I guess when it comes to cracking down on takers, apparently Tennessee lawmakers like Stacy Campfield and Vance Dennis can’t see the greedy corporations for all the needy kids.
But chances are their warped lenses on reality are obstructing their view.
Not long ago Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Dennis, R-Savannah, introduced legislation that would tie families’ welfare benefits to whether their children are performing satisfactorily in school.
According to the Knoxville News and Sentinel, the legislation states that any child who isn’t making sufficient progress in school would cost his or her parents a 30 percent cut in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits.
As if poverty alone isn’t a heavy enough burden for the children to bear.
Campfield, an ideologue who once spearheaded a “Don’t Say Gay,” bill that would have banned discussions in schools about sexual orientation other than heterosexuality, claims the law would not apply to children with handicaps or learning disabilities, or if parents take steps to improve their children’s performance.
He says too many parents are getting away with not doing anything to help their children in school – and he’s apparently going to punish them by pulling the government rug from underneath them and, by extension, their offspring.
Yet I’m waiting to see if Campfield and Vance are willing to turn the wrath they have for poor families on the taxpayers’ dole whose children don’t live up to school expectations toward rich corporations also on the taxpayers’ dole who don’t live up to their promises.
Such companies promise jobs – jobs that could possibly help get some poor families off TANF and give them the time they need to focus on helping their children excel in school – but they don’t deliver.
One such corporation, in fact, was Hemlock Semiconductor. Based in Clarksville, Tenn., construction began on the plant, which was supposed to build components for solar panels, in 2008.
But earlier this year, according to TN Report, Hemlock announced that it was laying off nearly 300 workers, and it is believed that the plant may never open.
This is happening after Hemlock received $90 million free and clear in state taxpayer money, as well as millions in federal dollars. On top of that, it still has a chance to write off almost $280 million in taxes, and it has another $150 million in state funds that Tennessee took out bonds to pay for.
It remains to be seen whether taxpayers will get any of that money back. But what’s obvious is that when big corporations fail with public money, not much outrage, if any, comes from Republican lawmakers like Campfield and Dennis.
But let the talk turn to people on welfare.
That’s when the righteous indignation kicks in. That’s when people who survive on the chump change of TANF and food stamps become villains, not victims.
Never mind that they didn’t ask to be poor. And never mind that the solution that Campfield and Dennis are proposing is worse than the problem.
Poverty, in and of itself, is a major stressor for children. It means not knowing where they may be living next, as poor families move a lot. And studies too numerous for me to name in this column show that children who show up for school hungry and ill-clothed perform poorly, and are at risk for repeating grades.
So where in the world do these two lawmakers get the idea that by placing the burden of preserving the TANF benefits on the backs of the children, or in other words, making children responsible for the fate of their entire family, is supposed to make them perform better in school?
If anything, that kind of stress may cause them to perform worse.
But obviously, Campfield and Dennis don’t care about that. Apparently, all they care about is scoring ideological points with constituents who wrongly believe that people who are surviving off taxpayer dollars – you know blacks, Latinos and Obama voters who want stuff – are at the root of the nation’s problems.
Never mind that wealthy corporations use millions in tax dollars and incentives too. Not because they need it to survive – but because they can.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her at @tonyaajw. Or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.