Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Republican Arlan Meekhof's Plan for Children: Tasers, Yes. Clothing, No.

As Kathy told us back in January - Arlan Meekhof (R-Toontown) was standing in a line of shoppers the day after Thanksgiving and the brilliant idea came upon him that everyone should be allowed to carry tasers. He says it is for self-protection in darkly lit areas, but one wonders if perhaps Arlan was just a tad cranky to be standing out in the cold with a bunch of people who were in line before him and he just knew they were going to buy those prized sale items first... well, who wouldn't want a taser at the point? You can almost see him grinning at the thought.

Fast forward to now, the vote is coming up in the House soon. In his glee at the idea of citizens carrying what he calls "non-lethal" (never mind all those deaths) tasers, Meekhof explained this week on To The Point that people are just giddy for this, apparently it's the Wild Wild West over in HD-89 and everyone should be armed.

His first example of the customer base was intriguing, though.

As we introduced this, we've got overwhelming support from people... parents that wished their children maybe to have one...

Well, Arlan, since you brought it up as your first example, do you agree that it's a good idea that children carry tasers? We'll let you stop and think about that for awhile... but Arlan probably can't see past the fact that some children might receive a bit more assistance this year, and that is what really gets him fired up.

Meekhof went on to complain about the budget. New proposals are costing more, dropping that key Republican buzztalk like "governor was successful in raising $1.4 billion in new taxes", and the now-repeatedly uttered "living beyond our means", but, while he somehow justified helping spend all that money last year, and talked of the new budget targets that he gladly will help hit this year too - he has a big problem with spending it on actual human beings. Namely, children.

When pressed for examples of where he would cut Michigan's budget, Meekhof pulled out the now (very) old Republican canard of going after the welfare recipients first.

Just one example where the governor has actually vetoed, a piece of legislation that we thought was very important, the cap on welfare limits for able-bodied citizens to be capped at four years. The governor vetoed that. That's just an example of where we could save $51 million dollars a year.

Meekhof called that a "logical, rational approach to making sure we live within our means", but if you want to call it by its proper name, it's "Git those poor parents". What Republicans don't tell you when they drag out the "able-bodied" for punishment first is this next bit of information; in 2005, the Michigan Catholic Conference was arguing against cutting the limits from 60 to 48 months, and they had this to say-

The only persons who might currently be considered able-bodied adults who receive cash assistance payments are the parents of children, primarily single mothers, who themselves face staggering obstacles as they strive to support their children and become economically self-sufficient.

And what do those able-bodied single mothers receive at this point? Arlan is taken aback by increasing the monthly average for a family of three by $9 whole dollars.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) may get its first grant increase for the Family Assistance Program in 18 years, pending the passage of a bill currently on the House floor.

The increase, part of the fiscal year 2009 budget process, would boost the monthly payment for a typical low-income family of three from $489 to $498, just under 2 percent.

$500 bucks. Family of three. First raise in eighteen years. And that wacky House went and added some money for clothes as well.

A divided House Appropriations Committee went beyond the governor's recommendation of providing $75 per child in the program and pushed the amount to $100 year for clothes, Putnam said.

The increase in benefits was largely at the urging of Rep. Dudley Spade, D-Tipton, the primary sponsor of the bill. The $100 would go to 154,000 children who receive cash assistance from the department.

How much will this cost? Meekhof wants you to think it's a budget buster. The truth is a little different.

The number of families in the cash assistance program the fourth quarter of 2007 was 82,036, according to the MLHS. The increase will cost the state $7.48 million per year.

"It's not a large expenditure but it makes an enormous difference," said Ann Marston, president of the League.

The value of cash assistance benefits have lost more than a third of their purchasing power over the last 18 years due to inflation and the lack of increases, Marston said.

"These aren't cuts, this is restructuring government, and living within our means", Arlan claims, because the first people he wants you to think of as being extravagant are those struggling single parents who are trying to live on $500 a month.

What would help, instead of feeding and clothing children? Tax cuts for business, of course!

"If we can make sure that industry can remain competitive, a lower tax burden, and lower regulation, they create the jobs for people to be employed and therefore they won't need the human services".

Straight out of the DeVos playbook - if we let business just do as they please and not have to pay taxes, those kids would be just fine.

And someday down the road, maybe we will see about getting them tasers, too.