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How Stereotypes Are Reenforced – Part 1: Vanity Plates

So, yesterday I read this article,  and it reminded me why I started this blog to begin with. There were so many stereotypes being thrown around in these proposed bills by these legislators that I found it sickening.

The stereotype in this case is of the high-spending, free-riding welfare recipient that throws money around wasting it on frivolous things. We all know that’s not the case. If you haven’t read it already, take a look at my original post on the extravagance of welfare by clicking here.

I’d like to address a few of the various points brought up in the article, including the points on community service and various screening tests, but I will address those in separate entries. In today’s post I just want to focus on the stupidity of the vanity plate issue, and the idea of spending restrictions.

Do I feel spending $30 extra on a vanity plate is a good use of money? No.

Do I believe the government should have the right to regulate what someone is allowed to acquire based on the fact that they’re poor or have special circumstances and need health insurance? Absolutely not.

I also find it ironic and absurd that all these proposals come from the political party that supposedly wants less regulations and smaller government, but we all know that only applies for big business and the wealthy. When it comes to the so called lower class, the working poor, and those in poverty, then more rules, regulations, tests and barriers to programs that barely help someone survive is all the rage.

The supposed justification for this is that taxpayers contribute money to a social program, and someone receives it, so that person is responsible for using that money in a manner that the taxpayers would not deem wasteful. Or rather, they must use all of their money, from any source – even if they work and earn money and just happen to receive only medicaid benefits – on only the bare minimum necessities to live, because they received some sort of aid, and are therefore beholden.

I quote: “If you’re on welfare, you ought to spend that money on medicine or food,” Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven said. “If the taxpayers are picking up the tab for your health-care costs and/or your welfare benefits, you ought to be responsible enough to spend our money wisely.”

You hear that? If the taxpayers are picking up the tab…

And we all know that if you have $30 for a vanity plate you can afford thousands of dollars on medical bills. It’s exactly the same thing. (For those of you that don’t know me, that was sarcasm, by the way.)

So, since the taxpayers also pick up the tab for the salaries of legislators, how about we pay them the bare minimum to survive? Why should we “pick up the tab” to pay for fancy suits and briefcases, high-end cars, vacations, etc.

But, but… That’s different!

What about how tax dollars are spent on absolutely anything else for that matter? We have no oversight over spending to ensure funds are used in the most efficient manner possible, that’s simply not how the system works.

I personally wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on special monkey wrenches and hammers either, but we know it happens with taxpayer money. No one stops the army from wasting money on flying expensive celebrities out to entertain the troops. Why not just pop in a video?

But, but… That’s different!

Money is wasted across the board on just about every program we manage. This does not make it right, of course, but to point the finger at the poor and blame it on them, as if that is where all the waste can be trimmed from is ridiculous. It’s also not fair to limit how an individual chooses to enrich their life in some way, or how to manage their money and purchases in a way that they choose.

The idea that if you’re poor, you’re less deserving of any creature comforts above and beyond solely food and medicine is sad. You must only eat and live. That’s it. Really?

Do we include everyone that is on any social program? Remember, this also includes the working poor who do have jobs but still receive additional assistance because their income is so low, those who make barely enough to survive and may only receive food stamps and/or Medicaid? Those who receive some cash aid to supplement an extremely low income that is not enough to support their family size? Those like me whose only income currently comes from public benefits?

It’s a slippery slope. If we start on it, where do we draw the line? What other purchases can we limit and regulate to ensure the taxpayer money is being used wisely? Should it be against the law to “waste” money by renting a video? To pay for cable – which most often is the only entertainment most poor people can afford? To go out to eat for a meal instead of preparing everything from scratch every single night? Can you only buy generic toilet paper and toiletries? (Assuming you don’t already…) If you need to buy a “new” clothing item are you only allowed to purchase it in a secondhand or thrift store? Are you no longer allowed to buy a toy or present for your child for a birthday or holiday?

Do the poor (on assistance) have to get marked or stamped on their IDs to differentiate them in a store so we know what they are and are not allowed to buy? Does everyone just get carded? Do those not on assistance have to carry around a special card or ID that they show the cashiers to let them know they’re exempt and allowed to buy whatever item they choose?

“An automobile license plate is a privilege, just like your driver’s license is a privilege,” Sen. Flowers said.

Yes, and not everyone has the privilege of air conditioning, so only fans for the poor!

And where do we stop? Who decides what one person needs, or wants, and differentiates whether they have the right to buy it or not?

This is not the same as a felon not being able to buy a gun. They committed a crime, and have to deal with the repercussions and consequences. The poor are being (further) punished for nothing more than simply not having enough money and asking for help in a time of need.

Again, I really don’t think the purchase of a vanity plate is a good use of money. However, I just can’t abide the principle of taking away a right from someone (even just a right to purchase something) that other individuals in this country have, based solely on the fact that the person has a limited income that qualifies them for assistance.

Is this really the type of path we want to start down? Once you take away a few freedoms and infringe on a few rights, it becomes even easier to justify taking away more. The poor and impoverished should not be targets of the government. They are not scapegoats. Being poor is not a crime. How can you possibly justify trying to take away something from someone who already has so little? Why?

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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Politics, Welfare

 

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