Psychics React to Kansas Bill Prohibiting Use of Welfare Money on Psychics

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Tarot cards used in a James Bond film and on auction are shown in London in 2012. A new bill in Kansas prohibits people from using public assistance money on services such as tattoos, body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie - and psychics. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Dorothy once told Toto, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” If they were there today, and Dorothy was on public assistance, she soon might be forbidden from spending her welfare money on cruise ships or strippers. Sure, there are no cruise ships in Oz, but that last prohibition could have presented a problem: As we all know, Toto was a real dog.

State legislators sent a bill to Governor Sam Brownback this week that would bar people on public assistance money from using it on everything from the Milford Lake Love Boat to the Leavenworth Twerk n’ Jerk. The statute, which passed with overwhelming support from Republican majorities in the House and Senate, is designed to crack down on the use of welfare for fun. “We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” said Michael O’Donnell, a GOP state senator from Wichita. "This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life."

So what else does “having a great life” entail for the thousands of welfare recipients in the Sunflower State? According to the bill, it means not spending the government’s dime on tattoos, body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, or visits to swimming pools, theme parks, dog- or horse-racing tracks, movie theaters, psychics or fortune-tellers. To make it harder for benefits to be converted to cash, ATM withdrawals with assistance cards would be limited to $25 a day.

Last month, Republican lawmakers across the border in Missouri proposed a bill that would curb food stamp purchases of cookies, chips, energy drink, soft drinks, steak and seafood. If signed into law, poor people could use their monthly allotment of chicken, but not chicken of the sea. (The inspiration for the proposed seafood ban seems to have been a California surfer named Jason Greenslate, who, in 2013, claimed on Fox News that sometimes uses his food stamps to buy lobster.)

Ever since the cable network aired its infamous “Lobster Boy” clip about “The Great American food stamp binge,” Republicans have used him as their mascot in a crusade to reform laws about what people can and can’t do with their meager government assistance funds. In Kansas, a family of three on temporary assistance can qualify for up to $429, or about half the price of the shoes Megyn Kelly wore on The Tonight Show.

What do the psychics and fortune-tellers of Kansas think the future holds for this new legislation? I phoned about a dozen of the state’s clairvoyants for their predictions. Most didn’t pick up the receiver. (No doubt they knew why I was calling.) But Wichita-based Mother Grace, who bills herself as an American Indian spiritual healer, was game. Asked if any customers paid for their psychic readings with public assistance money, she said, firmly: “No.”

Ever heard of House Bill No. 2258?

“No.”

When I asked if the law would keep poor people from seeking her spiritual guidance, she said, “God bless.”

Then she hung up.

Sienna, a medium from Luminous Psychic Healer in Wichita, insisted that no one has ever used welfare money to pay for her wisdom.

How do you know?

“I just know. I’m a psychic.”

OK, she wasn’t aware of House Bill No. 2258, either, but now that she was, she said it’s “not a good idea to try and pay for a reading with your food stamps.”

Sound advice, Sienna.

L.A. Phillips, a Kansas City “soul coach,” told me that she usually gets paid through PayPal, so she “honestly could say that I don’t know” where the money comes from. She did know that “financial troubles are one of the main things I talk about” and that she encourages clients “not to be victims.” Phillips insisted that she’s not in business just to take poor people’s money. “I’m not getting rich off of this, by any means,” she told me. “I’m a stay-at-home mom.”

Her take on the law was more and less enlightening. “There should be some type of allowance for letting people use their money to get some type of spiritual enlightenment.” She even offered a tarot reading for House Bill 2258: “I see a balanced partnership energy, not to be so far on one side or far on the other. We are going to enhance people’s lives and ultimately help people become more self-sufficient. We’re not creatively thinking enough—this isn’t a very creative approach. It’s very polarizing, so it will set a dialogue.”

She said she suddenly saw the number two in a vision. “Number two is a big one in numerology,” she allowed. “It’s about finding balance.” Maybe she meant balancing the state budget.

My final call was to Christopher Peeler, a “clairvoyant, clairsentient and clairaudient” for Psychic Connection of Kansas City (“I do everything but palm reading,” he says). Peeler claims he doesn’t accept welfare funds as payment: If customers are short on cash, he’ll provide readings “free of charge.”

What’s he think of the legislation?

“I agree 100 percent with what it says. Psychics are entertainment. I would prefer that you spend your money on your family than on readings.” Even so, a reading might be a good idea. He warns: “If you choose to jump off a bridge, it’s not on me.”

So what’s the bill’s future?

Pause.

“It will probably pass.”

Correction: This article originally stated that Kansas Bill 2259 would bar food stamp recipients from using their using their public aid on everything from cruise ships to strip clubs. In fact, the bill would bar recipients of public assistance from spending the funds on these activities.