The state government’s attempt to wean poor Kansans off public assistance is working, as long as you don’t bother examining poverty figures. Ignore those, and focus on demeaning ways of controlling the lives of citizens unfortunate enough to require welfare, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a rousing success.

Before the last legislative session ended, lawmakers did recognize they had gone too far with the most recent set of restrictions. There wasn’t any move to roll back requirements regarding TANF cash assistance being spent on lingerie, body piercings, alcohol, cruises and the like — but they did heed a warning that the $25 limit on ATM withdrawals was going to be a problem.

Not the problem caused for individuals looking at a typical ATM that only allows $10 increments for withdrawals, plus bank and state charges, that suddenly reduced the daily cash advance to as little as $15. No, it was the problem of Kansas losing more than $100 million in federal benefits for not allowing that individual adequate access to needed money.

So lawmakers and the governor instructed the Department for Children and Families to remove the $25 limit. Imagine their surprise when DCF earlier this month posted new guidelines including all the other punitive measures imposed by state law, but kept that limit intact.

DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore defended her agency’s apparent defiance of the amended state law by noting she needed guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Theresa Freed, the department’s spokeswoman, said the state’s attempt to lift the limit required “explicit instruction of federal officials,” according to a Tribune News Service story.

That instruction finally was received last week. Yes, the limit went against the grain of federal assistance guidelines and, yes, Kansas stood to lose the $102 million it receives annually to help pay for TANF.

The very next day, Gilmore removed the cap. She also reminded the public that DCF had advised against imposing such a limit in the first place, certainly not one so low.

Listening to the administration’s own experts hasn’t been one of the current Legislature’s strongest attributes. Not that thorough research is very high on the list of strengths, or paying any attention to contrary information whether factual or not.

The bungling of the TANF law revealed the true nature of Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration. Few lobbyists are in Topeka advocating for the neediest Kansans, so punishing the poor for being poor has become the new state sport.

Eliminating the cap allowed the state of Kansas to secure its welfare assistance from the feds. In the meantime, individual Kansans continue to get pushed off welfare assistance — and the poverty rate continues its upward climb. Such hypocrisy has become the norm.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry