The absence of words like “slash” and “punish” in an article on welfare reform may get this one reporter sent to the woodshed.

“Kansas is on track to spend less than a third of what it did six years ago on cash assistance and to serve a third as many low-income people,” writes Meg Wingerter in the opening of a two-paragraph KCUR home page piece on the welfare reform program implemented by the Brownback administration.

“Those numbers have been falling steadily since Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011,” Wingerter continues, “when Kansas began incorporating work requirements for programs like cash assistance and food stamps in an effort to break what the governor described as “cycles of dependency.”

The absence of words like “slash” and “punish” are encouraging. Wingerter actually seems to understand why any governor would want to limit a citizen’s dependency on the government. Reportedly, more than 40,000 people have moved from welfare to work since the program was implemented.

The link provided by KCUR, however, takes the reader to an earlier article by Dave Ranney, a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka. The KHI article reminds readers how news can be manipulated to serve an agenda.

“Approximately 350 low-income families will be dropped from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program after a new welfare reform measure takes effect July 1, state officials said Thursday,” begins Ranney’s article.

These families will be “cut” from the program and “lose” their cash assistance. The first quote, an extensive one, goes to a critic. Richard Jackson, executive director at the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corporation, denounces the the program as “mean spirited.”

“We’ll help them all that we can, but our resources are limited — just like they’re limited in every community across the state,” Jackson said. “By no stretch of the imagination can programs like ours be expected to make up for what’s being lost here.” Mr. Jackson implies that the resources of the State of Kansas are, by contrast, unlimited.

In the sixth paragraph, Ranney allows Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore to explain the rationale behind the law, but by this time the table has already been set for the reader.

That said, Ranney does list the provisions of the Senate bill that Brownback signed. On reviewing them, the reader is tempted to wonder how any sane taxpayer could object to the conditions of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program:

  • TANF recipients are prohibited from spending their cash assistance on alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, pornography, lingerie, tattoos, body piercings, fortune-telling sessions or cruises.
  • ATM withdrawals from cash assistance accounts are limited to $25 a day.
  • While on TANF, able-bodied parents are required to work at least 20 hours a week, apply for jobs or participate in job-training programs. Those who don’t will be dropped from the program.
  • Adults who fail to meet the work requirements will lose both their TANF eligibility and their food stamps.
  • Adults who are found to have committed welfare fraud will be banned from TANF for the rest of their lives.
  • Adults convicted of two drug felonies will be permanently ineligible for food stamps.
  • New mothers are expected to return to work three months after their babies are born.

No pornography, no tattoos, and actual work–mean spirited indeed!

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  1. The good news is that more than 40,000 people have been moved from welfare to work since the Governor signed that bill into law. If Ranney hadn’t retired last year, he would be reporting that fact as a tragedy rather than a triumph.