Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World

Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World
"You had better be a round peg in a square hole than a round peg in a round hole. The latter is in for life, while the first is only an indeterminate sentence." – Elbert Hubbard

Should Welfare Recipients Be Required Drug Test? Debate Rages On...

Monday, April 8, 2013

I haven't written anything in a while and doing so on a cell phone has been a challenge! Getting back to writing has been rewarding. Hope it is helpful for those who take the time to read!

These thoughts were prompt ed  by a post on Facebook where the question was asked whether welfare recipients should be required to pass a drug test before qualifying for benefits. While I have mixed emotions about the question itself, I was shocked by the harsh and caustic nature of many of the ensuing comments. The prevalence of hatred and misconceptions based upon false assumptions were staggering.  I literally could not believe we were having the this discussion. 

I've read through enough of the comments to see that the same old tired ideology, based largely on ignorance and false assumptions, continues to fuel this debate. It amazes me that what constitutes welfare (food stamps, housing assistance, TANF, etc) benefits to the "non-working poor" in most people's mind accounts for about 10% of our country's total welfare budget and around 5% of our entire federal budget overall. These figures were calculated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2012. If you don't trust the CBPP's figures, you can add up the relevant  line items yourself and you'll arrive at the same percentages. In essence, this means that no more than 10% of what anyone pays annually in federal taxes goes to fund programs that assist the non-working poor. Since only a small percentage of that group actually abuse these benefits, the amount of waste here doesn't even constitute a drop in the bucket when viewed in light of the multitude of other sources of waste and abuse in our nation's budget. 

Furthermore, I am surprised that we still harbor the same negative naive image of what a welfare recipient looks like. Especially given the broad and far reaching effects of our recent recession. In fact, the face of today's average welfare recipient has drastically changed. It stands to reason given the constant decrease in wages and the never ending rise in our cost of living. 

My former father-in-law's experience is a prime example of this reality. He was an UAW electrician for 30 years, working for Caterpillar, Inc in Illinois. He made a decent living during this tenure and retired with a good pension and excellent benefits. However, his experience is a relic of the past. The person that stepped into his shoes to do the same job, possessing the same abilities and skill, is making a mere one third of what he made with no chance of ever attaining his level of hourly compensation or the quality of his benefit package (trickle down economics at its best!). This decrease in compensation and benefits is echoed time and time again throughout our country and it does not appear that any relief or substantive change is expected on the horizon. As a result, many hard working people are finding themselves unable to make ends meet and having to seek assistance, becoming new  participants in our welfare system.

Unfortunately, a significant and growing portion of our welfare expenditures (not including unemployment benefits or worker's compensation, etc) today go to assist working class people and their families. Even in a time when two income families are the norm, many are still struggling to survive. Our welfare system is no longer just a commentary on the most disadvantaged or least industrious citizens among our society. It is rather a much needed safety net, not only for those it has traditionally served, but also for a growing number of many who have historically made up the very backbone of our working class. 

Obviously, this is not how many Americans view our social programs. Asking a simple question such as should welfare recipients be required to pass a drug test to qualify for benefits is more than enough to invoke outrage. People immediately envision worthless drug addicts who are unwilling to work, living luxuriously off of the large portion of taxes they give up annually to the government. It doesn't matter that the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the vast majority of these recipients are not addicts and could easily pass a drug test. Flordia's recent venture (2012) into this area showed that less than 3% (108) of those recieving benefits that were tested (4086) actually failed the test. In fact, this testing cost Floridians nearly 50k in direct cost, not counting the many indirect cost. Regardless of concrete evidence to the contrary, many people persist in visions of lazy people eating gourmet meals that might as well have been robbed from a working man's table!

So then, how did we arrive such a bias against providing for those less fortunate among us? Why is there such suspicion and criticism of both the mechanisms we employ to provide assistance as well as the recipients themselves? I would argue that it was intentionally forced upon us; we've been conditioned to think and feel this way. It is, in fact, the quintessential red herring. Our cultural perception of the value of social programs in general was and continues to be cultivated by a corrupt political system that is intricately skilled at creating distractions to divert focus from the real abuses within our fiscal system. Instead, our attention is manipulated to obsess on what literally amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things. The poor and marginalized within our society are being sacrificed in an effort to subvert responsibility and to keep us so preoccupied with miniscule matters that we fail to see and demand accountability in the real line items that represent the most egregious examples of both waste and fraud. A system that allows venal politicians and their equally corrupt corporate bedfellows to literally rob the US taxpayer blind, lining their pockets with not only our contributions, but the future contributions of our children and grandchildren. 

It amazes me that we can get so incited over the potential misuse of what amounts to a mere five percent of our national budget, yet remain silent over a defense budget (one example among many) that comprises nearly a third of all US expenditures. We have long been aware of the unbelievable excess and waste in our nation's defense spending. Contracts awarded for goods and services rendered that are compensated at rates thousands of times higher than any reasonable reckoning of the fair market value of either. These contracts are knowingly negotiated and secured by people with ulterior motives and vested interest. We've endured the saga of over a decade of war that has cost us no less than four trillion dollars, with estimates as high as six trillion. The value of the human capital expended can never be quantified. While abuses within our welfare system remain anecdotal, giving rise to much speculation, our enormous defense budget represents by far the most exploited (for personal gain) fiscal liability and the greatest source of waste of the taxpayer's money. 

It's no wonder many of our elected officials would rather see us fixated on some potential freeloading drug addict who sells his or her food benefits to purchase herion. It stands to reason why our attention is intentioally misled to focus on alleged and often fictitious abuse to these welfare based line items that amount to a very small portion of taxpayer debt. God forbid a lazy non-productive member of our society leech off the system, right? What a travesty!  All the while, we are being vicimized by men who appear industrious but whose gain is robbed from the American taxpayer, not just of this generation, but of many to come. Our great great grandchildren will be subsidizing their stockpile of wealth. Of all the injustices we endure, and the multiplicity of ways in which taxpayers are robbed and their hard work exploited, welfare and social programs should truly be the least of our concerns!,