Another Silly Idea
By Oregon Economics
California Lutheran University
Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany has introduced a bill banning withdrawals of welfare funds from ATMs at liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs. Politicians do this sort of thing every now and then. It wasn’t that long ago that California’s legislature, in its own spasm of self-righteous Puritanism, was imposing its own, very similar, controls.
This is a mistake.
Welfare is provided to help maintain a minimum lifestyle for some of our very-low-income households. In the 21st Century America, a minimum lifestyle includes far more than basics to sustain life. It includes cell phones, computers, televisions, and even entertainment.
Apparently, Mr. Boustany objects to some welfare recipients’ choice of entertainment, or he objects to welfare recipients having any entertainment. The latter is ridiculous. People need occasional entertainment.
It is also ridiculous to attempt to control what type of entertainment welfare recipients enjoy. For one thing, the constraint is easily avoided. If you can’t use the ATM at the liquor store, you can always use the one at the gas station next door.
Even if the constraint wasn’t easily avoided, on what basis can we tell welfare recipients that they can spend three to four dollars for a coffee at Starbucks but not the same on a beer at the neighborhood bar? Why is Disneyland OK, but not the casino down the freeway? Where do we stop on this path?
The fact is, our country has a bunch of real problems for Congress to work one. They need to stop wasting time on stuff like this.