Saturday, April 30, 2016

It's not everybody's job to be the hypocrite

Last week, the governor announced his plan to attach a mandatory work requirement to SNAP benefits in Louisiana.  Because, apparently, it is 1994 again and we need to prove that "responsible" Democrats can punish poor people too. Louisiana's unemployment rate is higher than the national average. This makes the state eligible to apply for a waiver from the already onerous federal work requirement.  We have the option of not being jerks. John Bel Edwards chose to be a jerk anyway.

Or maybe that's too harsh. Maybe the governor really does need to burnish his "centrism" chops. It would be nice if he could find a way to do that that doesn't involve being a moralizing jerk toward people who need help.  But maybe it's one of those unpleasant things he believes he has to do.  I can't say I agree. But I'm at least familiar with the concept.

But even if we accept that the governor has to do what the governor has to do, what is the deal with these guys?
What’s a bit surprising is that Edwards’ move on food stamps has drawn support from some of the very same advocates who criticized Jindal’s move.

Jan Moller, of the Louisiana Budget Project, which had attacked Jindal’s initial move as heartless, called Edwards’ order a “good plan on paper.” New Orleans-based Stand with Dignity had called Jindal’s maneuver a “starvation plan” and sued to stop it but responded quickly and enthusiastically to Edwards’ announcement.

“Gov. Edwards’ order is a critical step towards addressing barriers to employment and building career ladders for people who have been excluded from work across Louisiana,” said Stand with Dignity organizer Latoya Lewis. “As Gov. Edwards states, this executive order recognizes the daily challenges of individuals surviving on government benefits and seeks to address these issues through programming that leads to meaningful and sustainable employment.”

The support from Jindal’s critics suggests a couple of things. One is that Edwards has a certain level of credibility among those who share his goals of alleviating poverty and that they not only trust his intentions but understand his political constraints.
It shouldn't fall to advocacy groups to rationalize bad behavior on the part of electeds. It's one thing to  understand political constraints. It's another thing, though, to reinforce them. 

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