5 Insane Laws Written Specifically to Harass Poor People
Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, you probably have enough common sense and moral fortitude to not go out of your way to kick a homeless person when you see one on the street. If so, pat yourself on the back, because there are some American legislators who are using every tool in their toolbox to make "poverty" the new "murder."
Unpaid Rent Can Get You Thrown in Prison in Arkansas
Unless you come from a family so rich and so uninterested in your character development that they pay your bills for you, you've been short on your rent at least once in your life. It's a rite of passage, like acne or finding your parents' sex toys. Just make sure you don't live in Arkansas when the inevitable shortfall happens, because they've got a law that will send your ass to jail.
"Suddenly, I've gained a real appreciation for the early works of N.W.A."
According to the failure-to-vacate law, once you're late on your rent, landlords can give you 10 days to pay up, move out, or go to jail. And it's written so that there is no independent investigation to find out if the landlord is telling the truth or if he's looking to fill your apartment with his buddy's hot daughter. So naturally the system is abused to the point where actual homeowners have been somehow charged with not paying their rent.
Can the tenants fight it? Sure! Except people who plead "not guilty" actually face harsher punishments, and they still have to vacate their home while they wait for trial, plus pay the court fees. It's like spanking a newborn infant for wetting his diaper ... then charging him for the privilege.
Wisconsin Wants to Freeze the Bank Accounts of Unemployed People
Have you ever gotten a bank error in your favor? What about too much change from the store or an unwarranted credit on an account? The upright citizen that you are, you correct the error, but half the time most of us aren't nerdlingers and don't catch the mistake in the first place.
Now, imagine that you're on unemployment, and it's the state government that gives you the extra money. If some legislators in Wisconsin get their way, the state will have the right not only to monitor your personal banking account if you accept unemployment, but also to freeze your funds if they goof up in your payments. Not just your unemployment benefits -- all your money. Earning the rent by mowing lawns? GOT IT.
"This is the last time I keep my money anywhere but under a filthy mattress next to my weed."
The idea, of course, is to recoup money for a nearly bankrupt unemployment fund, but something tells us that better programming to avoid overpayment glitches in the first place might be the less intrusive and more constitutionally sound way to go on this one.
One-Third of American States Have Debtors' Prisons
The first thing we learned from Charles Dickens' novels was that being poor sucks. The second thing we learned was that being poor and living in Victorian England sucked even harder, because back then poverty was a character flaw worthy of jail, violence, and a funny-sounding name.
At the top of the list of Dickensian atrocities were debtors' prisons, entire jails dedicated to imprisoning people who owed money. Or worse, regular prisons, where debtors and killers alike were held together. Common sense eventually told the civilized world that imprisoning people who owe you money is retarded ... how are you supposed to get your money?
Didn't you guys know? Money is just something that happens when you wish hard enough.
Surprise! Even though the U.S. officially made debtors' prisons illegal in the 1830s, you can still be jailed for showing "contempt of court" during a creditor lawsuit -- and yes, not paying your debt counts as contempt of court. You may be wondering why they don't just close this obvious loophole, and the answer is that it doesn't even make a difference if they do. The ACLU found that Ohio is throwing people into jail for as little as $300, and they're doing it so much that in some areas 1 in 5 arrests are due to debts.
Tons of States Punish You for Being Homeless
In Houston, you can get arrested for scrounging for discarded food, since it's illegal to molest garbage containers. San Francisco's even worse: They have laws banning panhandling that are enforced so strictly that one homeless man was arrested for falling asleep while sitting on a discarded milk crate. They're so gung-ho about their hatred of everyone unlucky enough to be crushed under the mountain of reasons you can end up without a roof over your head that the police actually set up stings to trick homeless people into asking them for money so they can throw them in prison.
"I've got a shot. I'm taking it."
Tennessee Tries to Make Welfare Dependent on Kids' Grades
Earlier this year, Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield proposed a law that would've made poor families' welfare benefits dependent on their child's grades, presumably because he doesn't know anything about education, poverty, or the link between the two. Under Campfield's proposed bill, families on welfare would lose up to 30 percent of their benefits if their kids didn't make "satisfactory progress" at school.
Other Campfield triumphs include scaring small children at football games and claiming that AIDS came from gay men screwing monkeys.
It's true that sometimes lawmakers will propose psychotically deranged laws just to get attention, even if that attention is us crucifying them on an altar of loathing, but this wasn't one of those. Campfield actually wanted this passed, and he kept pushing and revising the bill until he was finally torn down by a stunt just as insane as his own: Opponents of the law got an 8-year-old girl to follow him around the Capitol asking him why he was such a prick.
The system works! We guess.