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UPDATE: Nobody will likely see this update. But what I wanted to say is thanks for the recs and thanks for all the amazing comments--the comments are probably more informative and informational than the diary itself. That's what I love about posting here--you can post a diary about something and if enough people see it, comments to back up (or refute) what you are saying instantly appear with more sources than you would have found yourself. Anyway, it's pretty awesome. Thanks, community.

Ok so I got fed up with seeing a lot of this new FB "chain-meme" in my feed and I wrote a rant. Hopefully some people will agree, maybe comment, maybe even if you disagree. I am 100% willing to realize that I may be wrong in some of these aspects--but, it's my thought process. If you read the whole thing, thanks in advance. Also, normally when I write about stuff I get cites and sources but everything in here is just from stuff I have read that has shaped my opinion--I don't have links or sources, so take it as you will, but I promise that I take my writing seriously and wouldn't put out something I believed to be bullshit or fabricated. Thanks for your time.
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As I'm sure you have as well, I've recently noticed this new Facebook "chain-meme" surrounding the concept of drug testing for welfare recipients. The status update in question:

Florida is the first state that will require drug testing when applying for welfare (effective July 1st)! Some people are crying this is unconstitutional. How is this unconstitutional yet it's okay that every working person had to pass a drug test in order to support those on welfare? Let's get Welfare back to the one's who NEED it, not those that just WANT it.

First of all, there are so many things wrong with this simple paragraph that I don't even know where to begin, but I'll try. Every time I see this status update or one involving the same issue in question, I cringe. I'll address what I find to be wrong with this statement, an overall view of the issue the way I see it, and then a simple, rational thought process as to why even from a simple cost-benefit analysis the idea of drug testing welfare recipients is short-sighted and irresponsible class warfare--the perfect kind of prole vs. prole division that those in power love to see. When hedge fund managers and executive boards of banks that have received billions in taxpayer bailouts start getting drug tested for coke on a monthly basis, I'll be ok with you drug testing the single mom getting housing assistance in the ghetto. Until then, forget it. Wanna be smart? Refocus on a different, more meaningful and costly target, not the littlest of the little guy.

As for the status update itself:

1. On a side note, it is amazing to me to note that most of those who I see post this garbage are the same individuals who clamor for "small government," "less government intrusion," etc. etc. yet for some reason find it ok to have the government make you piss in a cup to receive a pittance in order to survive. Certainly there is abuse that exists, but it pales in comparison to so much other spending that it makes no sense to focus on it as a target. Individuals who follow the rules and happen to fall upon hard times (especially in this great economy of ours) should not be subjected to privacy intrusions because of a marginal percentage of people "taking advantage" of a system.

2. The comment that "every single working person had to pass a drug test" is 100% misleading, fradulent, and inaccurate. I'm sorry if the place you work is such a shithole that the employer feels the need to actually drug test their employees. But saying that every working person has had to go through drug testing is false.

3. Lastly, "let's get welfare back to those who need it, not just those who want it" is also logical fallacy for a number of reasons. This argument assumes that if one individual is removed/blocked from receiving assistance that another person who is otherwise unable to receive aid will now be able to do so. This is not the case whatsoever.

DEFINITION OF WELFARE

First, what is the definition of welfare under this plan or others that are similar to it? Welfare takes many forms but mostly is a basic modicum of a social safety net. Welfare can include unemployment insurance, heat assistance, food stamps, housing assistance, and more. Let's look at unemployment. Each state has different rules, maximum time limits, and maximum dollar limits. In New York, the maximum weekly receivable under unemployment is $410, or $1,640 monthly, which is also taxed at around 12%. The weekly amount of benefits is determined by the individual's highest earning quarter of the previous twelve months--there is a formula for it which I am not sure of at the moment--but the point is that someone who made around $30,000/year will receive the same benefits as someone who lost their job and made $50,000+. It's possible to max out. Obviously, if someone works a low-wage job and then receives the maximum unemployment, they may be able to stay on unemployment or whatever. But, most people prefer to work, and the bigger point is that someone who was making $50-60,000/year is likely going to have a pretty tough time surviving and paying mortgage/car/etc payments on $1600/month (and thus not likely to be "milking the system" somehow). So for this note, I am leaving out unemployment. (Of course, the person working a low-wage job and receiving the max is a bit of an oxymoron--they are prob receiving around $200/week.)

Also, when you are on unemployment, you must be constantly looking for work and providing names of people/businesses contacted, resumes sent to, basically a work search history. This is done both in person as well as on the phone. I don't think that an additional expense and humiliation of drug testing should be placed on these people and paid for by the state, but more on the financial end in a minute.

So, moving on from unemployment, we get to basic aid such as Section 8 housing, HEAP (heat assistance), food stamps, etc...while of course there is no hard data to suggest that a large percentage of people who receive this kind of aid are in some way abusing it, or "just sitting around doing drugs," of course some likely do. However, my guess is that a huge majority are not. There is this mistaken notion that somehow being on aid is a fucking blast, so much fun! I can't believe that this is correct. Do you like not knowing if you will have a roof over your head, or food on your table? How about not knowing if you will be able to heat your house to 55-60 degrees when it is below zero outside? SO. MUCH. FUN.

So let's think about this whole drug testing thing. What is the obvious benefit to the rest of society? Well, from what I gather it is essentially two-fold: (1) "Get these bums off of welfare, get my taxes not going to these degenerates, etc. etc." and (2) "let's save money by not supporting these people." (On a side note, yes, I have seen many people refer to those on aid as "these" or "those" people which is insulting as hell in and of itself. I could rant more but I'll try to stay on topic.)

First, most of these people receiving aid are not some sort of low-down degenerates. Do they exist? Sure! Do some people take advantage? Sure! But here's how I see "taking advantage" of basic bottom-level social benefits--first, you're certainly not living the high-life. You probably have no assets, and you probably skate by on a combination of whatever pay you are getting from work plus the social benefits. I think about those who might "take advantage" like I think about the able-bodied dude on the side of the freeway begging for change: It isn't something I'd like to do, but more power to em. In fact, I bet that the guy sitting on the side of the road with a cardboard sign is probably raking in a daily amount that is not completely off from what you earn each day. But would you want that job? Would you want to do it? (Not that it's a "job" per se, but I think you know what I mean.) I wouldn't. So if someone wants to go to the effort to subsist on basic social handouts, well, that's up to them. But again it should be noted that a huge majority of people receiving this type of aid are not in fact abusing it, but rather absolutely need it.

Only briefly touching on the tax dollars issue: for anyone who watches Bill Maher, you've likely seen his "plate of food" with Medicare as the mashed potatoes, defense as the fried chicken, social security as the mac and cheese, and how he highlights that we really only go after the sprig of parsley, which social welfare could also be represented as in the big scheme of things.

Really don't like your taxes being "wasted?" Here are a few other ideas:

1. Make the same clamor about getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan as you do about drug testing welfare recipients.

2. Send out status messages about banks which receive BILLIONS of taxpayer money only to bend each and every one of us over more. The idea that a bank exec's bank would receive literal billions of taxpayer dollars and pick up a $800 rug for their office is much more aggravating to me than someone receiving a small amount to keep their house heated wanting (or in the case of medicinal patients, needing) to smoke a joint. (BUT THEY COULD SPEND THE MONEY THEY'D SPEND ON THE JOINT ON THE HEAT! Well, maybe. But who are you to morally judge that person through a puritanical lens?)

3. Start to stand up and fight against more and more tax giveaways to big business and the wealthiest 1% of the country who control around 35% of the total wealth in America. Oh, by the way, don't like people being lazy? Well these folks don't tend to "work"...they make most of their money from interest, stocks, capital gains, rent, royalties, etc. while sipping a margarita on their yacht.

(Not that they shouldn't be able to, I'm just saying.)

THE MONEY ASPECT

So the other underlying idea behind this is some sort of a "savings" involved. THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE JOKE. Here's why.

First, let's talk about drugs. I assume that in this instance, the idea is that someone who is on any kind of drug is someone who should not be receiving social benefits. I disagree with this premise. Everyone is entitled to their vices, and again, where are the voices of the libertarians on this one? That being said, I can understand the premise. I'd like to look at it in conjunction with the thoughts of an employer.

As an employer conducting a drug test, what is the purpose? On hiring, I suppose it is to find the applicants who are using "drugs." I assume the obvious suspects of drug types can be applied here. But, a couple thoughts--one, what person going to interview for a job that may require drug testing is going to be on drugs prior to the testing? Of those who are, how many of them realize that detox kits are available at your local head shop for $40-50? Cannabis stays in your system for about 30 days. Most potheads I know, if applying for a job that drug-tested, would be able to contain their habit for 30 days. Not really a biggie. Ok, so other drugs--coke, LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy, whatever else? If someone is really addicted to any of those drugs, they likely aren't in a state to be seeking serious employment. Just a thought.

Also, in this economy, if when receiving dozens if not hundreds of applications, an employer can't choose the person to hire based on resume, interviews, etc. out of a giant ass pool than maybe they should be the one without a job.

So think about the places that conduct on-going drug testing of their employees, which is more analagous with the government benefit drug testing concept. Why would an employer spend money to do this? The obvious answer is that he/she/it wants to "weed out" (no pun intended) workers who are "doing drugs." (Personally, if that's the case, we should also make everyone wear alcohol-detecting ankle bracelets to know when anyone is consuming alcohol. Given the choice of retaining one employee, with one testing high--again, no pun intended--and one showing that they are an alcoholic, I'd keep the pothead in a second--but that's another topic.)

I can understand why an employer (or the govt, in this case) wouldn't want someone who was on drugs to be working there/receiving bennies but to me the more serious concern with this would be in the case of much heavier drugs. (Again, someone with a crack habit proobbbbbabbbllllyyy isn't the most productive worker.)

As promised, let's take a look at the financial end of this idea:

Some will argue that a "drug test" can be obtained for as little as $10-25. Remember the old addage, you get what you pay for? A $25 drug test will not really yield the definitive results that some of you are looking for. These tests can be beaten with the aforementioned detox kit. In order to detect the presence of the chemicals in a detox kit, or to successfully test for heavier drugs such as coke in someone's system, the test cost will go up significantly.

I'm not sure what the totals are or what is being proposed in terms of frequency of testing (although obviously more frequent tests would yield more results) so let's use simple math.

Let's assume that there are 100,000 people on government welfare in Florida. A good drug test will be significantly higher, so let's lowball at a cost of $40 a test. To drug test 100,000 people at $40/test will cost the state $4,000,000 each time they conduct the test. 4 MIL. (That's if the test is actually obtained for $40--of course, if you go the shorter route, maybe the state gets tests at $20 each, but again, they won't be nearly effective, thus reducing the need for the testing even more--and it still costs the state 2M each time.) If this is done monthly as I believe some are proposing, that's a cost of $48 million a year. (Can you imagine what the public schools in your state would look like if you advocated for $48 MILLION a year for them? I'll take giving that 48 mil to schools in a second.)

Of course, I could be wrong, but I can't imagine that the overall yield percentage of people "caught" on drugs via testing would be very high--maybe 1%, slightly higher, slightly lower. First, you're eliminating anyone who doesn't do any drugs at all from that 100K number, which is likely a significant percentage of that number. Then, you're eliminating people who can "find a way around it" (and they can, and will). 1% of 100K is 1,000 people, probably receiving around $1,000/month on welfare, if they are maxxing out--some subsidization for housing, maybe heat, maybe food stamps--let's also remember people who would be subject to this testing might only be receiving food, or only heat, or only housing--so this figure is actually skewed toward the other side of the argument when allocatting $1,000 in the calculation per individual. 1K people X 1,000 = $1,000,000. One Mil! Good savings!

But wait--we just spent $4 million on the tests--one time. So for our intiial test, we are already down 3 MIL. But great--we just kicked off 1,000 drug users off of welfare! We saved a mil! (Well, not really. See, again, even if someone was kicked off, it doesn't mean that the state now no longer pays for that person.) Sure, the state might see an overall drop in welfare recipients, but probably not. Further, and not to open other cans of worms, but this reminds me of the pro-life-but-not-wanting-to-pay-any-kind-of-welfare-argument: It isn't as if the people just removed from welfare as a result of this test DISAPPEAR! They are still there, only now they are on the street. Congratulations!

Additionally, with each subsequent test, the results will diminish. If the rule of law is now monthly drug tests, people who would be in danger of losing their aid will wise up one way or another, they will find a way around it. But even assuming the rate of "catch" holds up over a year, simple math gives us a "savings" of $12M, at a COST of $48M. Net savings? Minus 36 mil. For that year. Assuming we are talking about 100K people receiving aid--if 500K people were, it's a "savings" of $60M at a COST of $240M.

Are we REALLY that stupid to grab torches and pitchforks and go after the people in our society at the lowest end? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

*
This is part of the problem of the proletariat in America on a much bigger scale. We tend to look at things that aren't right but then attack someone below us, or do what we can to maintain the perception that the person is below us, in order to maintain our rung on the class ladder. It's all about bringing someone else down instead of bringing yourself up, and it's bullshit. Don't like the fact that a union member gets a basic pension, has basic healthcare, and you don't? Two options...rail against unions, and maintain your sorry work status/state...OR....JOIN A FUCKING UNION!!!

It's all about still having someone below you. It's a sad, sorry state of our society and culture. And this mandatory drug testing is just another slap in the face to those who actually need the help the most. Imagine if growing up your mom was raising you by herself and working hard as hell to support a family--now imagine if to get a few hundred bucks a month she had to go to some clinic and piss. in. a. cup. while some staffer either waited for or even watched her. FUCK THAT. I wouldn't want my mom to go through that, and I don't want any others to either just because a small number of people might be "scamming" the system, although that's up for debate as well.

Drug testing for welfare recipients is nothing less than the morality police saying who should and shouldn't do what--I have yet to read a single case made for this other than a bunch of knuckleheads clicking like and saying "YEAH!" on Facebook. Well, fuck you.

LAST

I can understand why it is easy to say, "I work! Why should my tax dollars go to someone who is just getting aid and on drugs?!" It's a semi-fair argument. However, it's a misplaced target.

One last semi-related item: I also don't want to see any more posts about how pissed you are that the guy in front of you at the grocery store bought Cheetos and a 12-pack of Pepsi with his EBT card. What would make you happy? If he was buying a turkey sandwich and a quart of milk? Who are you to judge what someone CONSUMES?!

Ultimately, the money goes back to the store, back into the economy, and maybe, just maybe, the grocery store employs another person. Just a thought.

End rant.

PS - Rick Scott is a total dick. You should be embarrassed for supporting any initiative he presents, regardless of if you agree with it. He is a criminal. Check Google.

smokingmoney

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to nickinnewyork on Thu Jun 09, 2011 at 12:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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