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Letter: Singling out the poor

He looks indignant as he stands at the lectern in the photo that appears on page 3 of the Jan. 21 edition of the West Central Tribune. In the background and in the photo above are other indignant-looking people.

The caption explains that the fellow at the microphone is Republican Sen. Doug Magnus of Slayton. He is at a press conference with fellow Republican legislators who are all indignant that some welfare benefits issued through Minnesota welfare offices are being spent outside of Minnesota and some have been used to purchase beer, cigarettes, or lottery tickets.

Perhaps they are referring to the miserable $203 per month available to the disabled who have no other income from Minnesota's General Assistance program.

The website of Environmental Working Group documents that a certain Doug Magnus whose address is Slayton, has received in excess of $600,000 in farm subsidy benefits from the United States Department of Agriculture from 1995 through 2009.

Of course, Sen. Magnus isn't like other welfare recipients. He does not have to prove that he is poor, or disabled, or that he is actively seeking work. He won't be prosecuted for fraud if his income increases and he doesn't promptly report it to the government. No one will question whether he spent any of his welfare payments over the border in Sioux Falls, or whether any of it was spent on alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets.

This is not about government farm subsidies. I grew up on a 160-acre farm with six siblings. Without federal price supports, that farm and our family income would likely have been lost.

This is about the moral and intellectual dishonesty of those who have been major beneficiaries of government spending, including on their education, who single out the poor when they deplore government spending and who are quick to target the poor for onerous spending cuts.

John Burns