“There are people who are too poor or too needy to get help to feed a needy family.” The welfare scandal involving NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback Brett Farve is nothing new. Michael Harriott explains how states often use money intended for the poorest residents on other things including creating jobs for the middle class.
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Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello and welcome back to another episode of theGrio Daily, the only podcast illegally allowed to use Brett Favre’s food stamp card. Yeah, man, today I know ya’ll heard about Brett Favre. So the story is that Brett Favre had a daughter in college. And, you know, Brett Favre’s daughter was a volleyball player and I guess they played in a gym or wherever they played. Brett Favre was like, man, they need a new volleyball facility. And, you know, I’m sure Brett Favre could have built it because, you know, Brett Favre earned over $140 million during his time as a quarterback in the NFL. But Brett Favre said like I mean, what am I going to do this with my money? So Brett Favre started talking to the governor and a few elite politicians in the state of Mississippi. And he says, you know what, I want to build this volleyball stadium or this volleyball facility at Southern Mississippi, but I don’t want to use my money. And so they said, well, you know, you can get a grant or use government funds for that if you just put in an application and apply for this grant. And Brett Favre said, well, who has some extra money? And what Brett Favre found out and what he eventually did was use welfare funds from the federal government that they sent to the states to build a volleyball facility for his rich, privileged daughter.
Michael Harriot [00:01:49] And it used about $5 million worth of welfare funds. And what’s crazy about this, besides the fact that, you know, Mississippi has like one of the top three poverty rates in the country and the fact that Brett Favre is one of the richest people in the state of Mississippi. Oh, and the fact that, you know, Brett Farve was going to use money from the poorest people to give to the richest people, and the fact that the governor and elected officials allowed him to do this and the fact that the University of Southern Mississippi, which is funded by taxpayers, allowed him to do this. Aside from all of that, what’s really interesting about this is that this happens all the time. We like to talk about Brett Favre and Brett Favre became a story because he’s famous, but using welfare funds, robbing the poorest people to help the richest people is actually something that goes on all of the time in America. And today we’re going to talk about that.
Michael Harriot [00:03:10] I’m Michael Harriot, world famous wypipologist and this is theGrio Daily. Now there’s a couple of things you need to know. First of all, in a lot of these stories, you’re going to see the letters T.A.N.F, and those TANF funds are money set aside for the poorest people. It’s actually called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. So this is money that just not set aside in food stamps, but like for child care, for job placement for poor people, for education for poor people. This money, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families comes from the federal government, and they are used in what they call a block grant. So the federal government doesn’t just say, well, we’re going to send money to this state based on how many people that need the money in that state. It’s a complex calculation, but all you have to know for this, for the sake of this, is that it is a lump sum. And then the states get, for the most part, to decide how they’re going to use it. And in many states, the states just don’t use it.
Michael Harriot [00:04:45] Like there’s a ProPublica article that you should read, write about how states essentially hoard this money and don’t help needy families. And you might say, well, you know, if they don’t have as much needy families, then maybe they shouldn’t use the money. But that’s not the case. Right? Like in some states, like more than half of the people who apply are rejected. Some of these states can just hoard this money and it just sits in their coffers. It’s not like the federal government gets an application for a grant for $20 million and the state uses the $20 million. No, the federal government sends like $60 million to a certain state, and then the state can use all of it, some of it or none of it, and they get to use it how they want within certain parameters. Right.
Michael Harriot [00:05:40] So, there’s states like Maine who use half of the money and half of the people who apply are rejected so that they can keep this money. There are states like South Carolina, who they use a lot, they still hoard a lot. In the case of South Carolina, what’s interesting is that they don’t use the money for needy families. They use the money to give people jobs, not needy families jobs, but just like regular college graduates who are disproportionately white to hire them in the states program that offers social work, social programs, and they staff these programs with people like in South Carolina and Florida and in many other states, more than 50% of the money for TANF just goes to people that they hired or what they call administrative staffs. So instead of giving the money directly to people or giving giving people food or education programs or creating these programs, they give it to college graduates, people who are less needy than the people who need it. And what these college graduates, these people who don’t need the money are tasked with doing is figuring out ways how to deny the needy families use of the funds.
Michael Harriot [00:07:17] And the other way they do it is that legislatures in certain states are allowed to create these arcane rules that disqualify families, like in some states if you have a drug conviction, can’t get TANF funds. Or if, for instance, some states have work requirements and they don’t require you to actually go out and look for a job. They require you to have a job to prove that you need money that comes from a job. So in other words, there are people who are too poor or too needy to get help to feed a needy family. Some states have, you know, these arcane for instance, they have arcane rules about residency, how long you have to be in the state. Some states have like citizenship requirements and there are people who live in this state, pay taxes, work, but still don’t earn a living wage, but they can’t apply because they don’t have citizenship papers or they can’t prove their citizenship. And you’re probably asking like, how can it be that someone is a citizen but can’t prove their citizenship?
Michael Harriot [00:08:40] Well, let’s say, for instance, as in the case of Alabama, you have to prove that you have to have a license or you have to have your birth certificate or your Social Security card. Well, if you were born outside of the United States, even if you are a citizen, how are you going to get your birth certificate? You got to call somebody? Let’s say you’re from Jamaica. You’ve got to get one of your cousins in Jamaica to go to wherever your birth certificate is filed at or proof of your birth certificate and then send it to America. And all that time you’re waiting. If you’re able to find someone still hungry, still don’t get that temporary assistance because you don’t qualify temporarily for temporary assistance. And these states what happens is after, it’s not like a separate bank account for these states, after a while, the states, this money is intermingled with all of the other state money and states use it to do stuff like build volleyball facilities.
Michael Harriot [00:09:58] But let’s get off TANF for a minute. Right, because we like to think of like food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as the only kind of welfare. But no, there are all kinds of of programs and federal opportunities that help people who need federal funds or just or just, you know, down on their luck or temporarily in need of government help. Because, again, we pay these taxes. Sometimes the people who need this money actually pay these taxes. For instance, let’s say you lost your job because of the pandemic, because of the COVID pandemic, and you apply for some of the assistance that’s been specifically designated for the pandemic in the pandemic fund packages that passed under Donald Trump and under Joe Biden. Well. In a lot of cases, all of this money comes in a lump sum and states get to decide what to do with it. Let’s take a city you may have heard about called Jackson, Mississippi, for instance. Jackson, Mississippi, had a water crisis and they said, hey, well, so the state got all this money from the federal government, like, literally to help needy families or needy locales. So, like, why don’t you just give some of that money to Jackson to help us alleviate our water crisis? Now, you might think, well, that’s not that’s not really what that money is for, but it was.
Michael Harriot [00:11:50] See, a lot of that money. Most of that money was specifically designated to fix infrastructure, of which water is one of those infrastructures. And the interesting thing about Jackson and why I picked Jackson is because Jackson is the largest city in Mississippi, and the state of Mississippi is one of the few states in America that is mostly funded by sales tax. In other words, what these conservative states like to brag that we don’t tax like these liberal elite blue states, so they keep the taxes low, but they still have to, you know, fund the government and have social programs. So they charge sales tax. Well, in the largest city in the state, Jackson, which is one of the blackest cities in the state and literally one of the blackest cities in the country, that sales tax disproportionately comes from that big city and then is sent straight to the state government and the state government gets to decide what it’s going to do with that money.
Michael Harriot [00:13:05] So the people, the Black people in Jackson disproportionately fund all of these white communities in the state of Mississippi. And when they ask for some of their money back, the state legislature said, and this is actually true, they said they’re not going to approve a handout for Jackson, Mississippi, because that would be welfare, right? It’s only welfare when it goes to Black people. When those white communities ask for that money, it’s infrastructure. It’s how to keep these communities stable. When Black people ask for that money, all of a sudden it becomes welfare. And in Jackson. They just had to endure their water crisis. And the reason that they did this in Jackson is because the state is controlled by a disproportionately white legislature, which I would like to say is unique to Mississippi. But literally every state in the country, aside from Hawaii, which is mostly controlled by Hawaiians, but for the other 49 states, their legislators are disproportionately white. In other words, the makeup, the racial makeup of the legislature is whiter than the racial makeup of the state. And in Mississippi, that’s important because Mississippi has these arcane constitutional rules that don’t just let people vote for who they want to be, their statewide representative to win a statewide seat in Mississippi, to not only have to win the constituency of their local voters, but you have to win a majority of the state. Which is majority white. See how they do it.
Michael Harriot [00:15:06] And and although you might not consider this welfare, it is a social program that is meant to help people in need. And we like to think again that welfare is just something that only applies to Black people. But there’s another group that gets a lot of welfare, too. They are white farmers, and white farmers get their welfare money like the people in Mississippi, like TANF, they get it from the federal government. Now, when Trump enacted a bill that was supposed to help white farmers endure. Remember when Trump said that he was going to go to have a trade war with countries like China who, I don’t know, you see Trump didn’t really understand how imports and exports and tariffs worked, so he thought that we were taxing Chinese goods. That’s how tariff goes. But actually we add the taxes after we already import them. So he’s actually taxing Americans when you add a tariff to imported goods.
Michael Harriot [00:16:16] But Trump didn’t understand this, so he had this crazy, nonsensical trade war with China and other countries to make sure that these farmers didn’t suffer because of this trade war. He gave a bunch of money to farmers. And what’s interesting about that is that it’s welfare. And not only is it welfare, but an estimated 97 to 99% of that money went to white farmers. White farmers. And you may think, well, that’s crazy, but it’s not crazy. See, almost all of the United States Department of Agriculture’s fund, which is how these these programs are funded through the USDA, almost all of those funds always go to white farmers disproportionately. And it not only goes to white farmers directly, but they have these again or arcane rules that protect white businesses and white farmers. White farmers are allowed to borrow from USDA backed and funded banks they call agriculture banks. Like the USDA has its own banks and they almost never loan to Black farmers. And the interesting thing about these Black farmers is, like we’ve known this for decades, like we didn’t have to look at current statistics. This has been true for decades.
Michael Harriot [00:17:50] So these Black farmers sued and say, hey, look, we’ve been, you know, decent, disproportionately underrepresented by the USDA. We got less money for years. And they sued and they won a lawsuit. And the lawsuit was going to set aside some money specifically for Black farmers. And white farmers sued. Say that’s not fair because it’s taxpayer money. And that suit is still being currently held up. So these white farmers are getting their money. But the Black farmers, the money for the Black farmers have been held up. That’s because white people get assistance. Black people get welfare. When you think of farmers, you probably think of these like little small, family owned farms. But no, these are big, huge farms like Kelly Loeffler, the former senator from Georgia, who was one of the richest families in Indiana, in Ohio, where she grew up. Her parents farm got millions of dollars in welfare, even though their family is rich. Right. Like she comes from a family of millionaires, who became millionaires off welfare for white people. And that’s not all. Like white developers, like Sean Hannity, for instance, used these HUD funds that helped him get low interest and low interest loans to buy apartment complexes and commercial buildings that were just investments. And those investment funds, those HUD funds disproportionately go to white people. HUD is supposed to be a an institution that helps people in need of housing. But again, it’s not welfare when white people get it, it’s assistance, it’s stimulus. It’s using taxpayers fund to trickle down to normal people like you and me. But in reality, those funds are set aside for needy families. And white people are taking those funds and enriching themselves.
Michael Harriot [00:20:12] And that’s how it works in America. That’s what Brett Favre did, because he’s not the only one. It’s a thing. And that’s how they rob from the poor to give to the rich. And that’s why you should download theGrio app. That’s why you you should subscribe to this podcast. That’s why you should tell a friend to listen to theGrio Daily every time we put out an episode and that’s why we always leave you with a famous Black saying. And today’s Black saying is, “technically, it’s not stealing if you put a gun to their head and demand that they give it to you.” If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio.com.
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