FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Would Dorothy and Toto Recognize the New Kansas?

“Home! And this is my room — and you’re all here! And I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again, because I love you all! And — Oh, Auntie Em — there’s no place like home!”

Words spoken by Dorothy upon returning to Kansas from the Land of OZ.

Had she known she would not have clicked her heels three times.  That was the number of clicks it took to transport her from the Land of Oz back home to Kansas. If she had known what Kansas would become, she would have stayed in the Land of Oz.  While there, after all, she played a vital role in the Cowardly Lion getting courage, the Scarecrow brains and the Tin Woodman a heart.  None of those qualities is possessed by most of the legislators in the Kansas state legislature. There is only one character from the Wizard of Oz who would be happy in Kansas today-the Wizard.  As he acknowledged, when his true identity was discovered by Dorothy and her friends, “I am a humbug.” That does not, of course, mean that he couldn’t be as good a governor as Sam Brownback who is now serving. But this isn’t about Sam or the Wizard.  It’s about the state legislature.

Kansas legislators have distinguished themselves by demonstrating through their actions that they lack brains, hearts and courage. On April 16, 2016 Governor Sam Brownback signed the Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone Act, known as the HOPE Act.  Although it applies to everyone in Kansas, a reading of the Act discloses that it affects only a few.  The few it affects are families on welfare.

One of the legislators (who sounded like the Tin Woodman might have sounded before he got a heart) explained the Act’s purpose.  It is to make sure, said he, “that Kansans have a high quality of life.  And you don’t have high quality of life if you don’t have a job.” The law doesn’t provide employment but it includes work and job training requirements for those on welfare.  It also provides that lifetime benefits for those on welfare are limited to 36 months, a powerful incentive to get work since the alternative is no benefits and no means of support.

The legislation helps welfare recipients by spelling out the kinds of things for which welfare benefits cannot be used.  If those prohibitions were not enumerated, welfare recipients might squander the $300 a month that they receive on some of the proscribed items not realizing that buying those things are not in their best interest. The legislative summary enumerates the things for which welfare funds may not be used.  The funds may not be used in a “liquor store, casino, gaming establishment. . .nail salon, lingerie shop. . . vapor cigarette store,  psychic or fortune telling business, movie theater, swimming pool, cruise ship . . . .”

Since the average welfare recipient in  Kansas receives less than $300 per month, it is unlikely he or she will be able to book a cruise.  However, as every conscientious legislator knows, one can’t be too careful and people on welfare may be ignorant as well as poor and might squander their benefits had the statute not included guidance.  Helping people on welfare spend their money wisely was not the Kansas legislature’s only contribution to good governance.

On May 19, 2015, it was reported that the legislature had decided to make itself the arbiter of Kansas Supreme Court decisions.  In 2014 the legislature passed a law that took away from the Kansas Supreme Court the right to control the budgets and leadership of local courts because the legislature wanted that control to be local.  A Kansas judge sued to invalidate that law and the case is now pending.  If successful, control of all state courts would be returned to the Kansas Supreme Court, which would be in accordance with the KansasConstitution  The legislature is less concerned with whether its actions are constitutional,  than with the fact that the Supreme Court might take it upon itself to find the legislature’s actions to be unconstitutional. Accordingly, as part of the budget it adopted in 2015 it included language that provides that if the 2014 law is “stayed or is held to be invalid or unconstitutional” certain provisions of the budget, including funding for the courts “are hereby declared to be null and void.” The legislators, who don’t get the separation of powers idea, intend with this language to encourage the courts to rule in favor of the 2014 legislation lest they lose all funding including for salaries of all employees, including judges.

Wherever Dorothy now is, she is probably trying desperately to click her heels three times.  That is what it took to get her from Oz to Kansas.  It might work in reverse.  It would certainly be worth a try.  If any of my readers are visiting Kansas and observes citizens jumping up and down trying to click their heel three times, offer them a word of encouragement.  They need and deserve it.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado.

 

 

More articles by:

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail