Americans who need government assistance are beginning to face stronger regulation from state governments in the name of preventing the abuse of welfare. But why are local authorities now making it harder for the poor and vulnerable to get help that they need?

Welfare spending in the United States has totalled around $110 billion since 2014. Corporate welfare that is. Individual welfare amounts to far less money for a far greater customer base – an example being the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (or Food Stamps) which comes in at the far smaller amount of $70-80 billion

One state that is looking to rein in welfare spending is Kansas, which is championing a new bill to restrict where welfare recipients can spend their money. The bill targets Kansas residents who use the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (‘TANF’), which gives people as much as $267, and prevents them from spending it on activities such as going to the pool or using a cruise ship.

Don’t think you can afford a cruise ship with TANF in the first place? Kansas apparently does. In the bill itself (line 5, page 14) they actually specify cruise ships.

Ignoring the fact that the median cost of rent in Kansas is $900, the Kansas legislature thinks that enforcing these regulations will make recipients spend their welfare money more efficiently. Kansas Senator Michael O’Donnell voiced his support for the bill by declaring that it would help Kansan’s achieve a “high quality of life“.

These type of welfare ‘reform’ bills aren’t limited to Kansas. The state of Maine is reviving previously defeated legislation that, in addition to preventing money being spent on recreational activities, requires people to have applied for 3 jobs before applying to TANF. The logic behind this ‘reform’ seems to be that Maine residents can’t be trusted to be already struggling to get by before they apply for welfare.

This logic would make sense if we had the type of economy where jobs are overflowing and easy to come by. Assuming you don’t have a college education, you may well end up working in a minimum wage job. Minimum wage in Maine only gives $7.50 an hour, which with a 40-hour work week would be $300 a month. In 2013, median rent in Maine was $760 a month

If it’s these kind of people that are applying for TANF, why do they need to prove that they’re applying for jobs that already don’t even pay enough to afford rent?

There is a very big problem with such legislation, because they fail to address the critical issue: why do people need welfare at all? Is it because it’s easy money? Is it because they’re lazy and don’t want to work hard? Or is it because people are struggling to pay for their homes and get food for their families.

Obviously not the latter, for Kansas seems to think that people who are applying for less than $300 from the government want to spend it on pools and cruise ships. Maine seems to think people applying for welfare need more proof that they’re on the verge of poverty.

These types of welfare ‘reform’ bills only attempt to make it harder for people to get the help they desperately need. Real ‘reform’ would be eliminating the need for getting welfare in the first place. Like, for example, raising the minimum wage so people can afford their rent and living costs.

Or making college education more accessible. Or fixing our tax system so that working families don’t end up paying much more than highly profitable corporations. These are the types of reforms governments should pursue, rather than overly-simplistic welfare crackdowns. There’s absolutely no benefit in making it harder for people to get welfare when you aren’t trying to fix the reasons for it in the first place.