Tennessee state Rep. Stacey Campfield (R) appeared on MSNBC’s Martin Bashir which aired on Jan. 29, 2013 to defend his proposal to make welfare benefits reliant upon the academic performance of the children of welfare recipients.
The bill would require a reduction of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) payments if so-called satisfactory standards are not met, which in an odd responsibility twist would actually fall on the children, as the pressure for them to perform accordingly would become tied to their family’s ability to stay financially afloat in the face of reductions.
Bashir wasted no time in challenging Campfield on his proposed bill; while Campfield tried to elaborate on his beliefs by saying:
We have a three-part stool I call it for education, it’s one part the schools, one part the teacher, and one part the family, and probably the most important part is the family. Unfortunately we have some families who really don’t care about education, don’t care if their kids get an education or stay in school.
And what we’re saying is, if your kid is quitting school, not showing up, showing up at 11 o’clock in his pajamas, you know, that’s not a prepared kid to get an education, and we need to do something to motivate these parents to realize how important this education is, and unfortunately the only tool we have left is these, these, this cash payment that we make to these families.
Bashir then asked Campfield:
But you already penalize families if the children don’t attend school, but this is specifically to do with children’s grade performance. So I want to ask you again. How are you helping a child by saying: here pass this test, and if you don’t succeed well then you’re family for the next month maybe won’t eat?
Campfield tried to dodge the question, but Bashir quickly pointed out that Campfield’s bill would deduct $60 from a family that is receiving $185 based on a child’s ability to pass a test. Campfield responded by saying that he is not demanding that poor kids become “rocket surgeons,” and yes he said “surgeons,” or that they “split the atom.” He said he is only demanding basic, bare minimum qualifications.
Bashir continued to badger Campfield over the question of whether it is fair to put that burden on a child when the child has no control over the sometimes horrific, impoverished circumstances of the environment that so many children are forced to live in. Campfield insisted that the child is not being penalized, but if the family sees a financial deduction, then the child will be penalized.
But perhaps the most revealing statement that was made during the entire exchange was when Campfield said:
Now yes if you’re a parent, a bad parent who is abusing your child, guess what. That kid is going to do badly. I would hope they wouldn’t abuse the child, so the child would do better, and then no payments would be cut.
And there it is. Another pompous conservative politically posturing for a piece of feel good legislation aimed strictly at making his Tea Party/Republican ideologues happy.
In the meantime, any child who is luckless enough to be saddled with less-than-stellar parents will be hit with another blow to the gut by the financial cutbacks of Campfield’s proposed bill.
If the children that would fall into this category are lucky, there will be enough Democrats around with a conscience to stop Campfield’s legislation. Otherwise, the difference between an A and an F could become quite costly for those who are already less fortunate.