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Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Are There No Prisons? Are There No Work Houses?"

I live in Florida. Coming from New England, there has been a lot of adjustment, politically, religiously and otherwise for me, as I've learned to keep my mouth shut. I've never felt at such odds with my new state, however, than now. Now that they've passed a law requiring drug testing for potential welfare recipients.

Governor Rick Scott says it is "unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction." His solution, of course, is to require those recipients to wait in line at designated areas, sit in a room with other people in the same situation waiting possibly hours for their name to be called so that they can urinate in a cup in front of someone as that person watches their every move. Then they get to wait for their results to come back. If they're "clean", they'll get their money back for the test. If they test positive for drugs, they are forced to front the money.

This, in my opinion, is a classist invasion of privacy that humilates those who are forced to ask their government for help. Supposedly helping the taxpayers, the $15 for each test that comes back negative will come out of the tax pool. But that's not going to be a problem, right? Because of all the money we'll save by refusing to help those in need because they also have an addiction. And what about those who test positive? They pay for their own tests. Because they can afford it. Right.  Even if the test comes back clean, when are those people going to get their $15 back? If they're applying for government assistance programs, they probably cannot afford to go without that $15 for any length of time.

I just can't wrap my mind around making poor people pay for a fairly expensive test out of their own pockets. "Oh, hey! You can't afford food! Maybe we'll help you, but first lend us fifteen bucks. We'll give it back to you at some point, we promise! If you qualify."

The potential recipients are not to bring their children to the test sites. So, not only do they need to magically come up with money they clearly do not have, they also have to arrange for childcare for that time period. Something I'm sure is really easy for them to coordinate and afford. What of those recipients that work? They'll need to take time off from their jobs, costing them more money.

What really gets me is that this affects people applying for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. For needy families. So drug-addicted parents must have their innocent children pay for their mistakes? Their families don't deserve help because they have an addiction? Babies shouldn't get fed as punishment for the adults in their lives making what the government has decided is a mistake?

No, Gov. Scott has provided for this. Once the parent fails the test, he or she can designate another drug-free adult to apply for the help on their family's behalf. Of course, this presumes that the failing parents have access to a trusted drug-free adult to take the test for them. Which I'm guessing some of them probably don't.

Another problem with this law's intent is that Gov. Scott says "we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs."

Oh, okay. Because people using drugs can easily break from the habit. The only reason they're not doing so is because the government is giving them a few bucks here and there to buy bread and milk for their kids, or shelter their little ones from the elements.  Wait, are these things even connected? Do what you want with your government programs, I can't stop you, but don't wax idealistically at me as you hammer down the poor in this state with such a cynical law. I'm just saying, I'm pretty sure for at least some of these people, if they could stop using drugs, they would. Probably for their families. Not for your money.

Why don't poor people stop using drugs? Rehabilitation costs thousands of dollars. Thousands of dollars that these people do not have. Some of them don't have any support system to speak of at all. Instead of using tax-payer money to systematically test people to deem them worthy of our assistance, why don't we help fund the sorely lacking rehabilitation options for those without livable income?

We can't just push drug users to the side because of their habit. Their reliance on substances should not imply that they are not good enough for our support, for our thoughts, and for our help. They often need the most help of all.

This measure does not create jobs, it does not improve the economy and it does not help the poor in our state in this disastrous economical crisis. It does give a booming business to the walk-in clinic organization that Gov. Scott co-founded. Because, really, I'd rather my money go to a drug-testing corporation than to those in need.

Here is an article with more information:

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  1. I'm on the fence about this one. I get that it's an addiction and not easy to stop, but I also see many people getting assistance and using it to further their habit.
    Programs like WIC are pretty much food for Garrett. That didn't require a drug test, but I can see requiring it for other programs. I know people hate the thought of them but it wouldn't seem out of line for an employer to ask for a drug test before hiring you.

    There is limited money and there needs to be some point where they are more discerning about who gets the assistance. You can say that children shouldn't suffer because of the parents, but I highly doubt a drug addict parent is going to use their money on their children and not on their habit.

  2. I like the way the medical establishment (at least in PA) works their drug testing and substance abuse protocol. Could work for welfare. If you test positive for drugs you have the option of getting care and rehabilitation services free. If you refuse, you lose your job. I'm not saying it's a fix but those who want to kick the habit and know they can't do it for monetary reasons may, in fact, be encouraged to do so.

  3. I agree that the way they are going about it seems bass ackwards, but I do understand the 'why' of the situation. People that use drugs do apply for the assistance and DON'T use it for their children. The kids do go without, the user sells their foodstamps or the food they get with it, or in the case of the cards, will go buy someone groceries for cash so they can feed their habit instead of their children.

    In either case, the children are suffering. It's a no-win situation. They need to find a way to get the results without punishing those truly needy. Emergency food while waiting for the results, in the form of actual food, perhaps? Maybe the desperate addicted would be less likely to take the food away from their kids that way.

    It's a sad situation all the way around. Children need to be loved and cared for. The needy need help. The drug addicts...I have little sympathy for them, knowing a few and also knowing their complete unwillingness to change their ways.

  4. Addiction is not an unwillingness to change, it's an inability to change. Addiction is a disease.

    And I agree with this blog entry. 100000%

  5. Wow, the eloquent Darlena nails it again. Sharing this one far and wide!

  6. I guess as someone who pays taxes and got to pee in a cup for the opportunity to get my job so I could pay those taxes, as most people do now days...I don't have a lot of sympathy. And I'm a democrat from Minnesota.

    It might not be the best way to do, every time seems like a bit much. But random checks would be warranted. If you have money for drugs you have money to feed your kids.

    Do we really think it's ok for kids to be living with drug addicted parents? What other neglect are we missing?

  7. For those of you who compare this to being drug tested for a job: That is a contract that you willingly enter with your employer. Not so with recipients of government services which just so happens to include every citizen.

  8. Very nicely done Darlena, in both my personal and professional opinion. <3


  9. Anonymous...people have to sign up to receive assistance. We would have been more than willing to pee in a cup to get our WIC and food stamps had they asked us.
    Government services are still a benefit and not a right. It doesn't include every citizen and it's something you need to qualify for (and request to get).
    So there is a choice to get assistance or not. We willingly applied for these services and I'm receiving something free from my government I shouldn't be arguing that they want to make sure I'm not using it to get high.

  10. This law is mind-numbingly classiest. Okay, I get the main reason people seem to support it which boils down to "people shouldn't spend the money that they got from the government on drugs." Fine.

    So why aren't they testing everyone who gets help from the government? How about all the bankers that have been bailed out? Why not the employees of oil companies that get huge subsidies? Surely some of that government money has been spent on drugs!

    The drug-testing company Rick Scott founded suddenly being owned by his wife on paper is just the icing on the cake. He will so obviously be making money off of this if it goes into practice.

    I'm a Floridian and know this guy won by a very narrow margin. For God's sake people, VOTE.

  11. I don't argue that everyone should be tested. Hell, I'm pissed off in MA that the firefighters refuse to be tested.
    And I don't like that he's doing it because his wife's company benefits.
    Of course a welfare law is classiest. It's the lower class that ends up needing the assistance.

  12. I can't agree with this. Not the drug testing, though if I had to pee in someone, they'd be dead before it happened because of my shy bladder, but how they're going about it.

    It's a very clever way of cutting welfare without doing anything. I'm guessing people who can't afford food probably, as you pointed out, can't afford gas, the cost of the test, someone to watch their kids, or the time lost from work.

    From knowing more than a few addicts, I'm not sure how many of them would actually ever make it through the process anyway. The 15$ for the pee test that *might* net you some extra money in the long run would provide for a quick hit now. Stealing stuff is also quicker than TANF.

    There are so many better ways to go about this.

  13. Agree wholeheartedly with everything you said...until you used the word 'habit'. You're not talking about habit you're talking about disease which is exactly why what you've said is so funtamentally correct.

    But I know that's what you meant so I'll stop ranting :)

  14. It's amazing the ignorance one can find in thoughts and language. I also used the word clean, the first time in quotes because I caught it, the second without. I didn't go back and fix it because it's a reminder of how I think and how I must continue to educate myself until I erradicate incorrect language entirely. As for habit, had you not pointed it out, I would never have seen it. But you are right in knowing that that is not what I meant at ALL. That's third-grade DARE talking through me by accident. Thank you for pointing it out!



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