Image: Jae C. Hong, AP

Stacey Campfield may be best known for authoring the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Tennessee. Now he’s making headlines again, but this time instead of attacking LGBT people, he’s going for the poverty stricken. His latest bill push is to have welfare benefits based on children’s school performance. If they don’t perform, their families will see their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits cut.

“This is just restricting it [welfare] to those who are truly in need versus those who are abusing the system,” claims Campbell, though his ignorance in the matter is evident. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theorizes that if humans do not have basic needs met, they cannot focus on higher needs. For example, if a student is constantly hungry, they will invariably need to satisfy that need before focusing on academic achievement.

Research done over the years has supported this basic principle of Maslow’s hierarchy; therefore, cutting welfare will only serve to push poverty stricken families lower on the totem pole.

Current Tennessee law stipulates that if children do not attend school, then the family will lose 20 percent of their benefits. But the new law adds “satisfactory academic progress” to the requirements and raises that penalty to 30 percent.

“The maximum benefit for a mother with two children is $185 a month,” said Linda O’Neil, who is the executive director for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. “That’s already low. If you take 60-plus dollars away, you’re just further limiting people who already have extremely few resources… It’s just piling on.”

O’Neil is absolutely correct; taking away resources will not serve as a motivator—it will do just the opposite. If this bill were to pass, children who are already at risk would only be more so. Our welfare laws certainly need to be examined and improved, but this is one change to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program that would be completely counterproductive, potentially sending poor families into complete destitution.

%d bloggers like this: