House Speaker T.W. Shannon continues to play to the GOP base here. Doesn’t he have better things to do? Does he feel politically insecure among Republicans?
This session, Shannon, pictured right, has sponsored House Bill 1908, which would use money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to fund money for a campaign to promote marriage, and House Bill 1909, which would require so-called “able-bodied recipients” of food stamps, with some exceptions, to engage in at least 20 hours of work per week.
In other words, get married and get a job, folks. The problem here, of course, is that marriage is not always a panacea-it can actually be a detriment for many people in an abusive relationship-and not all people can find work right now, even part-time jobs. HB 1909 does make exceptions for people who have children or have disabilities, and it’s limited to people from 18 to 50.
Both bills have passed the House.
Shannon’s bills are just two of several bills this session playing into stereotypes about people who receive public assistance. The stereotype of the “welfare queen,” someone who cheats the system and has it easy while the rest of us work so hard, has been a stable mythology of GOP politics since President Ronald Reagan in 1976. It just isn’t true.
Shannon, aLawton Republica, had this to say about HB 1909:
It’s time we encourage the value of personal responsibility. This measure will help able-bodied people break their addiction to government subsidies and let them focus on building a career as opposed to continually suffering under the wheel of poverty.
Note the phrase “addiction to government subsidies.” It sounds awfully close to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign-ruining statement about the 47 percent of American people who “are dependent on government” and won’t “take personal responsibility.” It’s a political trope that obscures the very real truth of poverty, human suffering and income inequality in this country.
It’s not a surprise, but it’s still a shame that Oklahoma’s current House Speaker apparently feels a need to burnish his GOP bona fides on the backs of Oklahoma’s vulnerable.
Surely, there are better ways for him to strengthen and expand his political career beyond this petty, clichéd meanness.