This is another in a series of op-eds I write for publication in the local paper. My efforts are to speak to the reachable and not argue with the extremist.
There is a movement afoot in this country to persecute people who need help by shaming and belittling those who qualify for public assistance. The intent is to shine the spotlight of failure on those in need instead of on the system that fails to provide people with ways to lift themselves up. Simply scapegoating the poor is easier than tackling the real problems in our society.
Drug testing is to become the next indignity forced upon anyone who otherwise qualifies for public assistance, including unemployment. It is not enough for their incomes to be so low that they need help just to eat, but they also will have to prove themselves pure in nature by having to urinate in a cup before insufficient funds are doled out. No other proof is needed that they are morally suspect than their inability to provide for themselves in this time of high unemployment and lowering wages that has gone on for years. The proposed testing is a joke and a waste of taxpayer money.
In 2011, the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, instituted mandatory drug testing on people receiving welfare benefits. Although testing was eventually halted by a lawsuit claiming unreasonable search and seizure, it was in effect for four months. During that time it was found that four percent of welfare recipients either tested positive for drugs or dropped out before they were screened. That means screening for drugs only reduced the welfare rolls by four percent and the testing ended up costing the state $45,000 more than it saved. Ninety-six people out of a hundred had to urinate on demand before receiving welfare benefits. It is made humiliating enough in our society to have to ask for help. Mandatory drug testing just adds another degrading aspect to the process.
One would think that Florida's experience would dissuade other states from trying the same thing. No, several other states are trying to institute drug testing for any kind of benefits despite having been shown that it is an ineffective process that costs more than it saves. Why do it? Because these lawmakers have the power to further shame those who have not found jobs to replace the ones they lost or earn the same wages they did before the economy crashed. Many of these lawmakers believe that people are seeking aid from choice instead of need. That so many applying for aid must mean that a large number are trying to scam the system. These legislators refuse to see that reducing wages and public sector jobs produce more need. A need spurred by a gridlocked congress and political bickering for the last four years.
Good move for politicians who claim to be saving scarce public resources. Ideological purity is expensive--and petty--and mean--and stupid.
The next time you hear a politician ranting about wasteful welfare recipients, realize that your attention is being diverted from really insane policies like giving tax credits to corporations for off-shoring American jobs.
Many of the politicians clamoring for mandatory drug testing proclaim themselves staunch Christians and claim that their faith and the bible influence their positions. How then do they reconcile their opinions with Proverbs 14:31 --"Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him."
I believe in a secular government and my spirituality is a personal thing, but I also believe that a government has an obligation to care for its people in the most effective, humane way possible.
Rec list! Thank you