Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients: Part Two

OK, I've been involved in and following four threads on Facebook about the topic of drug testing welfare recipients. It's been a hot topic today and I've enjoyed reading what people have had to say.

I wrote my blog today on my lunch break and was in a hurry to get it done and posted. So, I didn't hit this the way that I probably should have. With a more measured hand. So, I will try to do that with this companion piece to my earlier entry.

First off, I believe each and every one of you should be concerned with what happens with your tax money. That said, if we all had outspoken opinions about how Washington DC handles our money, like we have with this issue, maybe they wouldn't be so quick to waste it. Which makes me wonder, why are we so fast to beat up how the poor (some of the poor) MAY be using our tax money, while we just have a passing interest in our tax money going to fund  poetic cowboy conventions in Nevada, an indoor rain forest in Iowa, exotic pet research, rock n roll education for children, and other projects that are not necessary or perhaps should not be funded with tax payer money?

I believe there is something about us, as a society/culture that makes us want to see the poor suffer a bit. We blame many of those who are on public assistance for their plight. You know...."get a job ya bum"! Well, I may be mistaken, but the official unemployment number is at 9.1% and that's the governments number. Some say it's much higher. Are we to expect the poor to get jobs in this economy, when most of us would have a lot of trouble finding work if we were to lose our current gigs? And, do very many of us know that getting a job can effect welfare in many states? Say you are a welfare mom with two school aged kids. You get maybe $200 or $250 a week for food and other bills. Hey, you find a part time job, making $8 an hour for 15 hours a week. Then you lose about 2/3 of your welfare. Where the hell is the incentive to work? The woman would be worse off, trying to find childcare in the summer and when school wasn't in. We ask them to work, but allow politicians to make laws/rules that actually make working the fast track to being homeless.

Anyhow, this is about the drug thing, right? We should take the time to humanize this. I've heard that the kids won't lose their benefits, just the parents. OK.....so a 4 year old is going to cash a check or take his/her food card to Kroger and shop? Let's stay in the real world. We would be ensuring that kids would get nothing in this case, because their guardian would have control of what the kids get.

Honestly, I wasn't aware that there was some great problem with drugs being bought with welfare benefits. I'm sure it happens.....maybe even a lot. But, with all that is happening in our world, this is how we have to make our stand against the poor use of our tax money? By pinching the poor, at a time when many of us are just a couple of missed paychecks away from filing unemployment and paying our bills (including food and medicine) with credit cards.

What becomes of the family who loses their benefits? First off, if my kids couldn't eat because I smoked pot....I'd quit smoking pot. I think most rational people would do the same. But, the focus should be on the hard drugs. Anyone can quit smoking pot. But, meth and crack are a different story. People don't use those for recreation very often. Those are addiction drugs. Would cutting off an addict and his/her family be wise? Is it ethical? Does it fit in with your values? We will be asking these addicts to clean themselves up, while we talk about how much courage a rich ball player or celebrity has when they go into rehab. Or we hang our heads at the loss of a musician as they succumb to the pressures of stardom and addiction. What about the pressures of being in the projects, with little hope of upward mobility, and being an addict? Is that not glamorous enough to care about? Is an addict just going to be able to stop cold turkey and get it together? Stats say no. Common sense says, they will get their drugs by hook or crook.

As for solutions, I don't know that I (or anyone else) has to have a solution for commenting on an issue. But, I do think it helps to draw out more thought and conversation. With that, I have a couple of thoughts. Not perfect. Maybe not even good. Perhaps not even practical. But how about we test every 6 months and require folks to re-apply for benefits? Constantly updating where they are in job searches, living conditions and such. Why not identify pot users and tell them, the next time, they must be clean or they will be required to take drug education courses and do community clean up services to continue their benefits? Also, the hard drug users can be identified and targeted for help to deal with their addiction. Those people will also have to have an assessment of their living conditions and how they are spending their benefits.

Are those things costly? Yes. Do they require more bureaucracy? Yes. Would this be towards helping human beings and children? Absolutely.

Are we going to drug test all welfare recipients every month? What's that gonna cost? Who is gonna pay for that? Oh....that's right, you and I will be. Every month we are going to test every adult recipient? What kind of strain is that going to cause on clinics in poor neighborhoods, because you are not gonna want these people sitting around in YOUR doctors office with you, right?

Florida is going forward with their program. But perhaps it would be wise to take a look at who may actually benefit from this. Is it you and I? That is debatable, I suppose. Thanks to Misty (friend of a friend on Facebook) for finding this link;

The governor of Florida and his wife own 62 million dollars in shares of Solantic, a company in which he (Governor Rick Scott) co-founded. Oh....by the way, Solantic........well....hell, I'll let you read this for yourself;

During the election campaign, he had estimated the worth of his Solantic holdings at $62 million. Jacksonville-based Solantic has 32 clinics statewide, including two in Palm Beach County, and plans rapid growth and an eventual initial public offering, according to company documents.

Why does that matter? Because Solantic does drug screenings at about $35 a pop. Wow.....the governor is in support of the legislation to test welfare recipients? I'll be damned. What a helluva coincidence.

Jeff (a discussion participant on Facebook) seems to support this testing in theory, but acknowledges there are better ways to go around it. He along with another fella (Daniel), proposed that a bigger problem that should be dealt with in regards to welfare are those who cheat the system. And, I have to agree with them. Fraudulently receiving benefits should be a major concern to us all. That is stealing and far more criminal (in my mind, if nobody else's) than a drug user getting benefits.

As I wind this down, I want to appeal again to our sense of compassion, love, understanding, and caring for our fellow men, women, and children. We are in dire economic times, whether you, reading this blog, can feel it or not. Hard drugs are bad. They destroy lives. But, those are the drugs of addiction and we can't just throw people to the wolves. Steve Howe was allowed to come back to major league baseball over and over again, as he struggled with cocaine addiction and was labled a hero. Rock stars and Hollywood celebrities (too many to name....just pick someone) shuffle in and out of the Betty Ford clinic, like it was Club Med, and we love to hear their stories of courage. They get a second chance. They are the richest and most affluent among us, but we find more compassion for them than some guy living in inner city USA not knowing how to get his shit together enough to take care of his kids. It's an entirely different subject, but some of these people.....no....MOST of these people are born into poverty. Not everyone has bootstraps. Are we gonna punish people for where they are born? Are we gonna punish children, because their parents can't, won't, or don't know how to "do better"?

Funny, in Florida, they still can't decide what voting machines are best to use to prevent fraud or confusion and it's been 12 years since the Bush/Gore election, but hell.....give 'em a year or so and they can find out how to keep the poor from being helped. Ahhh....the wonder of it all.

Until next time......

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