The days of working for cash in this country are nearly over. The Republican party may be setting a dangerous precedent in their need to shame and humiliate the poor.
March 3, 2014

My neighbor and me, we're both in the same boat. We're both well over 30 and unemployed. Both of us out shoveling as winter took one last shot yesterday and dumped another two inches of snow on Southern Ohio.

I'm shoveling my own driveway and he's shoveling for money. This is his third house today. My across-the-street neighbors, they're older now, so he's shoveling for them. Across-the -street neighbor lady comes to her door and waves to both of us. "I've got hand warmers if you need them."

I have on a pair of thin wool $1.99 Walgreen's gloves but my snow shoveling compadre is bare-handed. Damn. For two seconds, I consider giving him my gloves. I just found the mate to my other pair after a month of thinking it was gone forever. But I don't want make him feel awkward. I let it go.

He stops for a second as the garbage truck comes down the street. I cross the street to talk to him. We talk about Obama, the economy (it sucks), the looming threat in the Ukraine. Our conversation works its way around to the work requirement for SNAP.

If you're under 50 and don't have dependents at home the federal government feels you must be too lazy to get a job on your own so you have to "earn" food stamps. If you don't find a place to work that pays low enough to qualify for food stamps, no SNAP. They will also send you out places to "volunteer."

Each state can apply for a waiver from the federal work requirement if unemployment is over 10% in any area of the state. Here in Ohio, John Kasich has decided that the majority of Ohioans no longer need the waiver.

Gov. John Kasich’s administration will limit food stamps for more than 130,000 adults in all but a few economically depressed areas starting Jan. 1.

To qualify for benefits, able-bodied adults without children will be required to spend at least 20 hours a week working, training for a job, volunteering or performing a similar type of activity unless they live in one of 16 counties exempt because of high unemployment.

Despite the fact that if people could find a job they'd already have one- and the fact that there aren't enough "volunteer" spots to go around- John Kasich does not care.

The cut to food stamps came right at the time when over 100,000 Ohioans lost their State Employment Benefits and Republicans in Congress refuse to budge on extending Federal Unemployment Insurance. At this point ,it would only take one Republican to change their vote. At this time, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman refuses to be that one vote.

I called Senator Portman's office today. Their official position is that "Rob Portman does not believe Ohioans are lazy. He stridently believes that he can only support extending Unemployment Insurance if it's "paid for" by making cuts elsewhere."

So I asked, what would he like to cut. This is the answer I got:

"His proposal is to fix a loophole between unemployment and disability that allows people to receive both."

Point: It can take up to two years for people to be approved for disability. Unemployment Insurance only lasts for six months. It's not very likely that people would be getting unemployment insurance money and disability insurance money at the same time.

I pointed this out and asked if Senator Portman wants people to pay the unemployment insurance money back once they get disability.

They don't know. They have to get back to me on that.

Is there anyplace else that Senator Portman is willing to make cuts?

They don't know. They have to get back to me on that.

I'm pretty sure that Portman went to college, maybe even law school. Did he? I'm being snarky, but I'm thinking, a college-educated man should be able to comprehend this much logic.

They didn't know. Pretty sure he went to college. They weren't sure if he's a lawyer. Wikipedia says he is a lawyer. Good Lord. I can get more information from Wikipedia about my state senator than calling his office.

Anyway, the bottom line is, Senator Portman has based his entire vote on Unemployment Insurance on a faulty premise. I suspect he knows this or just doesn't care. He's only spouting what he's told is the party line, and has instructed his staff to do the same.

(The battle on Twitter under #RenewUI is relentless and Portman is frequently mentioned.)

So when unemployment runs out people turn to food stamps. or SNAP (as we're calling it these days), which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Most people think the name change has to do with helping people. But the word "Supplemental" has nothing to do with supplementing nutrition.

Food stamps are no longer seen by the US government as a benefit to the poor to help with food but as a "supplement" to work income. Our government's re-branding efforts at work meaning pesky Federal Labor Laws and the 13th Amendment no longer apply.

The average food stamp allotment is $189 a month.

“In order for them to have more than three months of food stamps in a 36-month period, they have to meet a work requirement of 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month.”

That works out to about $2.36 per hour. Last I checked, federal minimum wage was $7.25 per hour. Not only is the federal government discriminating against poor people by paying less than the minimum wage, they have arbitrarily decided that they also don't have to pay workers in US currency.

It sets a dangerous precedent. Right now Walmart, the true leaders of American government, are nearly on board with raising the minimum wage to $10.00.

I wonder what will happen when their lawyers realize that the government has decided that hiring people who are currently unemployed means it may be legal to pay people in other than cash. Or that it's actually legal under certain circumstances to pay them $2.36 an hour rather than the $10 - $12 per hour that's being demanded by the living wage movement?

Or what if they can decide to pay people in Walmart gift cards. Or food stuffs. Who's counting, right?

The days of working for cash in this country could be nearly over. All because the Republican party takes pride in shaming and humiliating the poor.

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