Brownback’s Faux-Life Reality: Kansas Kids Denied a Place—and a Future—at the Table of Privilege


Last week, I ate my Thanksgiving dinner in a place called Wichita, Kansas. I shopped at three different grocery stores, fussed over dinner preparation, gathered with family and ate three desserts with my three school-aged daughters.

I ate this meal with the realization that childhood poverty has increased by 50 percent since the year 2005 within my community. I ate this meal knowing that since 2010, 74 percent of the children living in the same school district as my three daughters qualified for free or reduced price school lunches. My Caucasian family unit sat around a large table, each one of us healthy and insured, while 25 percent of African Americans and 10 percent of their white counterparts living in my county do not have access to healthcare. So while I may have dined in a place called Wichita, I also recognize that I dined in a place called privilege.    

Equity is a pervasive theme and ideal found within our family unit. My husband and I are cognizant of it within the dynamics of our home life, each doing our best to pull our fair share of the load. Our six-year-old twins are well aware of the concept, as Abby quite simply cannot fathom a world where Ava might have two chocolate chip cookies, while she only receives one. Fairness, equality and caring for each other… these are the family values found within our house. These are the family values we would like to see emulated within Wichita, within the state of Kansas, and throughout the nation. 

This is why the current status of the poor has me concerned. The election of President Obama may bring some comfort and hope for the protection of social supports, programs and safety nets for the one in five children living in poverty across the nation, but with talks of sequestration… much is yet unknown. The Coalition on Human Needs sent a letter to every member of Congress regarding sequestration. Government Executive wrote the following about that letter…

The letter calls for protecting low-income Americans and decries cuts to the government workforce, education and programs such as Head Start and food stamps. They also push for an expiration of Bush-era tax cuts on American households making more than $250,000 a year, and for some — but not across-the-board — cuts to defense spending.

“Putting the most vulnerable people at risk is the wrong response to our nation’s fiscal situation,” the letter states. “Automatic cuts to domestic programs that are scheduled to take effect in January 2013 under the sequestration provisions of the Budget Control Act will inflict devastating harm.”

I am concerned that despite the nation avoiding a Romney Presidency, his fiscal pursuits are alive and well and are being implemented in red states across the nation. The poorest citizens of those states will bear the burden of these policies.  For example, despite recent tea party electoral losses, Speaker of the House John Boehner is still calling for a repeal of Obamacare. While a repeal may not be practical in nature, Speaker Boehner is sending out the conservative bat signal to the bevy of red state governors… hold the line on Medicaid expansion

In Kansas, Governor Brownback has not yet made a formal decision regarding the expansion. It is not hard to guess where his heart is on this matter, however.  His heart bleeds conservative red policy and politics. He is not known for his moderation

Medicaid expansion would bring some increased assurances toward health equity in our state, as well as insuring more Kansas kids.  From the Lawrence Journal World

Estimates indicate that Kansas’ Medicaid enrollment would increase by 135,000 people under the new rules. In addition, many more children probably would be helped, because when parents have access to insurance, it is more likely their children will, too. Estimates show that about 70 percent of Kansas children currently without health insurance actually are eligible for Medicaid but are not enrolled.

According to the 2012 KIDS COUNT data book published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kansas dropped seven spots lower in the number of insured children over a two-year period. The fact that 70 percent of them could benefit from expansion is significant.

Children are of stated (rhetorical) importance to Governor Brownback. From his zealous anti-choice positioning to his promises made on the campaign trail to reduce childhood poverty in Kansas, however, his positions on tax and social policies lead some to believe that he is more “faux life” than “pro-life.”  

 In 2011, the administration’s answer to childhood poverty was to marry off single mothers. This year, the creation of a right-wing task force charged with finding “cost effective ways to make sure children understand as soon as possible that their decisions can have a lasting impact on their future” is code for more of the same. Meanwhile, Kansas Action for Children recently released an analysis of Governor Brownback’s tax policy, which they find will have the following effects…

  • State revenues will be dramatically reduced – affecting available funding for necessary services such as education, the social safety net and health care.
  • The state tax system will become more unfair – increasing taxes on the lowest-income Kansans while cutting taxes for higher-income groups and certain businesses.
  • The reforms will create a broken system in regards to the tax treatment of businesses, providing a significant financial incentive to reorganize to avoid state income taxes.

They detail how 66 percent of the necessary cuts will likely come from education funding.  This in spite of the ongoing state court battles over shortfalls in educational spending.    

In an interview, Representative Nile Dillmore, ranking minority member on the House Taxation Committee told RH Reality Check the following…

Since taking office as Governor, Sam Brownback’s administration has reduced our safety net system by nearly one-third during a time when over 18% of our states children are living in poverty.  Rather than address their immediate need for food and shelter he has pushed policies that have made further reductions in assistance to our most needy a near certainty.  He has chosen a hard ideology of tax cuts to the wealthy over a helping hand to the poorest of the poor.

Kansas Action for Children has pointed out that their data indicates that while the needs of children living in poverty has increased; acquiring assistance has become more difficult.  The tightening of the requirements for assistance has been seen in food stamp policy, domestic violence grants and the proposed bills for drug testing of TANF recipients

These policies that attack the state’s poor are not likely to cease with the results of the 2012 elections, which upped Governor Brownback’s majority to super-majority status.  Things are bound to become worse for those who are currently living in poverty. 

A life of privilege versus a live in poverty, seemingly opposites at face value. These words and worlds can seem so far apart and yet really are only one devastating life circumstance away for most of us. Likewise, ideals of fairness, equality and caring should hold universal clout. They should not be aligned with a political party or ideology. 

The wealthiest of Kansans should not be receiving tax cuts while at the same time other Kansans are lacking in basic life necessities such as health care, food and housing.  The conservatives of Kansas, as well as conservatives from across the nation could learn a lesson from Ava and Abby…whether it be a discussion of health care or chocolate chip cookies, doing right by others should stand as a moral and just obligation for us all.  No one should go hungry, while others dine at the table of privilege. 

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  • irisheddieohara

    I read with much interest your article and find that while I am in agreement with the premise,  I didn’t see anything which constitutes a valid answer to the problem.  Are you suggesting more taxes on the wealthy?  I am opposed to that for one reason — federal taxation is the most egregiously BAD and inefficient way to get help to the needy.  A study which was taken several years ago showed that out of every dollar collected in taxes and earmarked for the poor, only .24 cents actually gets to the end user.

     

    The welfare system in this country has become a cash cow for the rich.  That is where the other .76 cents goes to.  Cronyism, corruption, and  theft are rampant in this system.  Fraud is monumental.

     

    The whole system is broken and dying.  While the majority of those who receive aid are needy,  there are also many who scam the system, taking valuable resources from those in need.  The distribution of welfare is a sham because of the fraud and waste I mentioned.  The other problem is that with the rolls ever increasing, we are going to reach a point that there simply is not enough money to go around.  Our current system keeps people on welfare for generations by means of giving them something for nothing rather than teaching life skills and creating independence.  We need a system that creates independence, ownership of property and real living skills instead of indolence.

  • prochoiceferret

    Are you suggesting more taxes on the wealthy?  I am opposed to that for one reason — federal taxation is the most egregiously BAD and inefficient way to get help to the needy.

     

    And I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with the fact that you don’t like paying taxes and would prefer they were lower.

     

    The welfare system in this country has become a cash cow for the rich.  That is where the other .76 cents goes to.

     

    Then why is it always rich people who want to cut the welfare system?

     

    The whole system is broken and dying.  While the majority of those who receive aid are needy,  there are also many who scam the system, taking valuable resources from those in need.  The distribution of welfare is a sham because of the fraud and waste I mentioned.

     

    You also mentioned that “the majority of those who receive aid are needy.” Do you think that the retail industry as a whole is a sham because of shoplifters, even though the majority of those who shop at stores are honest?

     

    The other problem is that with the rolls ever increasing, we are going to reach a point that there simply is not enough money to go around.

     

    We can always cut military spending and farming/oil subsidies. Do you suppose several hundred billion dollars should be enough to go around for a while?

     

    Our current system keeps people on welfare for generations by means of giving them something for nothing rather than teaching life skills and creating independence.  We need a system that creates independence, ownership of property and real living skills instead of indolence.

     

    You know what we need even more than that? People who actually understand how “welfare” currently works (or doesn’t work) in this country before they spout off about getting rid of it.

  • give-em-hell-mary

    Disabilities and unwanted pregnancies are the biggest causes of poverty, and you oppose fixing their underlying causes:  ending bankster cash cow military foreign invasions, and distributing cheap or free contraception.

  • colleen

    On the contrary the worst thing we can do to solve the problem of poverty is to give money to Catholic institutions. This, of course, includes your horrible  woman killing hospitals

  • irisheddieohara

    Another response which entirely evades the problem so that the fantasy can keep going.  Just how long do you think that our country can rack up trillions of dollars of debt before the whole thing crashes?

    1.   It has nothing to do with my like or dislike of paying taxes.  It has to do with a system that is not working.  Welfare was supposed to be a stopgap for people to help them over rough times until they could get on their feet.  It has become a way of life.  There are authors who state that the welfare society, as begun by L.B.J. has all but destroyed the black family in America.  

     

    2.  You evade my point again.  There are thousands of people who make a grand living off being administrators of welfare programs.  I doubt they want to see their gravy train stopped by implementing a system that would actually make people self-sufficient and self-reliant.

     

    3.  The system is a sham because it does not create independence and it is not set up as a stop gap to help people through hard times.   There will always be poor people and we are supposed to care for them.  But the number of them has increased dramatically over the years due to federal actions which have destroyed the family, destroyed jobs (Reagan, Clinton, and Bush did that) and made it easier just to stay on welfare.

     

    4.  Yes,  we can cut military spending.  Eisenhower warned us about the military/industrial complex.  We can also cut out massive amounts of fraud in social programs.  People scam these programs regularly to the tune of billions of dollars a year, and I am not just talking about poor folk. I am talking about doctors and administrators who do phoney billings and in other ways cheat the system.  I am also talking about a system which rewards women for having babies out of wedlock and does not track down men who create those babies.  Then the folks who are working and struggling to keep their heads afloat are asked to pay for the bad behavior of such folks.   To top that,  their demands on the system take resourcese from those who have real needs, the elderly, the chronically ill, those with handicapped.  But your Socialist idea on how to deal with those folks is to put them to death, as they are doing in England now.

     

    5. I understand all too well how the system works, having used it myself when I was younger and dirt poor, and having seen people abuse it.

  • irisheddieohara

    that the free ride being given to the war machine in the U.S.A. needs to stop.  It is indeed nothing but a scheme to make the filthy rich even more rich.  

     

    Of course, as a Catholic, I oppose the use of contraception and suppor the restoration of the family.   If sex was limited to married couples, there would be no need for contraception.  We have ignored God’s plan for the use of sex and then we whine and carry on when the roof falls in on us.

  • prochoiceferret

    Another response which entirely evades the problem so that the fantasy can keep going. Just how long do you think that our country can rack up trillions of dollars of debt before the whole thing crashes?

     

    Why don’t you ask the GOP, who keep on refusing to raise taxes so that we can get the deficit under control?

     

    1.   It has nothing to do with my like or dislike of paying taxes.  It has to do with a system that is not working. Welfare was supposed to be a stopgap for people to help them over rough times until they could get on their feet.  It has become a way of life.

     

    Do you have any evidence for this that isn’t a collection of anecdotes?

     

    There are authors who state that the welfare society, as begun by L.B.J. has all but destroyed the black family in America.

     

    Which goes to show that even authors can be blissfully ignorant of the endemic poverty, racism and discrimination that has existed since long before L.B.J.

     

    2.  You evade my point again.  There are thousands of people who make a grand living off being administrators of welfare programs.  I doubt they want to see their gravy train stopped by implementing a system that would actually make people self-sufficient and self-reliant.

     

    Yes, those low-level government clerks sure are pulling the strings in the halls of power!

     

    3.  The system is a sham because it does not create independence and it is not set up as a stop gap to help people through hard times.   There will always be poor people and we are supposed to care for them.  But the number of them has increased dramatically over the years due to federal actions which have destroyed the family, destroyed jobs (Reagan, Clinton, and Bush did that) and made it easier just to stay on welfare.

     

    Yes, it’s easier to stay on welfare benefits when there are no jobs. Most people would take this to mean that we need to get the economy in gear so that there will be jobs, rather than futz with the welfare system (which tends not to result in jobs).

     

    4.  Yes,  we can cut military spending.  Eisenhower warned us about the military/industrial complex.  We can also cut out massive amounts of fraud in social programs.  People scam these programs regularly to the tune of billions of dollars a year, and I am not just talking about poor folk. I am talking about doctors and administrators who do phoney billings and in other ways cheat the system.

     

    So what are your policy proposals for cutting out these massive amounts of fraud? Please note that in order for your proposals to pass the laugh test, they need to (1) save more money than they cost to implement, and (2) avoid collateral damage in the form of people who actually need assistance not getting it.

     

    Oh, and if you’re for cutting out fraud, you’ll find much larger, juicier targets in military spending. Do you know how many billions of dollars of ours have basically vanished in Afghanistan and Iraq?

     

    I am also talking about a system which rewards women for having babies out of wedlock and does not track down men who create those babies.

     

    So I take it you believe that children who are not born in wedlock don’t deserve to eat? And what good is tracking down these men if they are (also) indigent, abusive, and/or imprisoned?

     

    Then the folks who are working and struggling to keep their heads afloat are asked to pay for the bad behavior of such folks.

     

    They’re going to end up doing that anyway: how do you think public shelters and the police are funded?

     

    To top that,  their demands on the system take resourcese from those who have real needs, the elderly, the chronically ill, those with handicapped.  But your Socialist idea on how to deal with those folks is to put them to death, as they are doing in England now.

     

    If you equate not providing necessary care with “putting to death,” then there’s a lot more of that going on here than across the pond.

     

    5. I understand all too well how the system works, having used it myself when I was younger and dirt poor, and having seen people abuse it.

     

    The fact that you haven’t once mentioned the letters “TANF,” and talk about the “welfare” system using stereotypes instead of hard numbers, tells me that your understanding of how the system works hasn’t been updated since those days.

  • prochoiceferret

    that the free ride being given to the war machine in the U.S.A. needs to stop.  It is indeed nothing but a scheme to make the filthy rich even more rich.

     

    Perhaps you should focus your time and energy on this fight? There’s a lot fewer people following this one up than the whole welfare/abortion/babies thing.

     

    Of course, as a Catholic, I oppose the use of contraception and suppor the restoration of the family.   If sex was limited to married couples, there would be no need for contraception.

     

    Actually, most married couples that I know still like having sex without making babies. They still need contraception. (indeed, some of them need lots and lots of contraception!)

     

    We have ignored God’s plan for the use of sex and then we whine and carry on when the roof falls in on us.

     

    Why should we care about this God fellow’s plan if we don’t worship him? And if the roof falls on us, then, well, that’s why you hire a home inspector before buying a property.

  • crowepps

     If sex was limited to married couples, there would be no need for contraception. 

    I don’t know how to break it to you, but most contraception use is by married couples, because they no longer want 10 or 12 children, and Natural Family Planning, or whatever they’re calling the Rhythym Method this year, works far better for *getting* pregnant than it does for preventing it.

    I’ve always found it interesting that people insist “God’s plan” for people is to act in unnatural ways that aren’t at all like the way they were biologically created.  Repetitive rituals, purity obsessions, repugnance for sex, insistence on perfection, harsh punishments for error: it’s almost as though religion is intent on forcing normal people to *act* as though they have obsessive compulsive disorder.

  • jennifer-starr

    If sex was limited to married couples, there would be no need for contraception.  

    I don’t know what kind of enclave you live in or rock you live under, Eddie, but most married couples I know actually do use contraception, including my own parents since the late seventies. Yes, this includes even the Catholic married couples.  

  • irisheddieohara

    Instead of just handing cheques out to people every month,  why not create a system which encourages the following:

     

    1.  Skills testing to see what skills young people have.   Then take the money that is being handed to them and use it instead to create homesteads.   I honestly believe that there are a great number of young people who would like to learn a trade, but are not being given the chance.

    2.  Take those people with building skills such as carpentry, electrical work,  plumbing, and put them to work building houses on the land we have available.  Let them begin by building their own houses as a start, learning as they go.  As the house is built, you have men learning a trade and being paid.  I call that job creation, in a very meaningful way.  

    When the house is finished,  the one designated as owner moves into it and the crew moves on to build the next house.  Each house comes with two acres of land for planting crops.   A man who owns his own property that feeds his family will never be at the mercy of the corporatists.  He will be independent and free.   The supplies purchased for these houses and the training given to the young people building them will put thousands to work.

    3.  By owning your own property,  I mean either owning land with a house that provides all the needed food for a family, plus suplus to sell on the open market, i.e., farming, or owning a business where one owns the business, as opposed to working for some faceless, box store mega corporation like Wal Mart.   Places like Wal Mart, Lowes,  Home Depot and the like are a pox on our society.  They have put numerous family held businesses out of business, and then we go about wailing about how there are “no jobs” when we have allowed these box stores to destroy jobs in the form of family owned businesses.  And all that so we can save a nickel on cheap Chinese slave labor made crap.

    This is the idea behind the Distributist economic model.  Obviously, with Capitalism so deeply entrenched in the America way of life,  it will take some work to get this running properly, but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Our system is insane.  It gives no one a sense of pride of accomplishment, gives no meaningful life training, and gives no ability for those on welfare to  establish themselves as free individuals.

     

    Oh, and as for one other thing — my neighbor’s daughter has four different children from four different men and your tax dollars are supporting this wretched behavior.  She is just one of hundres.  I work with the poor and I constantly see the results of their poor decision making and sometimes just outright evil choices.

  • goatini

    I remember the bad old days, with no divorce possible no matter how vicious, cruel and violent the husband; no contraception possible no matter how poor the family, how thin the resources were stretched, and how worn out the woman was with too many pregnancies spaced too closely; and no equality in our own faith, as women were second-class citizens whose only reason for even being baptized was to inculcate us into existences as silent, obedient livestock that never complained about our misery because we were ordered to “offer it up”. 

    Of course, as a Catholic, I remember the “Sex Ed Talk” day, for which the boys and girls were separated, and at which we girls were told by Sister that when the day came that we were good Catholic wives, we should make sure that our doctor practiced at a Catholic hospital.  Because if something were to go wrong with the pregnancy, the staff at a non-Catholic hospital might try to save our lives, instead of trying to save the pregnancy at any and all costs.  Sister told us that our dying, in what very well could be a futile effort to save the pregnancy, would gain us a higher place in Heaven, and that such a death was far preferable to the mortal sin of having our own lives saved.  

    Of course, as a Catholic, I remember my own Mother, after 3 children in 3 years and 3 months (while my Father, a laborer, worked two full-time jobs to support the family), living under a faith that valued her intrinsic personhood far less than her body’s “purpose” as breeding livestock for the Church, living in a state in which contraception was illegal.  

    Of course, as a Catholic, it’s obvious to me that all of this latter-day escalation of institutionalized misogyny of the Church’s “New Evangelism” is just the same old corked, bitter wine in new, fancy wineskins.  

  • prochoiceferret

    1.  Skills testing to see what skills young people have.   Then take the money that is being handed to them and use it instead to create homesteads.   I honestly believe that there are a great number of young people who would like to learn a trade, but are not being given the chance.

     

    First you complain that “welfare” is too expensive, and then you propose having the system not only take on a whole new function (which will require more money, and more of the administrators you don’t like so much), but also hand out land parcels (not so cheap if the young people in question live in a city, and not so helpful if their chosen trade is not farming) which would cost a lot more than the assistance they were being given in the first place?

     

    2.  Take those people with building skills such as carpentry, electrical work,  plumbing, and put them to work building houses on the land we have available.  Let them begin by building their own houses as a start, learning as they go.  As the house is built, you have men learning a trade and being paid.  I call that job creation, in a very meaningful way. 

     

    Great, unless you aren’t already trained as a carpenter/electrician/plumber, can’t afford buliding materials, don’t have land to build on, don’t have transportation to the land being built on, have a child or parent needing care…

     

    When the house is finished,  the one designated as owner moves into it and the crew moves on to build the next house.  Each house comes with two acres of land for planting crops.   A man who owns his own property that feeds his family will never be at the mercy of the corporatists.  He will be independent and free.   The supplies purchased for these houses and the training given to the young people building them will put thousands to work.

     

    Two acres?? Where are you going to find the funding to buy each person in need two acres of land, nevermind what they’re going to do with it? If your answer is to buy land out in the boonies, then how are these people going to find and commute to their employment?

     

    3.  By owning your own property,  I mean either owning land with a house that provides all the needed food for a family, plus suplus to sell on the open market, i.e., farming, or owning a business where one owns the business, as opposed to working for some faceless, box store mega corporation like Wal Mart.   Places like Wal Mart, Lowes,  Home Depot and the like are a pox on our society.  They have put numerous family held businesses out of business, and then we go about wailing about how there are “no jobs” when we have allowed these box stores to destroy jobs in the form of family owned businesses.  And all that so we can save a nickel on cheap Chinese slave labor made crap.

     

    I don’t like Wal-Mart all that much either. So are you a registered Green/Rainbow party voter?

     

    This is the idea behind the Distributist economic model.  Obviously, with Capitalism so deeply entrenched in the America way of life,  it will take some work to get this running properly, but the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Our system is insane.  It gives no one a sense of pride of accomplishment, gives no meaningful life training, and gives no ability for those on welfare to  establish themselves as free individuals.

     

    For someone who’s willing to openly critique capitalism (and even capitalize it when they do so), your earlier dismissal and paper-thin understanding of socialism is rather odd.

     

    Oh, and as for one other thing — my neighbor’s daughter has four different children from four different men and your tax dollars are supporting this wretched behavior.  She is just one of hundres.  I work with the poor and I constantly see the results of their poor decision making and sometimes just outright evil choices.

     

    I’ll save my outrage for people like the executives at British Petroleum. An indigent mother of four, trying her best to make ends meet, just doesn’t rate all that high on my Scale of Evil.

  • colleen

    An indigent mother of four, trying her best to make ends meet, just doesn’t rate all that high on my Scale of Evil.

    Note that his sole mention of the far more irresponsible males in this situation is to count them in order to devalue and bitch about a  mother of 4. Oh my God, she had sex with 4 men! Cleasrly those men can’t be held responsible because everyone knows that once the sacred penis of a religious right male is inserted in someone’s vagina (or, as the case may be, the anal cavity of a child) that the insertee is to blame for tempting those poor, poor men.

     

  • jennifer-starr

    Sounds to me as if old Eddie is longing for the days when this woman could be forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’–he probably thinks her children should be taken from her and given to more ‘worthy’ people to raise.  He seems to harbor a lot of hostility towards those who don’t live  and believe as he thinks they should. 

  • colleen

     He seems to harbor a lot of hostility towards those who don’t live  and believe as he thinks they should.

    He makes me proud to be a liberal

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