Why it is hard to leave poverty

Why it is hard to leave poverty June 12, 2015

is seen in Bianca Perry’s difficult path from poverty to college graduation.

In other news, the Republican-led state of Kansas has hit on a fresh method of punishing poor people while enriching banks. And for good measure, this living laboratory of Movement Conservative ideology, already reduced to a smoking ruin by the triumph of the ideology over reality, tells poor people they can’t go swimming or take in a movie, just for spite’s sake (God forbid poor people get some exercise or have a simple human pleasure). Meanwhile, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal do their best to endear themselves to the Party of Crazy by gutting higher ed in their states (God forbid people like Bianca Perry escape the grind of poverty). So important to punish the poor. So, so important.

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  • Exactly how bad does it have to get in Kansas before the ideologues in charge come to their senses?

    • Pete the Greek

      I agree! Pretty soon we won’t have any tattoo parlors or casinos left!!!!

      • Huh? Do you know if, in fact, most people who receive the cash benefits are spending it at tattoo parlors and casinos? How many people in fact have to “mismanage” their money this way to justify this sort of law, not only the cost of implementing it but the moral cost on all the people who aren’t spending their benefits at tattoo parlors and casinos?

        • ManyMoreSpices

          What costs are associated with not allowing EBT cards to scan in the readers at tattoo parlors?

          • Perhaps I should clarify for you and Pete the Greek that I was commenting in regard to the Kansas law specifically, limiting the amount that can be withdrawn in one day. I function on a cash basis, and if I were only limited to $25 a day (really $20, unless I drive an extra few miles to deal with a teller rather than an ATM), that would make grocery shopping a real hardship, not to mention getting a full tank of gas. The ATM fees would add up dramatically, and the alternative, going to the bank itself every single day, would eat up a not-insignificant amount of time and gas. I can’t think of a single justification for that specific legal provision.

            • kenofken

              “I can’t think of a single justification for that specific legal provision.”……

              That’s because you’re not a banking lobbyist with serious sway in the Kansas GOP.

          • kenofken

            I thought libertarians or those of that bent were opposed to artificially distorting markets and believed competent adults have the agency to act in their own best interests within the marketplace. Why is a tattoo or even a legal adult-oriented service a “waste” of a poor person’s aid money, but giving over 20% to ATM fees is not?

        • Pete the Greek

          I deal with these people every day, I’m willing to bet more than you do.

          Tattoo parlors and casinos? Most of the cash waste either goes to pot, alcohol or lottery tickets. No, I wouldn’t say it’s most, but it’s a sizable enough amount that I think, yes, there should be action taken on it.

          You see, I recognized a long time ago that ‘money’ is actually not a limitless thing like air, or sunrises. There will always be waste when it comes to limited things, but when waste begins to take a large amount of those things, steps need to be taken to curb waste, if nothing else for the sake of those who depend on them.

          Do you really think there should be NO limit on what welfare is spent on? Should it be totally legal and ok to purchase, say, pornography (that happens a lot), or in places like LV where it may be legal, sexual services?

          • See my reply above; I was commenting in response to the withdrawal limit. Of course I recognize the need for limits (hence my support of food stamps, e.g., rather than just the cash allowance suggested below), but I think we need to balance those limits with administrative and legislative costs, and also keep in mind the innate dignity of the people in need.

            While my situation is by no means as dire as that of many others in this country, we have been living under very straitened circumstances for the last few years. The stress this has caused us, and the toll it has taken on our mental and physical well-beings, is significant. And it is made worse by the fact that there are people who, despite not knowing us or our situation intimately, assume our priorities are all wrong. Too much political rhetoric and legislative action is focused on making sure those lazy good-for-nothings don’t spend money on the wrong things, and not on what is the most humane and effective way to help people.

            • Pete the Greek

              We probably agree in principle (and it sounds perhaps bit like in the living situation too), so really it’s just a matter of discussing what would be just limitations.

              I would agree that setting an artificial bottom on spending at one particular time seems a bit wrongheaded.

              • I’m just mystified by it. $25 here in NYC would get me a gallon of juice, a gallon of milk, and a chicken. That’s not enough food for a family of five (four of whom eat SO MUCH.)

                • Pete the Greek

                  Probably a good example of why charity needs to be administered at the most local level possible instead of by some federal leviathan who cares nothing for people.

                  • Dan C

                    Charity at the state level here has reduced this to a corruption of a give-away to banks. Each withdrawal generates a fee to the bank.
                    Keeping things local has not improved much. There are no George Baileys.

                    Mr. Potter rules all and we live in Potterviles. This “keep it local” just gives Mr. Potter more power.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      If you people at the most local level vote to give local mr. Potter power, as your post implies, then that’s more your problem. Don’t try to blame someone else for your screw up.

                      I think part of your problem is that you seem to confuse fictional movies with real life. Perhaps if there are no George baileys around you should try acting like one yourself and quit complaining that mr. Potter hasn’t solved your problems for you.

                    • Dan C

                      Dude: you’ve policies endured that Mr. Potter is the only possible winner. Greed is king. You win. This is the world of your making.

                      You don’t like the morals of Potterville? Then perhaps you shouldn’t be pursuing the economic policies you did.

                      You won it all.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      Considering you don’t know my policies, and your positions so far seem to consist of a cartoonish parody of talking point regurgitation, there’s not much more to be said.

                      Were you to drop the sophomoric “us again’ them” / “you’re all a bunch of evil rich people” type of talk, you might find you and I probably agree in principle in more ways than you think.

                      But then that would require you to painfully stretch your mind beyond the “not Democrat = evil” meme that seems to animate most of your comments.

                      Seriously, your rhetoric is little better than that of a dime store Ann Coulter, just with the politics reversed.

                    • Dan C

                      I am well aware of your policies having read your opinions over the years.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      Then you read without understanding.

                    • Dan C

                      You revile Krugman, even though he has been correct.

                      You termed reflexively “Leviathan” an appeal to efficient use of central government.

                      Please, tell me how you are not revealing your biases.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      “You revile Krugman, even though he has been correct.”
                      – Krugman was right. There was never any housing bubble. And even if there was, there was no way anyone could have seen it coming. Anyone who claims there was is obviously a stooge for Bu$hitler. Did I just sum up your economic thought there?

                      “You termed reflexively “Leviathan” an appeal to efficient use of central government.”

                      – Demanding that care for the poor ‘reflexively’ be given to a totally unaccountable bureaucratic hydra that is obviously broken and viewing local attempts to help as worthless (which your use of ‘hayseeds’ seems to imply) can mean little else. The fact that you equate “efficient” with “massive unaccountable bureaucracy” tells me there is far more ideology than reason in your worldview.

                      Mark Shea might agree with you that we should hand over our responsibilities to our brethren automatically to the federal government (i’m not quite sure he actually agrees with the, as I understand it, Chesterton ideal of first trying locally and then, if that fails, moving up the ladder of power) but I will not.

                      I think there IS a very large difference between you and I. I try to see people as individuals, including ‘the poor’. I have found after working with them for many years that some are great, some good, some not so good and some truly despicable. In short, like a slice of any group. The difference, it seems to me, is that you seem to view ‘the poor’ collectively as failed class in permanent custodial care. A faceless jumble of numbers to be managed by a ruling power.

                      An argument could be made that we should reflexively throw all responsibility of managing wild bison herds to the federal government. I’m not really comfortable with treating people the same. They aren’t animals.

        • kenofken

          Because the poor are just “that sort” of people. If they weren’t, they’d be rich (or upper-middle class as they prefer to call themselves).

    • Dan C

      They will never come to their senses and must be relegated to the side-lines.

  • jaybird1951

    Good grief! Kansas is not banning poor people from going to the movies or a swimming pool. Just not with taxpayer funds which are to be used for essentials like food. Your headline was deliberately misleading.

    • ManyMoreSpices

      It’s worse than that. Here’s the full quote from the Washington Post:

      “The measure means Kansas families receiving government assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state’s dime.”

      Mark used pools and movies as his examples of cruelty. He omitted gambling and tattoos. What could explain this?

      (i) Brevity: he thinks that’s it’s cruel to prohibit the feeding of welfare dollars into slot machines, but didn’t mention it because he made his point adequately by mentioning pools and movies.

      (ii) Distinction: he believes that welfare dollars should not be used on certain frivolous expenses, so he’s in favor of restrictions on spending welfare dollars on tramp stamps.

      If it’s (i) he’s not worth taking seriously. If it’s (ii) he’s among the ranks of the sane, who believe that government spending for the common good can be tailored to make best use of limited funds, in which case our disagreement is over where to draw the line between allowed and prohibited expenditures, not over whether a line can be drawn. If it’s the latter, it’s terrible to say that I want to “punish” the poor merely because I would be a little more restrictive with spending welfare dollars on nonessentials than he would.

      • Pete the Greek

        You DARE question Mark Shea??? Just who do you think you are????

        There is another possibility you have overlooked, though:

        (iii) Mark didn’t actually read the article: Since I doubt he combs the news for articles about Kansas, someone probably sent him the link with a blurb about the government not letting poor people go swimming, Mark became outraged and just posted the link without bother to check it. Wouldn’t be the first time.

        • ManyMoreSpices

          Possible. But once that’s resolved, I’d still like to know whether he’s in (i) or (ii).

  • LFM

    I don’t believe in reckless tax-cutting or denying poor people basic pleasures. When it comes to higher education, however, there are certain issues that your indignation has passed over, Mark. The cost of a university education in your country has risen at a rate grossly disproportionate to that of every other major expense. Much of this cost increase can be ascribed to such non-essentials as greatly expanded administrations and “student life” perks. It certainly hasn’t gone to hiring large numbers of professors, as more and more schools rely on adjuncts to do much of their undergraduate teaching.

    From an article in the (non-right-wing) Washington Monthly in 2011:
    Between 1975 and 2005, total spending by American higher educational institutions, stated in constant dollars, tripled, to more than $325 billion per year. Over the same period, the faculty-to-student ratio has remained fairly constant, at approximately fifteen or sixteen students per instructor. One thing that has changed, dramatically, is the administrator-per-student ratio. In 1975, colleges employed one administrator for every eighty-four students and one professional staffer—admissions officers, information technology specialists, and the like—for every fifty students. By 2005, the administrator-to-student ratio had dropped to one administrator for every sixty-eight students while the ratio of professional staffers had dropped to one for every twenty-one students.

    • iamlucky13

      “The cost of a university education in your country has risen at a rate
      grossly disproportionate to that of every other major expense.”

      Almost true. You’re forgetting medical care, and housing is running at a very close third.

      • LFM

        Do you mean the cost of medical care is rising faster than that of higher education? Even if it were, there is some excuse for it. People are living much longer than they were in 1965, which is the date to which the graphs in the linked article go back, and there are far more costly – and from a life-saving point of view, essential – treatments available than there were then. (Chemotherapy didn’t exist in 1965, did it?)

        But higher education has no such excuses for its increased costs. Its quality hasn’t improved, and if it’s offering some essential new services (i.e. universal computer access; online systems which require expensive administrators to run), many other new services are quite unnecessary to the presumed goals of higher education.

        • iamlucky13

          I mean medical care and higher education are rising at roughly the same pace – about 2-3 times the rate of general inflation.

          Living longer is not the explanation. That explains more total cost over a lifetime, but not higher cost for care received. Nor is availability of more expensive (but presumably more effective…which is a separate discussion) care like chemotherapy or even the new immunotherapy based treatments that are hitting $100,000 for a full round of treatment and related support. Medical care practices with a long history have been rocketing skyward, too.

          The average hospital stay in the US, for example, is now over $1600 dollars per day EXCLUDING the actual care received. $1600 gets you a bed, a bathroom, and a nurse checking every now and then to make sure you’re not dead. Any action that actually keeps you from dying is not included, and costs even more than the room.

          As a a result, for example, the average birth in the US now costs just under $12,000, according to federal data from 2008. Even on the Catholic, non-profit side, Providence Oregon says right on their website that families should expect to billed between $7400 and $10,300 for a completely routine, unmedicated birth, and they state explicitly that the physician or nurse-midwife’s services will be an additional bill on top of that!

          • LFM

            I’m not an American, so I have to guesstimate the causes of your rise in health care expenses based on news stories I’ve seen, most of which are not especially detailed. So I’m quite willing to accept that I’ve got some things wrong. Still, I wonder what you mean about “Medical care practices with a long history have been rocketing skyward, too.” Why would that be surprising, given new and expensive treatments? Or do you mean “practices” as in “treatments” – i.e. it used to cost X to do basic physical therapy but now it costs 5X?

            I think, too, that you are too swift to dismiss the possibility that rising medical care costs are partly driven by an aging population. Elderly people don’t merely require care for more years than those people who die younger; they become increasingly frail as they age and need more continuous and watchful care. BTW, what about your country’s peculiar system of health care insurance as a factor in medical costs? It seems to have virtually been designed to eat money – neither a truly free market system nor a single-payer system, both of which can restrain costs, though sometimes at the price of fewer, or less good, services.

            But as I said, I don’t feel I know enough to press these issues, which aren’t really central to my original point about how crazily the cost of education has risen.

  • Patrick

    As a resident of Kansas, I can offer first-hand testimony that it is not a “smoking ruin”.

    • Alma Peregrina

      «it is not a “smoking ruin”.»

      After the twister it was.


    • Dan C

      How is that education for your school kids going? Proud of shutting them down?

  • ManyMoreSpices

    tells poor people they can’t go swimming or take in a movie, just for spite’s sake

    I’m curious as to how this objection would work without the government as an intermediary. It’s easy to say that the government should pay for movie tickets when the money is coming from some rich guy’s Scrooge McDuckian vault or from Obama’s stash. It’s another thing to imagine a one-on-one interaction.

    Man: “Hey Mister, can you spare nine dollars?”
    Shea: [reaching for wallet] “Let me see. I do what I can to help those in need. Nine dollars is awfully specific. Can I ask you why you’re asking me for nine?”
    Man: “That’s what a movie ticket costs.”
    Shea: “You don’t need this for food or medicine or bus fare or clothes or books for your kids or to get your water turned back on?”
    Man: “Food? Actually, I will need to get popcorn and a soda. Extra-large of course, because that’s the best value. And I really like Junior Mints, so you better give me an extra $16.50”
    Shea: “Junior… Mints?”
    Man: “Yeah, so your total comes to $25.50. You’re going to give me that, right? Because otherwise you’re denying me my simple pleasures just for spite’s sake, you cruel Movement Conservative-type.”

  • Pete the Greek

    “tells poor people they can’t go swimming or take in a movie,”
    … on the government’s dime. That’s kind of a very important point you left out. Since I have a bunch of kids and am not rich so can’t afford tickets (have you seen the PRICE of movie tickets??), I don’t get to go to movies either. That’s totally unjust. I demand the government give me movie tickets.

    OMG. That’s REALLY what’s got your goat?

    Why stop at movies? Why not say you could exchange welfare money for cigarettes (which the poor tend to use in astronomical quantities and buy WAY more of than movie tickets, even though at this point they cost about the same, which tells me they prefer that) or, where it’s legal, for weed, which the poor, as a group, also consume massive amounts of?

    And really, you seem to think that the problem with higher education is that the astronomically growing costs are not going up fast enough? Because that’s actually an effect of massive subsidies in the form of government guaranteed student loans.

    • Dan C

      So much for the low-regulatory environment- oh, I get it- low regulatory for you. Not for others

      • kenofken

        Here we get to the nut of the libertarian imperative, at least in this country. No government can tell them what to do in any circumstance. The very idea of the nanny state is abhorrent to them, but for the poor, they’re eager to have the state micromanage the chip money of grown a** men as if they were 7.

      • Pete the Greek

        Ah, a shill for leviathan.

        I would prefer the federal government not be involved at all. But if the federal government is going to be spending taxpayer dollars, then yes, I would like to see some safe guards against waste and fraud in place, where possible. You have no problem with fraud and corruption, I assume?

        If only they did this on military spending too.

        • Dan C

          You embrace policies that require enforcement that are not efficient or useful while at the same time making sure the bank steals some of the welfare money. Nice job. You waste the money for the poor in two ways.

          I won’t even bother to demonstrate to you the lack of waste and corruption in these programs because facts will not penetrate the mythology you passionately embrace. Conservatives are a faith-based folk. They need no reality.

          • Pete the Greek

            Considering that I work in a business where I work with people who use government assistance everyday, i’m willing to bet I have more first hand dealings than yourself. Many years more, probably.

            And no, you mistake my support for specific measures.

            • Dan C

              Unlikely that you have more experience or diversity.

              I was a post-graduate volunteer in a Native American boarding school in the 1980’s, lived in a Catholic Worker for years while going to medical school and am now for decades a pediatrician in a ghetto.

              I know that most families work, lose their jobs, and then seek work again time after time. I know the demeaning steps the PA bureaucracy insists on just to please it’s conservative base to ensure humiliation of the poor.

              I know all about this.

              • Pete the Greek

                I would say my experience is simply from a different angle. I do find it odd that you claim to work in the ghetto, but seem to have seen zero of the social pathology that I have.

                • Dan C

                  I do not claim any moral superiority which you obviously do. This is my difference. You are better than what you are nearly calling “those people.”

                  Here’s a hint: you are not.

                  • Pete the Greek

                    Actually, you just did.

                    I had no idea using pronouns was a sign of such insidious evil.

        • jroberts548

          If you didn’t like waste, you wouldn’t like a system that limits withdrawals to $20 a day with hefty ATM fees. Each trip to the ATM machine and every ATM fee is waste.

          • Pete the Greek

            I think you missed another part of the conversation. I agreed with another poster that artificial purchase price limits are not wise.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I’ve always considered policies like this to parallel gun control measures. Have such measures proven effective at combating abuse, or is there a reasonable and reasoned expectation of efficacy? Or are they simply ill-considered measures more political than prudent? Circumventions to such measures abound, and one must be careful not to unfairly burden the innocent. Of course, American political prescriptions are often magnificent examples of superficial solutions …

    If we must be wary of Leviathan, then we must be wary of Leviathan, even when it seemingly comforts our prejudices.

    • ManyMoreSpices

      Enforcement costs can be significant, but I don’t think there’s any cost associated with not letting an EBT card scan at a casino or liquor store. Of course, there’s no way to prevent someone from using food stamps on a sack of apples, then going across the street and bartering them for a beer or placing them on the Pass Line. Inefficiencies abound, and truly effective enforcement may cost more than it saves.

      It’s for that reason that if I had my druthers – and unlike tattoos and movie tickets, no one is supporting my right to purchase my druthers with food stamps – I would give welfare benefits in the form of a guaranteed minimum income. Straight cash. Enough to live on. No restrictions, no supervision. But that’s all the government help you get, and if you fail to budget and instead blow it on tattoos and scratch-off lottery tickets… to you I say “hard cheese.”

      I think that’s the most efficient way to give aid. But we’ve already decided that we’re going to restrict welfare spending, and I don’t expect that to go away. Food stamps, Section 8 vouchers, Medicaid, etc., all tell the poor that we want them to spend their money in a certain way. If you’re really committed – as Mark seems to be – to the idea that we shouldn’t be depriving poor people of pleasures, then you should be objecting that the poor can’t use their Section 8 vouchers at the dog track. But nobody does that, because no one actually thinks it’s immoral per se to restrict welfare money expenditures.

      • Pete the Greek

        “No restrictions, no supervision. But that’s all the government help you
        get, and if you fail to budget and instead blow it on tattoos and
        scratch-off lottery tickets… to you I say “hard cheese.””
        – While it may sound good, you’re going to get an enormous number of people who blow it on drugs, alcohol, porn and smokes. I work in C and D class real estate, and that happens a LOT, in spite of social do gooders saying it’s a myth. So what you are going to then see is this massive amount of cash wasted and blown and then… what? Are you some evil Republican that is now going to let hungry people not eat just for the crime of having no more money?

        • ManyMoreSpices

          I expect that they might. But as it stands, there’s a problem with giving in-kind benefits: it’s horribly inefficient. It’s estimated that the poor get only $0.20 to $0.40 of value out of every Medicaid dollar spent. We might be better off just handing them money so that they get a dollar’s worth out of every dollar. Some might waste it, but others might do better than they’re doing now.

          On balance, I think I prefer a world where everyone has the opportunity to get by, and no one needs to be on the streets except by choice… even if a number of them are going to end up there.

          • Pete the Greek

            True, I think a key thing is to look also beyond handouts, be they cash, food, or any other form.

            A lot of the social pathology that exists in poor areas of this country (and no, before anyone else jumps on, I’m not saying everyone as it) also exists in the middle and upper class. Casual bastardy is rampant in the lower class, particularly in the black inner cities. BUT, the rich engage in it too. But then a single mom living on 1 million a year with two young boys has a LOT of money to cushion the lack of a father. Sure, there will be issues from that, but unlike the single mom with two sons who live in the projects, it is MUCH less likely that the rich single mom’s kids will die by age 19 in a shootout over drug turf.

        • Marthe Lépine

          In addition, the people who are going to go hungry might be the children of the adults who could waste their cash.

      • ivan_the_mad

        I’m unsure whether your invocation of the second person is general or particular, so I will clarify that my comment is not a statement of support for, or opposition to, the things Mark is herein railing against, but a call for caution.

        • ManyMoreSpices


    • Dan C

      Gun control measures are not really “control.” But you guys know that. There is joy preventative techniques only consequences once caught.

      “Control” techniques would prevent certain people from getting guns. That is not allowed. Or certain guns from being used. Again, not allowed.

      Pretending “control” exists in all these laws is just propaganda from the right.

      • Pete the Greek

        So, I actually CAN buy a post 1986 automatic online for cash and have it shipped to my door USPS with no background check? I had no idea.

        Where’s my credit card?

  • HornOrSilk

    You need a college degree for a career, and you need a career to pay for a college degree. The problem is when you get too old and costly, the career will dump you, and then you either need a new career with a new degree, or you don’t get jobs. That’s how it has become for many.

    • Patrick

      My cousin is a successful welder…it is his career. No college degree. One does not NEED a college degree for a career. One barrier to many people is the credentialism of our society (see the history of the Flexner report for how it transformed the medical trade in the U.S.); if we were actually let people do what they’re good at without demanding some kind of permit or stamp from Uncle it would unleash a lot of jobs.

      Good article on these “state permission slips” here:

      Good article on how the U.S. medical system was captured here:

      • HornOrSilk

        Yes, some people have such skills and ability, others have skills and ability elsewhere. I do think the need for a college degree, in specific areas, for specific jobs is a part of the problem — I was not saying it was a good thing how they work this, but it is how it has become. So many people with education can do work in jobs they will never be considered for because the degree is different from the “job,” not because they don’t have the ability to do the job.

        The reason for this is that the job no longer wants to train anyone. We must keep in mind, it used to be that most jobs had on the job training — now they demand you get it yourself before you apply for the job.

        • Pete the Greek

          I think that depends. I have family who work in welding and other construction jobs. The companies involved state that they are willing to not only train, but help relocate new hires who are willing to put the effort into learning different skills, and don’t even require a college degree. No, that’s probably not universal, I’ll grant, but even with that offer, and good pay, they have a VERY hard time finding people to hire.

          • HornOrSilk

            Some do, some don’t. Welding is just one example. However, if everyone just went to welding, as the next big thing, then it would change as well. It’s a cycle people need to understand; again, the general point is the work force as a whole has a “college degree required” problem. Finding a few examples against the general rule doesn’t hurt the point.

            • Pete the Greek

              I would agree with the general rule, actually. I wish we could ditch it. At my main job we have people who have degrees that can’t code for crap, and yet we have to pass up self taught people who know what they’re doing because they don’t have a piece of paper. This company is NOT one that is willing to train.

      • Dan C

        Skilled labor is becoming less commonly capable of supporting a family.

        • Rebecca Fuentes

          It depends on the skill. Pipe-fitters, electricians, instrument techs, etc., can make a very good living, especially in the energy industry. However, the industry is expecting more training than previously, I think, and how good the living is depends on the cost of living in the area.

  • Patrick

    For what it’s worth, a guy in my area has an ATM business and has cameras on his machines…it’s not uncommon to see the welfare cards used at the ATM to pay the hooker on the spot. There is abuse, and if I give you $20 to “help you out” and you get a tattoo with it, I’m not going to “help you out” anymore. The law does not prohibit recipients of tax monies from using pools or seeing movies or getting tattoos, as if there were some database at these locations that beep if you’re on the welfare list….if you find an Andrew Jackson in the street or you mow somebody’s lawn and make some money, go see a show and enjoy it or get that tattoo you can’t live without, by all means.

  • Peggy

    So, how does it keep you poor if you can’t use public funds to go swimming or see a movie? Perhaps these limitations will help people learn to stretch out their budgets better. They might have a greater incentive to find profitable employment.

    • jroberts548

      It keeps you poor when you can’t use public funds for effectively anything because a bunch of puritans don’t want you to go swimming. Withdrawing $20 at a time (unless Kansas is full of ATMs with $5 bills), and paying ATM fees for each withdrawal puts you in a bind. If I were designing a welfare program for ATM operators, I would design a program like Kansas’. If I were actually trying to help the poor, I would design any other program.

      • Peggy

        Look. I suppose some of these things seem mean and stingy. The point of most aid is to ensure that basic needs are met, not that the poor live pleasurable lives. Often they can obtain other income, maybe not much, and remain aid beneficiaries. Many people are poor who cannot or do not, for whatever reasons, receive aid. They can’t enjoy the pool or a movie unless they save up. Once people are in a position where some one else is paying the bills, then the other party is making the decisions that arguably the poor person could not make on his own. If a person wants to rise up from poverty, the key is to go out and get a job, any job, get some training, move up the ladder. Make yourself valuable. While some situations are of course more difficult than others, the person with a little confidence and ambition can rise up and make something of himself–yes, with help and support from others. [Although I do understand it is now not PC to say that America is the land of opportunity. Crazy times.]

        • jroberts548

          And how does paying more money in ATM fees and reduced liquidity help people earn money? Would giving ten percent of your income to a bank make you richer? How is that different for the poor?

          • Peggy

            ATM fees affect every one. I’m not sure what to say about the justness of it. Charging a fee for something is intended to change behavior through price signals. To discourage frequent withdrawals in this case. To encourage better financial management skills. All prices are signals to affect consumers’ behavior, including beneficiaries of taxpayers’ dollars.

            • jroberts548

              If you actually wanted to discourage frequent withdrawals, you wouldn’t set the withdrawal limit at effectively $20. You don’t seriously believe that the state wishes to discourage frequent withdrawals by setting a uselessly low limit.

              • kenofken

                The conservative model of public aid has nothing to do with helping people get out of poverty. The object is to make welfare as onerous and degrading an experience as possible.

                It’s also about creating business models to profit from the misery of the poor. There is a vast sector of the economy designed specifically to claw back and recover the meager but steady cash flow of the poor, both public aid dollars but also whatever minimum wage earnings they accrue.

                Virtually every industry which engages them exploits their relative lack of options and leverage and to make sure they hand over whatever dollars they have as soon as they get them, and then some. It’s a technically legal and loose, but effective form of peonage.

                The ATM banks in this scheme, the 500% interest payday loan outlets, slum housing owners and prison contractors are very often owned by the same billionaires who tell they poor they should be pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps – even though they have their arms pinned to the ground and are picking their pockets.

                • Peggy

                  If any one wants to change his life, it takes some effort. We can’t allow ourselves to be prisoners of our circumstances. You don’t like it, change it.

                  There is clearly an effort to control behavior in these various charges and limits. Banks usually don’t charge ATM fees for their own customers, but do for other customers. The charges are for aid recipients who don’t have bank accounts. This is not unusual pricing for bank ATMs.

                  The state had to come up with a way to get banks to take its public aid ATM-type cards. The fees and limits also encourage good behavior of opening a checking account, accumulating some savings, and writing checks for biils. And if it’s that embarrassing and miserable, a person is encouraged by these discomforts to make efforts to improve his lot in life. Not, it’s not always easy, but in most cases, it’s possible.

                  • Peggy

                    A further thought. If the Church teaches that a man does not have absolute rights over his own property to do with and possess as he wants, surely a person who is given means from others to tend to his needs does not have absolute rights to employ those resources as he sees fit. He has to respect the public trust. We would say that for Solyndra and the banks and auto cos, why not for individuals benefiting from public funds.

                    • jroberts548

                      Fine, then we should ban anyone with a mortgage from buying alcohol or going to movies. After all, the government gives them money through the mortgage interest deduction. Stupid freeloading homeowners should “respect the public trust.” No one is stupid enough to want to apply that ridiculous standard to everyone who gets subsidies from the government (i.e., virtually everyone in the country).

                    • Peggy

                      The govt doesn’t ‘give’ us our money back. They allow us to keep it. odd in an of itself of course.

                    • jroberts548

                      The government artificially puts someone with a mortgage in a better situation than someone who is paying rent. If two people have the same income, and live in identical houses, but one pays rent and the other has a mortgage, the one with the mortgage has more money after taxes. That’s a subsidy. It’s not complicated.

                    • Peggy

                      The mortgagee, homeowner, accepts risks and responsibilities that renters do not. Owners have saved up capital to put down on a house. The property owner of the rental homes takes many risks and has many responsibilities when allowing others to live in their properties.

                      Just as the public aid conditions and restrictions are meant as behavior modification tools, so is the tax code, first and foremost, an exercise in behavior modification. You have forgotten the recent meltdown of 2008 resulting primarily from the government pushing banks to make loans to people who could not afford the loan/home. This nation very much prefers home ownership for as many individuals/families who can do it.

                    • jroberts548

                      1. The mortgagee is the bank. The homeowner is the mortgager. I admit that it’s counter-intuitive, and I normally have to double-check to be sure I’m not reversing them.

                      2. So you understand it’s a subsidy. Let’s pretend your policy rationales make sense, and that that’s a good reason for the government to distort the market. Is there any principled reason that mortgagers receiving federal subsidies and TANF recipients receiving subsidies should be treated differently? Why should mortgagers be allowed to spend their subsidy how they wish, but TANF beneficiaries can’t?

                      3. I remember the 2008 crisis. That’s why I think subsidized mortgages are insane. Subsidized mortgages, strictly speaking, encourage borrowing, rather than homeownership per se. Between that and the homestead exemption, our system is designed to discourage the stability of homeownership and encourage constant home buying. 2008 will happen again because of the government distorting the market. But at least it’s distorting the market in order to benefit the wealthy (chiefly, banks). Heaven forbid they distort the market in a way that benefits a poor person. If all these so-called free market conservatives who oppose welfare were at all honest, they’d be up in arms over the subsidies that benefit them. They aren’t.

                    • Peggy

                      1. Sorry about terminology glitch. Thank you.
                      2. It is not a subsidy to keep your own money you earned. You can spend money you earned how you wish. It was never any one else’s money. The gov’t and taxpayers do NOT have a claim on it. The homeowner tax deduction is a reduction in govt confiscation. It is appropriate to treat property owners differently than renters as property owners have incentive and a desire to maintain and improve their property. (I suppose some one on public aid, temporarily?, may be homeowner too. So, it’s not a mutually exclusive set of people since we’re speaking of 2 different issues.) The money that a household enjoys via public aid was never theirs. It is a gift. It is being given…maybe not so freely…from fellow citizens to the needy family. We should be grateful for what others give us an use it wisely.

                      Generally speaking, renters have neither the incentive nor desire to maintain and improve. Yes, there are deposits that can be lost, and some owners may allow/fund improvements that renters make. There can be some arrangements like that. But, the property owner has to pay for repairs and maintain. The property owner gets fined for code violations, etc. It is better financially to own, have something for your years of payments, than to have money go down the drain with nothing to show. You will have property that, barring unusual events, will have increased in value by a great margin over 20-30 years. Selling that as one approaches retirement or must move to a relative’s or nursing home, is a great benefit. The renter has nothing. The tax code and public aid regulations are all about behavior modification.

                      3. I would not mind a flat tax with no social engineering whatsoever. That is fine. We can’t have a home w/o borrowing. We’d take a lifetime to save the money it costs. You could build it yourself, literally, but that would still take lots of money, time and expertise, none of which the average person has in great supply. 2008 was a function of govt pushing banks to lend to unworthy borrowers who could not pay the loans back. Interest rates remain too low in my view. They need to come up to discourage unwise borrowing for homes or whatever, as well as to encourage business investment and long term individual savings. But that’ll blow govt debts sky high. That’s why the feds keep it so darned low.

                    • jroberts548

                      But if the economic realities naturally incentivize ownership over renting (which they do), then why does the government need to subsidize it? Why should the government pay people to do what they would do anyway, and tax people who are stuck renting at a higher rate than owners?

                      There’s no difference between the mortgage interest deduction and the government giving mortgagers a check for the amount saved by the deduction. This time, let’s consider 3 households, who are economically alike in all regards. They live in neighboring identical townhomes. One owns the house subject to a mortgage, one owns it free and clear, and one rents. The first pays a lower tax rate than the two otherwise identical households. As a matter of economic principle, all three are paying for property taxes and to maintain the house (directly for the first two, built into the rent for the second [even if the landlord is very stupid and charging too little rent, the renter is paying those things in principle]). But the government taxes the first at a lower rate. It punishes the renter and the household that owns free and clear by charging at a higher rate.

                      If the government wanted to incentivize homeownership, there’d be a homeownership deduction. There isn’t. Why isn’t there one? For the same damn reason 2008 happened and the same damn reason Kansas is imposing this ridiculous ATM withdrawal limit: Given the choice between using tax revenues to help people generally or to help banks, the government will help banks. That’s why the government pays people (by taking less money than it’s otherwise entitled to) to pay interest on mortgages.

                      It has nothing to do with wanting to incentivize people to do what they’re naturally incentivized to do anyway. If the government wanted to incentivize homeownership, they’d pay people for homeownership instead of for having mortgages. If the government wanted to incentivize poor people to be financially responsible, they’d do something like subsidize banks who offer low-fee, no minimum balance checking and savings accounts. This would also make administering TANF cash assistance a lot cheaper than what they’re doing now. Or any number of other things that reward financial responsibility.

                      Instead, the government is mandating frequent ATM withdrawals, making planning artificially difficult, and making it nearly impossible to spend money on anything that will save money in the long run.

                    • Peggy

                      There are probably many ways the govt could incentivize desired behavior. The tax code is so convoluted at this point, in some ways it is hard to say which way it’s going in some respects.

                      1. Different homeownership behavior. The tax codes and people’s various positions cause different decisions among households. You say all 3 are alike save, ownership status. The free & clear owner either has already paid off his loans and enjoyed the tax deductions in those days, or he does have more financial resources. [If he can buy outright, so can the others?] Now, he can make investments in the market and pay taxes on them. Maybe #2’s retired. I generally have no problem distinguishing between property owners and renters. Renters can be transient and uncommitted. They may not be willing to keep up the owner’s property, certainly not beyond the letter of a lease. His residence will typically not look as nice as the owner’s. A renter is not personally invested in the property. That’s why he doesn’t make the financial investment. His landlord has the commitment and obligations and personal/financial investment in maintenance and improvements. Yet, b/c he doesn’t live there, he may only do what the contracts with renters and city codes require of him. Know what Sec 8 does to home values?

                      2008 resulted from banks being pushed beyond reason.

                      People have different interests and make different decisions based on those interests. Young adults don’t think that far ahead to plan for and understand the benefits of these investments. They are being infantilized as well today. When our parents were young, just out of HS, even already married w/kids, they saved to buy a home. Today’s kids invest in education if nothing else and want to remain available to whatever happens next…on a Friday night or in their careers.

                      As for the ATM fees, I don’t think that banks have cut out low/no cost no balance accounts. I thought FDIC still required them. I have no problem with trying to help (force) people to keep enough $ in accounts to pay utilities with checks. Maybe they’ll learns something. I make my kids put $ in the bank. They get excited about the growing balances. They can’t take it out w/o my involvement. And I won’t be helping that anytime soon.

                    • jroberts548

                      I don’t care why the free and clear owner is free and clear. The point is that the mortgage interest deduction incentivizes borrowing, not ownership per se, and that it is a subsidy.

                      So you don’t believe in the free market? You’re telling me that the government needs to make essentially moral judgments about how renters and mortgagers spend their money. Why shouldn’t the government make all decisions about how people spend their money? You can’t make a principled argument against the government deciding how to spend “your money” through taxes when you’re praising the government for deciding how to spend everyone’s money in order to punish nasty renters.

                      I don’t give a damn what section 8 does to already subsidized property values. The government already inflates home values artificially by subsidizing mortgages in order to increase demand for homes. I’m not going to shed any tears over subsidized housing for the poor marginally decreasing the value of subsidized housing for the middle-class and the rich. Maybe those whining homeowner leeches should have been a little bit more self-reliant instead of expecting the government to only subsidize them.

                      If you actually wanted people to learn how to manage money in order to become better off and, ideally, move up to the fancier subsidies (like the mortgage interest deduction, etc.), you wouldn’t support a policy virtually mandating daily withdrawals of only $20 and wasting money on ATM fees.

                    • Peggy

                      I have no problem with eliminating from the tax code any tax benefits for home ownership or borrowing money to buy a home. I have noticed, however, people are psychologically attached to it. I recall Romney trying to explain to a lady she’d just pay 15% flat tax instead of say 20-25% (or more?) along with a mortgage deduction. She could only think she lost her interest deduction! Most people have to borrow money to buy a home. The govt apparently thought it could make such an obligation more palatable with the deduction.

                      Aside from the tax code, the differences in interests between renters and owners that I enumerated remain. #2 has to be differently situated than the other 2, if he is able to own outright. If all 3 could buy outright, then their personal interests, life and financial commitments, and willingness to maintain/improve are different. # 1 and #3 may have their finances tied up in something else since they don’t want to pay outright. It seems that the ability to buy outright v borrow v not able to borrow at all are different financial situations. Property owners behave differently than renters.

                      I suppose KS could devise other ways to get the behavior it wants of aid recipients. I can see how some of the good behavior can come of these restrictions. I shrug my shoulders. Really. I don’t need $20 a day in my wallet. Who spends that kind of pocket cash daily? Even w/kids, I can stretch a $20 for a week or more. The public aid debit cards will deal with grocery spending. Getting cash outright is a way to get around spending restrictions on the public aid debit cards. I can see why KS wants to regulate that.

                    • jroberts548

                      But you still understand that between the mortgager and the owner or renter, the mortgager is getting a subsidy from the government, no different than if the government gave him a check, yes?

                      So what possible principled reason is there that the government shouldn’t tell all mortgagers how to spend their money, when they can do the same to other people on the dole?

                    • Peggy

                      I don’t agree conceptually. The govt is agreeing NOT to take $ from the mortgager who has to borrow to buy a home. It is the mortgager’s money that is kept. It is not the govt’s or the other taxpayers’ in the first place. Mortgager got $ via contract/agreement in exchange for work for an employer or client. We technically agree to pay taxes as good citizens. Keeping our money within tax guidelines is not taking $ from the govt. It’s keeping our money. That decline to collect lets mortgager keep his $ to spend as he sees fit: braces, glasses for the kids, a trip to Hawaii, invest in a new start up…stimulate economic activity.

                      The govt routinely offers deductions/credits for certain types of spending as well. It’s all behavior modification. The regs incent us to certain spending decisions we are free to undertake or not. if I want the write-off I can do X. If I don’t care, I don’t have to. It’s my decision about my finances. We are a free people are we not? Once you cease to provide for yourself and your family, however, you’ve lost a fair amount of freedom.

                    • Peggy

                      PS. THen I should move on. Good discussion.

                      The mortgager already spent as the govt wanted, by borrowing to buy the house.

                    • The government has made a public policy choice to encourage stable communities over what the market would naturally provide. It really is that simple. Government wants to nudge us into thinking long term more than would happen naturally and home ownership does that.

                      I suspect that this desire for long term thinkers invested in a community comes from the non-partisan impulse to want an end to water and sewage borne illness and the 80-120 year bets that we put into the ground to haul these liquids from here to there.

                    • jroberts548

                      I’m surprised to see you bash the free market like that.

                    • Why is a speculative observation a bash? The long game, where we make multi decade bets with public policy, is a major area that is under examined which makes it a focus for my company. A major critique coming out of urbanism is that we have over created infrastructure and can’t support the networks we have built out. I haven’t decided whether the new urbanists are right on that but I have already decided that we need to know the answer. The stability focus is merely a minor tertiary question along the way.

                  • jroberts548

                    Can you transfer TANF cash assistance into a checking account? If so, what’s the point of the restrictions at all? If not, how to the withdrawal restrictions encourage the recipients to open a checking account? This is a really dumb line of argument. You can not possibly believe that.

                    How are they supposed to accumulate savings when they have to give so much money to the bank in fees? That’s the opposite of savings. It’s like you had the idea “the poor should put more money in the bank” without inferring “… into a savings account.” How are they supposed to be more responsible with their money, when they can only use $20 at a time for anything that would save money in the long run? Or when they have to pay late fees for utilities and rent because they can only withdraw $20 at a time? That’s a profoundly stupid way to help people get back on their feet.

                    • Peggy

                      Most people pay utility bills with checks…If you keep taking out cash to buy inappropriate things, you won’t have money for the bills. You can use bank account-based debit cards at stores. The public aid cards are also usable for the allowed items at supermarkets.

                    • jroberts548

                      If you use the cash for anything at all, you won’t have cash for bills, because you can only take out $20 at a time.

                    • kenofken

                      Maintaining a checking account is not just a matter of personal responsibility and good financial skills (though those are important). You have to have some money to open the account, and you have to maintain at least $500 (or more) at all times to avoid having your money devoured by monthly fees. People who can do that generally aren’t poor enough for TANF. Look, if poor money management and wasteful spending is really a significant issue, quantify it and do some case management and one-on-one training with these folks rather than petty paternalistic rules.

                      I don’t think you, or many of us here grasp what being poor, truly poor, means. Real poverty does not mean “solvent till I blew it all on hookers, Johnie Walker and scratch-offs.” Being poor means living every day of your life on the edge of disaster with zero capacity to absorb the inevitable shocks and setbacks of every day life.

                      Being poor means you are screwed even if you do everything right all the time. You’ll hold your own in a good week, but you’ll never pull ahead because the minute you start to put anything away, something – an unexpected illness, car breakdown etc. is going to wipe out whatever you had – and more. Because you’re poor and don’t have the advantages of a credit rating or equity, you have no good options for getting over that hump. The interest rates and terms offered by the payday or car title loan places are insane, but you’ll sign on the dotted line if that’s what it takes to keep you off the street another month. Being in poverty isn’t just about earning less money than what it takes to be comfortable. It means you’ve fallen off the ladder of opportunity into a space where you are ripe for exploitation by a whole array of forces actively working to keep you in poverty and to profit from you at every turn. Somewhat ironically, not having enough money means you will be charged huge premiums and will pay vastly more for everything as a share of your income – food, housing, transportation, financial services.

                      Being poor means you are always financially living somewhere below zero. The fools and spendthrifts in poverty of course get to zero faster, but most of the time, everyone else in the same situation winds up there as well regardless of their efforts. Foolish and short-sighted habits are both a cause and effect of poverty. The spin cycle of hopelessness actually incentivizes self-defeating behavior because people who have no future will tend to live for today, or the next hour. The insanity of the Kansas program (aside from piping welfare to the banking industry), is that it pulls the first rung of economic opportunity even further out of grasp and will further reinforce the idea that jumping for it is wasted effort.

                    • Peggy

                      I could tell you how incredibly poor my children’s birth parents in Russia were (and probably still are). I don’t think any one in America understands true poverty. There are so many safety nets available. Clarence Thomas and blacks of his era grew up more dirt poor than any black today–and with integrity and self respect. [Poverty is not just an issue for urban minorities. I see poverty in the rural part of our state where I live.] The most desolate Americans are the addicts or mentally ill on the street who cannot be made to change voluntarily. And, that is an entirely different issue.

                  • The state has two payment networks that EBT card holders can use to access cash, POS terminals at ordinary stores that accept EBT cards for purchases and ATMs. The Kansas reforms make POS usage more attractive. POS usage is also cheaper. Thus all the sanctimonious emissions from the left end of the pews turn out to be dead wrong.

                    In short, Peggy, you’re trying too hard. You made a fatal error, assuming that a political hit piece was truthful.

                    Keep up the good fight.

                    • Peggy

                      Yep. I saw your new posts. Thanks.

                • Since the Kansas adjustments incentivize cash withdrawals from POS terminals which cost at least 60% less (savings is greater if the bank charges a separate fee) than ATM usage, you’re entirely barking up the wrong tree.

                  The conservative model for public aid is perilously underdeveloped but what there is of it is one of helping people to get out of a bad situation and back on their two feet as independent citizens living a dignified life. That’s something to encourage, not disparage.

        • Dan C

          The real stupid piece is the ATM fee. Note that this hand out to banks is never mentioned of decried, especially by the libertarian-lite crowd.

          • Don’t assume the article is providing an accurate picture. It is not. EBT cards in Kansas can be used to get cash from two payment networks. The changes made actually nudge the poor away from the more expensive ATM network and towards the cheaper POS network, effectively reducing transaction losses for the poor. Of course the article doesn’t mention the POS network at all. To do so would have destroyed the narrative.

      • You did zero research to see whether the article about ATM withdrawal is true, didn’t you? In fact, it’s inaccurate. The Kansas reforms will very likely lead to reduced ATM usage by EBT card holders and reduced transaction costs paid by the poor in order to get cash.

        • jroberts548

          Please enlighten me. A Google search and all of the bill’s defenders here have failed to clarify my presumably inexcusable error.

          • I explained it upthread.

            In short, read this:


            POS cash withdrawals are cheap and have $5 bills available.
            ATM cash withdrawals are expensive and often don’t have $5 bills available.

            Poor people react to incentives like everybody else and will get their cash from POS terminals and avoid the ATMs like the plague exactly because of the $25 limitation. As a result, they will save at least 60% on their transaction fees.

            The error isn’t inexcusable at all. Both sides in the debate made it. They assumed that somebody already checked for truthfulness and didn’t do it themselves.

            • jroberts548

              Thank you. That is not nearly as bad as I hd thought, but still imposes needlessly high transaction costs.

              • These networks don’t run on magic. The transaction costs exist no matter what solution is used to pay them.

  • anna lisa

    “That, according to the legislation, means limiting spending on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics. The measure — which limits TANF recipients from withdrawing more than $25 per day from ATMs — also forbids recipients from spending money at a:

    …theme park, dog or horse racing facility, parimutuel facility, or sexually oriented business or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment, or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted.”

    –I’m just fighting back the tears right now. What oppression. Those are the simple pleasures of life!

    • Pete the Greek

      It is terrible that the servile state doesn’t want a poor man to spend government charity for the company of a cheap prostitute, betting on that tip you got about the dog race or getting nipple rings instead of food.

      Such injustice. I’m sure Chesterton is rolling over in his grave.

      • anna lisa

        How dare you judge poor people. You must hate them. Entertainment and beautification are human rights, you big meanie.

  • SteveP

    “Other people blame their parents for that. I hate that. You’re an adult now, and you can make your own decisions. I’m not going to sit here and blame my mom because I’m in this situation. It’s not her fault. I made my own choices.”
    Bianca Perry’s sister is on the narrow path—that is good news.

  • jroberts548

    If you have a mortgage, you get government assistance in the form of the mortgage interest deduction, as well as indirectly through federal backing of mortgages. If you have health insurance or an HSA, that money is subsidized by the government. I hope all the people who support these restrictions would be okay with Obama telling them they can’t go to movies.

    • kenofken

      You have to understand the conservative rubric for welfare and worthiness. If the recipient of public money is poorer and/or darker than yourself, it’s “welfare” and parasitism. The juice that flows to you and those of higher caste is an “earned benefit” or Investment in America!

      • Pete the Greek

        I think you may be confusing ‘conservative’ with Republican/neocon.

      • Race baiting is not a catholic virtue.

    • ManyMoreSpices

      Obama does not let me spend the money in my HSA on movie tickets. I must spend it on doctor visits and prescription drugs.

      I do not believe this to be a sin crying out to Heaven for vengeance.

      Should I start?

      • jroberts548

        And you’re able to trace each dollar? Dollars are fungible. Even though you can’t spend hsa money on unqualified expenses, a dollar is a dollar. Any subsidy gives the recipient more dollars overall. Some of those dollars might go to a movie.

        • Pete the Greek

          I think the assumption is that there isn’t other money to be fungible with. Perhaps a better analogy would be giving a college son with no job a stipend for food and rent. If said student them blew a large amount of that stipend on booze and getting a Prince Albert and now doesn’t have money to make rent or groceries, what then?

  • Dave G.

    Republican-led state of Kansas has hit on a fresh method of punishing poor people while enriching banks.

    That’s a telling observation.

    • It’s a false observation. The very likely effect is to shift cash withdrawals away from ATMs and towards POS cash withdrawals which are cheaper. That reduces bank income and reduces the amount of EBT paid by the government chewed up in fees. That’s a good thing.

  • It’s always useful to actually check to see if what’s being asserted is true. Kansas EBT cards can get cash from Point Of Sale (POS) terminals and from ATM machines. Cash withdrawals from POS terminals are free for the first two withdrawals per month and a $0.40 fee thereafter. ATM withdrawals are $1 fees and there may be additional bank fees. The story hypothesized that withdrawing $200 would cost $30 in fees. Doing it at a regular POS terminal would cost between $2.40 and $3.20 depending on whether you’d already used up your 2 free withdrawals that month. The POS terminal is right next to an ordinary cash register which, I am very certain, has $5 bills, which the article asserts are often missing from ATMs.

    The net behavioral effect is predictable, the poor will shift away from ATM cash withdrawals and towards getting cash from ordinary stores while they do their ordinary daily purchases. This is the exact opposite of a bank enrichment scheme.

    You can verify the fee structure here:


    The point of going through this is that Mark is getting outraged over something that is not factually true. How many other not factually true assertions is Mark swallowing whole? I don’t know.

    • Peggy

      OMIGOSH!!! You mean Mark Shea told only HALF the story????!!!!!

      I googled a couple things but not enough to clear this up.

      Dummy me not to be on my toes!


    • Pete the Greek

      Would you kindly take your facts someplace else? We’re trying to enjoy our outage here, do you mind?

      • Ok Pete, just for you, a little outrage. The Washington Post was pro-bank, anti-poor, and chose to be in the service of bashing the nudge politics they normally champion all in the service of persecuting the GOP. Shame on them for propagandizing so well.

        • Pete the Greek

          OK, now you’re forgiven. 🙂

    • MT

      Making poor people pay fees to get their money is dumb and evil

      • These payment networks cost money to run. The users generally get charged a fee to use them, or a sponsoring organization makes the fee invisible by paying it and lowering benefits elsewhere (like interest payments on money held by a person).

        I see no benefit in making the fees invisible for the poor and lowering their benefits to pay the fees because it makes it likely that the overall fees paid would be larger in aggregate and less poverty aid would pay for food and more would pay for network maintenance fees. Do you?

        Or are you just saying that we should be more charitable? I don’t have a beef with that. We should all strive to be more charitable. The problem is that no matter what the charity level, there’s still no benefit for the government or the poor by hiding the fees. The same incentives apply no matter what the level of charity.