Saturday, April 30, 2016

Annals of Derp: Tell me what is Kansas thinking?

Via YouTube.
Rachel Sheffield and Elmore Wallace over at the Heritage Foundation's Daily Dogwhistle write about a major success for Kansas governor Sam Brownback. If you're not reading the rightwing press you may be under the impression that Brownback hasn't been successful in anything
Brownback pledged to bring 100,000* new jobs to the state in his second term; as of January, he has brought 700. What’s more, personal income growth slowed dramatically since the tax cuts went into effect. Between 2010 and 2012, Kansas saw income growth of 6.1 percent, good for 12th in the nation; from 2013 to 2015, that rate was 3.6 percent, good for 41st.
Meanwhile, revenue shortfalls have devastated the state’s public sector along with its most vulnerable citizens. Since Brownback’s inauguration, 1,414 Kansans with disabilities have been thrown off  Medicaid. In 2015, six school districts in the state were forced to end their years early for lack of funding. Cuts to health and human services are expected to cause 65 preventable deaths this year in Sedgwick County alone. In February, tax receipts came in $53 million below estimates; Brownback immediately cut $17 million from the state’s university system. This data is not lost on the people of Kansas — as of November, Brownback’s approval rating was 26 percent, the lowest of any governor in the United States.
But no, apparently there's this one thing where he's accomplished something according to plan, kicking people off SNAP (or "food stamp") benefits if they don't get a job.

What pulled me in was Sheffield's and Wallace's obnoxious quotation from Lincoln:
Abraham Lincoln once said, “No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.”
Suggesting that the Great Emancipator would have wanted to kick people off SNAP benefits too.

Sadly, no. That's decontextualizing the sentence so violently you could book Heritage for aggravated linguistic assault. The speech, from September 30, 1859, and presented to the Agricultural Society of Wisconsin at the state fair in Milwaukee, was about the importance of education to all the ranks of society, and the idle folk he was worrying about weren't the poor, but the rich; the educated classes wanting to live as "drones" on their rents:
The old general rule was that educated people did not perform manual labor. They managed to eat their bread, leaving the toil of producing it to the uneducated. This was not an insupportable evil to the working bees, so long as the class of drones remained very small. But now, especially in these free States, nearly all are educated -- quite too nearly all, to leave the labor of the uneducated, in any wise adequate to the support of the whole. It follows from this that henceforth educated people must labor. Otherwise, education itself would become a positive and intolerable evil. No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.
Socialist Abraham Lincoln declaring that the capitalists needed to get out into the fields and use that education (for example developing steam technology to improve agricultural productivity). Just saying.

Sheffield and Wallace report,
before Kansas instituted a work requirement, 93 percent of food stamp recipients were in poverty, with 84 percent in severe poverty. Few of the food stamp recipients claimed any income. Only 21 percent were working at all, and two-fifths of those working were working fewer than 20 hours per week.
Once work requirements were established, thousands of food stamp recipients moved into the workforce, promoting income gains and a decrease in poverty. 
Except that the same thing would have happened if they hadn't been kicked off, as Barbara Shelly noted at the Kansas City Star: 75% of beneficiaries who are able to work hold jobs in the year before they apply for SNAP, the year after, or both, and half find jobs within a month of getting assistance, and jobs were getting easier to find in any case, in 2014, as the long recession began to end all over the country.
Forty percent of the individuals who left the food stamp ranks found employment within three months, and about 60 percent found employment within a year.
Leaving 40% of them jobless and without food stamps.
They saw an average income increase of 127 percent.
That's from $2,450, less than a quarter of the federal poverty level, to $5,562, Shelly writes: "A year after being removed from the food stamp program, most of the 13,000 people were still deeply poor."
Half of those who left the rolls and are working have earnings above the poverty level.
Which gives you a good idea how desperate the other half were.
Even many of those who stayed on food stamps saw their income increase significantly.
"Many"?? That suggests that most of them did not see a significant increase in income, even though they got jobs. That would be because most of them already had jobs, as is typical.

The effort is supposed to save the state government $50 million annually, which will certainly come in handy, if it turns out to be real, given the catastrophic Brownback revenue shortfall. I can't imagine how it is real, given that the federal government pays the full amount of SNAP assistance, asking the state to contribute just 50% of the administrative costs (compare TANF, where the state is required to fund some 40% of the assistance itself, and Kansas seems to spend just about $10 million a year). I can't find anything in a Kansas budget document that looks like $50 million dollars being cut from a food assistance program, but I do note that the "Food Stamps Employment" expenditures line, which was $107,436 in FY 2013, was expected to go down to $53,718 in FY 2014.

It seriously looks like they meant they were saving the state government $50,000 and some bright spark added three zeroes to make it prettier. I can't even.

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