DEFENDING THE POOR: Sen. Joyce Elliott.

The Senate yesterday passed Rep. Mary Bentley’s HB 1775 to add additional work training requirements on recipients of food stamps, but not before a heated exchange between Sen. Scott Flippo, carrying the bill, and Sen. Joyce Elliott, unable to get answers from Flippo to her questions.

The bill is one of many in which a legislature that handed out enormous tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations this session either burdened the poor or added to their misery. Supplemental nutrition benefits — the small subsidy provided by the federal government under the program known familiarly as food stamps — already requires those 18 to 49 without children in the home to work. The bill raises the age to 60 for those required to seek job training. Sponsors figure it will make some 50,000 people join a work training program to continue to get help on grocery purchases.


Flippo wasn’t much impressed by opponents’ mention of the lack of job opportunities in some areas or the lack of workforce training centers in about half of Arkansas counties. This prompted a line of questioning by Elliott that, boiled down, seemed to be — have you no heart, senator?

Flippo said he didn’t see why people without work couldn’t move someplace jobs were available. And he said taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize those who wouldn’t.


Let’s roll the tape. It begins at 5:31:20 on the video of yesterday’s Senate session.

Elliott’s closing speech in opposition, which begins at 5:44, is powerful. Elliott had noted, that Flippo’s remarks synthesized an “undercurrent” of the session, the assumption that the poor are “slackards” who want “something for nothing.”


“I just resent the notion,” she said. But, “We talk that way every time we talk about poor people.”

She went on: “Maybe because you’ve gotten lucky or maybe because you’ve done well or maybe because you have a great job to go to to every day, somehow you deserve more respect than somebody who’s not that fortunate.”

She said she resented the lectures that people ought to be working. She didn’t know anyone, she said, who didn’t believe in work. “That’s like telling me rain is wet.”

Said Elliott: “Don’t talk to me about poor people as if they are less than what we are. That they are lazy. That this is what they wanted to be.”