No Happiness Allowed: Kansas Doesn’t Want Welfare Recipients to See Movies or Go Swimming


*As if being dependent on government assistance offers any degree of fun, a new House Bill on the agenda in Kansas wants to ensure it stays that way.

Why not just put out a sign that says, If you’re on welfare, ‘No Happiness Allowed’?

Well, actually, that’s what they’ve done. According to a new legislative bill, families in Kansas who are receiving welfare or government assistance will not be able to use those monies to take their family to a movie or round up the kids and go swimming.

Its called House Bill 2258 and its on the agenda waiting for a signature from Gov. Sam Brownback (R) this week.

It also disallows these monies to be used on things such as gambling or getting tattoos on the state’s dime. This is certainly more understandable.

These are just a few of the restrictions contained within the measure that promises to tighten regulations on how poor families spend their government aid.

According to state Sen. Michael O’Donnell,  the Wichita Republican who advocated for the bill, the legislation is designed to pressure those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to spend “more responsibly.”

“We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” O’Donnell, vice chair of the state senate’s standing committee on public health and welfare, told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”

“This is about having a great life?” O’Donnell attempts to elaborate on that statement below.

"No Happiness Allowed" if new legislation passes in Kansas this week.
“No Happiness Allowed” if new legislation passes in Kansas this week.

The bill actually limits those getting government assistance from withdrawing more than $25 per day from ATMs.

That’s an insult to anybody. Have you been grocery shopping lately? I went into Vons–a Safeway-owned store the other day and brought out two of those small reusable bags of groceries and the bill was $92.00.

According to the legislation this “no happiness allowed legislation” means limiting spending on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics.

I know, as if the money people are getting from the government is enough to go on a cruise.

And as if they need to add a bit of ridiculousness to the legislation for good measure, families are prohibited 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 just think we are simply saying to people, ‘If you are asking for assistance in this state, you’re sort of less than other people and we’re going to tell you how and where to spend your money,’” Rep. Carolyn Bridges, a Wichita Democrat, said during the House’s debate, according to the Associated Press.

And I’ll bet she said it with a straight face, too.

“The governor believes strongly that employment is the most effective path out of poverty and he is supportive of work requirements that help people become self-sufficient,” she said in a statement.

According to the Census Bureau, as of 2014 the population in Kansas rests at 2,904,021. Of this number, as of 2013, 6.2% are “Black or African American alone,” 11.2% are “Hispanic or Latina,” and 77.1% are “White alone, not Hispanic or Latina.”

No one is saying they should dismiss the entire legislation. Of course there should be restrictions – because things such as gambling, tattoos and even nail salons should definitely be prohibited. After all, there are people not on welfare who can’t even afford to do these things with any sense of regularity; but to prohibit common sense things; things that should be available to anyone such as swimming or being able to take in a movie every once in a while should not be on the list.

Read more on this legislative insult to humanity at The Washington Post.


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