Those who get food stamps and other welfare benefits could soon be expected to avoid certain types of behavior and engage in others. A committee has approved legislation by state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, that would ban the use of welfare cash cards at strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores.
Such abuses may be rare, but they do occur. Earlier this year, The New York Post reported an open-records review of 200 million electronic benefit transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012 found welfare recipients used EBT cards to make cash withdrawals at porn shops, strip clubs and bars. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that debit cards with welfare funds were used to withdraw $4.8 million at casinos and $12,000 at strip clubs over a three-year period. Standridge's bill is similar to a federal law taking effect in 2014.
At the same time, state lawmakers are considering legislation to encourage increased contributions from some welfare recipients. House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, has filed legislation to require adults who don't have minor children but qualify for food stamps to participate in at least 35 hours of weekly work activities. Both measures call to mind a law enacted last year banning food stamp benefits for those who fail a drug test.
It may be tough for these bills to avoid running afoul of federal regulations or court challenges. Still, we expect each measure will enjoy strong public support.
Critics will argue the bills unfairly target the down-and-out and impose behavioral requirements not faced by other citizens getting a state benefit, such as driver's license recipients.
But as Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius noted, “He who eats my bread, does my will.” Those who receive food stamps from taxpayers shouldn't be surprised when taxpayers demand that they reciprocate by engaging in productive behavior and avoiding debauchery.