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......

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

So it's come to this, has it? It's not bad enough that the poor are, well.....poor. We have to rub their noses in it and assume that they are all a bunch of junkies. But, let's test 'em all!!!

It does kind of sound good, doesn't it? It kind of feels good too! If my tax money is going to the poor, I don't want them using drugs! 

But, maybe I should stop and critically think. Perhaps I shouldn't just react to this because it FEELS right. There's a novel idea. I think I'll think this through for a minute and see where I stand.

First off, if an adult smokes pot and has a couple of kids, what happens to those kids when the food is cut off? What happens to those kids when the electricity is cut off? Are we prepared to sacrifice children who are already under the boot of society, because their parents like drugs? And I don't want to hear the argument that "they aren't taking care of their kids anyway" because you don't know that. It's like saying making fried chicken illegal would cause black people to starve. It's absurd, and stereotypical. 

Last time I checked with the local drug dealer, he didn't take food stamps. Maybe....probably....some do. So what? What are we supposed to do about that? If everyone on assistance had a "food card" and a photo ID, then there is no argument to be had here either. That money could not be spent on illegal products.....even if very much is now. 

Why do we have studies for EVERYTHING, but there are no hard numbers on how much government assistance is actually used to pay for drugs? If food stamps can be used for drugs, then it can also be used for cigarettes and alcohol. So, why are we not testing for nicotine and alcohol? Is it OK to use those drugs with money that isn't meant for it, but not for pot? 

Let me be clear. If a parent is using crystal meth or crack, they shouldn't have their kids in the first place. We'd be better off testing to see if they could care for or even keep their kids than testing to see if they kept their government aid.

We can't NERF the world. I've  heard a lot of people talk about how great this is, but why do the same people not demand that our politicians spend our tax money better? We are TRILLIONS and TRILLIONS of dollars in debt and we are worried that Joe Blow is spending 60 bucks on a quarter bag? Talk about tunnel vision!!! Ha Ha!!!

Let's call a spade a spade. People (and this may be you) who are worried about this issue and are really concerned about welfare recipients taking drugs are only concerned about the person getting benefits at all. You don't give the first fuck how they eat, live, or take care of their children. You care that they are somehow cheating the system. You don't like that they get to lie around in a concrete block building, already under the thumb of our modern society, do you? You think somehow these people are enjoying the good life? Get in your gawdammed car and drive through the projects and tell me just how great some of these people have it. Face it. YOU DO NOT CARE where their next meal or their kids next meal comes from. It's not your problem, right?

I can already see it. Some of you will be bitching and complaining about stores and houses getting broken into by these same people when they need to find money for their drugs or food for them or their children. What then? Put them in jail? And then, we can pay for their health care and housing at the tune of $40,000 a year. Boy.....we sure showed them, didn't we? And their children can become wards of the state, moving from foster home to foster home (which you don't give a shit about either) and be set up for potential abuse and then released into the "wild" at 18 with no real chance to live a normal life. 

Why not offer help, support, and love to people? This is going to hurt children. If pappy smokes a joint, but his kid goes to bed at night without a growling stomach, I'm OK with that. My money could and does go to worse bull shit. Like bailing out billion dollar banks or automakers. I guess giving billions to billionaires is OK. How about demanding our government not to give tax breaks to corporations that send jobs over seas. Yeah, you'll bitch about that and then run in to a Wal-Mart to grab a 21 gallon jar of pickles for 17 cents.

Perhaps some are too big to fail and others are too small to succeed.I want to ask some of you Christians who are on fire for this legislation a question. Who would Jesus feed? Did Jesus say, "Fuck The Poor"? Did Jesus set conditions, other than faith on your salvation? If we don't care about the poor, who will?

If you support government assistance being taken away from those who use drugs without any other conditions or leniency, there is no other way to say this than, you do not care about your fellow human being. It's all about you. So, up yours. And that comes from the bottom of my heart. A heart that would rather see people being helped in these tough times rather than being shit on by people who are eating all they want, when they want.Search your soul and look at other aspects of your life, our society, and how little opportunity there is for most ANYONE to rise above the level they are now. If you have a soul, and you have a heart, you just might find that compassion and love doesn't really come with conditions.