Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why You Shouldn’t Support the Group: Making Drug Tests Required to Get Welfare

The group ‘welcome sign’ reads: This is to help towards making it a requirement to get tested for drugs in order to receive welfare benefits. The economy is bad as it is, this is a great way to cut costs. No more crackheads living off our hard earned money.

The platform for this Facebook group is finally getting to me. Whoever created it used wording of such intelligence that I assume most of its supporters are in the same IQ range. I think people see it and make a snap decision that supporting this is a good idea. So, here’s some arguments for why it’s not…

Yes, some people abuse the system. Others do not (specifically the children of these parents). For example, I grew up in a household that utilized Section 8 Housing, welfare, and even food baskets. My mother drank all the time and used drugs (I remember the pipe that wasn't the kind for smoking weed, her cocaine infused boyfriends, and going with her to pick up bags of different colored pills as a kid actually)…but if she had not received benefits, my future may not be as pretty as it is right now. Her history in the system also probably helped to create a baseline when DHS had to get involved when we were teens.

Basically, the children of parents who use drugs need to eat and get services, and they can’t apply for welfare on their own. So, if you support this, you are essentially supporting child hunger and denial of services to children…something that would have made my life completely different than it is today.

Speaking of, which drugs are we talking about here? Maybe it’s because I grew up in a home with an alcoholic who did quite her fair share of damage, but I consider alcohol a pretty ridiculous drug in itself if used too often. Honestly, I could care less if people use certain drugs (such as marijuana) in moderation...I think they do a lot less damage than people drinking. And I’ve never smoked in my life, so don’t go thinking I am on some pedestal for marijuana smokers (though I do think it should be legalized).

The cost of administering drug tests to everyone who applies for welfare is HUGE! The state can barely afford to test all the people involved in the system as it is.  Don't get me wrong, it needs to be a case by case basis and some do need to be drug tested and get services, but it's not that easy to just say drug test everyone.

Hmm, that may actually be all I have to say about this. I am sure some of my other social service friends can chime in and give you some other ideas of why you should rethink the groups you join on social networking sites.

And please note, based on the wording of the group 'welcome sign' it is easy to make the conclusion this group leader is not requesting people simply get drug tested, but that people be drug free to receive benefits.  Otherwise, they would have chosen their wording a little more appropriately.


Benjamin said...

Thanks for posting this. Though I hadn't heard of this group, as I read the group's 'welcome sign' on your post, my initial reaction was, "This sounds like a good idea." And you're absolutely right that people usually don't put much more thought into things than their initial impressions provide. It's scary.

I'm hoping you've posted this somewhere on Facebook itself (and I assume you have). I think everyone should read it. I feel enlightened having read it, and so, as lame as it may sound, my thanks is quite sincere. Not taking the term lightly, I've officially been riled.

Sarah said...

Why yes Benjamin, I did post this on Facebook :) are the comments collected on there...we've managed to have a well thought out and appropriate debate, which is always good (broken into a few comments because there is so much to say):

Edward: I'd love to comment, but really, Sarah, I have nothing to say. ;)

Megan: THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS!! Thank you for sharing part of a pretty personal story,'s often personal testimony, stated simply and without attacking any one person, that changes peoples' minds. You are great!

Me: I think the first case I ever 'closed' comes to mind too in which one of my moms on my caseload preferred smoking weed to taking Vicodin for the tumor in her head because it had less side effects. Her kids were amazing and she was a great mom, but she needed benefits to get her out of a hole. If we would have scratched her benefits for smoking ... See Moreweed, she wouldn't have gotten her kids back. But she did kick meth, and that was huge! I was confident closing her even though she was coming up positive for weed. And of course, last I heard, the family remains doing really well.

Marcus: I disagree.

Will: "So, if you support this, you are essentially supporting child hunger and denial of services to children"
-So tired of children being used as hostages. "We must increase taxes or else we will have to close schools." "We must give welfare to drug abusing parents or else their children will starve." By this logic convicted felons should be allowed to have firearms, provided they are using them to defend their children.

A condition of being on welfare should be character development. The idea that, "Ok there is something wrong in your life that is preventing you from taking care of yourself and others, and rather than just throw money at the problem, we are going fix it."

In my world, these would be the conditions for being on welfare (This will probably cost more than what it does today but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure).
1) Drug free (including alcohol and tobacco; medically valid drug use OK). - Drugs make people content with being bored, and it is when they are bored that they should be improving themselves or working.
2) Nutrition fundamentals (I.E. Know what makes a health meal and know how to cook it) - Proper nutrition is a very important part of digging yourself out of a hole. It is also very important for your family's health. Rather than using food stamps on dorritos, use it on some raw ingredients and make a real meal. Added bonus, provides a base for a useful skill set (culinary arts).
3) Fitness education -Goes with #2, but no excuse for someone on welfare to be overweight. You can run outside or even do push ups in your house. Get a boost of energy and reduce your medical issues through healthy living.
4) Sexual education - Learn where babies come from. If you're on welfare, you shouldn't be having more kids.
5) Skills enhancement - This is dependent on the person. Some folks may be very well educated and be on welfare for other reasons, but if it's a high school dropout they need to be in a vocational training program. Teach em how to weld or something.
6) Temporary suspension of voting rights - When someone gives money to the less fortunate it's charity, when the less fortunate takes the money by force it's thievery. While receiving welfare you shouldn't be able to vote on how much welfare you receive.

Sarah said...

Izzy: Drug test everyone who receives services from DHS? Sounds like we need to pass another tax levy, but wait those in favor of this don't want more taxes. Sounds like angry people venting over what really isn't true...

There are abuses, sure, but there are also systems to catch those people and when they are caught they face penalties, and those penalties aren't soft.

We need to recognize that those getting services are looking to better their lives and the lives of their children and we should support them. When people establish a foundation and don't need services anymore they stop getting them its that simple. ... See More

Its a hand up not a hand out!

Megan: have such a good heart and you come from a good place. There need to be more people who think long-term. However...

In social work, there is an often used metaphor of a river with people floating down and drowning. Someone needs to be downstream catching the bodies and pulling them out (akin to cash assistance, food stamps, etc), and someone needs to be upstream, stopping whoever's pushing them in in the first place (and you have a lot of good ideas for this.)

However, what most Americans don't realize is that the idea of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" is largely a myth. It's the proverbial "blue pill" (see: The Matrix) that the powers that be (i.e. the ruling class i.e. the top 5% of the wealthy in this country, who by the way, own 85% of the resources) like to feed us: that people are poor because they are lazy. WRONG! People are poor because they are oppressed, and the cycle of poverty is not always breakable because of the systems of oppression.... See More

So...I support your ideas...but in the meantime, we can't starve our children. That would be a large scale crime.

Sarah said...

Me: Will, I agree with Megan (well said btw Megan) that you've made some valid points, though I don't agree totally with your stance. I love the idea of thinking of longterm solutions rather than quick fixes, but it just isn't that simple. And we have to take into account the kids...there is just no way around it, no matter what you think, they're the future, and they need support regardless of what nest egg, or lack there of, they were born into. Izzy, I like your opinion...well said :).

Megan: also will...your last point is extremely oppressive. poor people do not choose to be there. the scenario of a single mother working the best she can for a small income, while leaving a 15 year old at home to take care of the little ones so they aren't neglected is more common than you might think...not all high school drop outs are lazy. As you ... See Morenoted, I think giving our citizens better access to education benefits us all and I think we should help support our fellow citizens (and their children) while they pursue trade school and have less availability to work.

Will: "However, what most Americans don't realize... is not always breakable because of the systems of oppression."

But many of these oppressions, such as mandatory prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, are created by well intentioned politicians who are voted into office by uneducated masses. Laws these days are written in such a way that ... See Moreif you have an army of lawyers at your disposal you can drive a freight train through the loop holes, but if you're just a single person you're lucky if you're only breaking 3-4 laws a day. The ORS is about 8,000 CHAPTERS. Assuming only 10 pages per chapter, that 80,000 pages worth of law. We need to simplify the government by returning to principle based leadership (Those on welfare can't do drugs, but otherwise you can do what you want with your body if you're not hurting anyone else) instead of the crap we have now.

Colleen said...

I'm coming on this kind of late, but reading the comments Will left on Facebook for you took my breath away. Suspend voting rights? Really? Not to mention his total lack of compassion and ignorance about how much 'healthy food' costs. Thanks for writing this.