dependency on the funds and the opportunity opens up for the funds to be abused.

It’s refreshing to finally see bills be introduced into state assemblies which would curb out of control spending by welfare recipients.

Of course it’s important to remember, during this discussion of welfare reform, that many recipients of welfare are truly destitute and rely on the funds for basic, everyday needs. With that in mind I think some of the items on the list, such as swimming pool visits, might be going overboard.

If a parent wants to take their child to the community recreation center to go swimming every once in a while, that’s fine. But I think the spirit of these bills is clear. To qualify for assistance, these recipients must use the given funds in a way that honors the assistance and doesn’t become a dependency.

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