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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Classism at Its Finest

Apparently Kentucky has passed a law requiring people on Welfare to take annual, random drug tests. This is not one isolated incident of dumb-fuckery. Other states are currently trying to pass into law as well. Michigan had tried it too, but it was stopped by a federal court because it violated the Fourth Amendment.

I've been seeing this status frequently on Facebook:

"Kentucky has just passed a great law. To be eligible for food stamps, medicaid, or cash assistance for your children or yourself, you have to pass a DRUG test. People that work have to take a drug test, so should they! Now every other state should do the same! If you agree re-post."
All over the internet, people are rallying behind this idea, making some of the most ignorant and classist remarks. I am utterly dumb-founded that people are this willing to pass such an invasive law...

Look, I won't deny that this seems like a good idea - because it does. I know there are people out there who have exchanged  food stamps for drugs. This happened more often when they actually gave out stamps, now most areas use a card (except in a few, very rural areas). But, let's be real here, few people (out of the millions of people)  on Welfare are actually that irresponsible. So, why do we want to punish all people on Welfare? This would similar to saying that because a few people rape or murder someone, then everyone should put their DNA or fingerprints on file. I know that sounds a bit on the extreme side, but all I'm saying is
 just because a few dick bags run around acting like an asshole, doesn't mean everyone does. They're only hurting themselves. Let them dig their own grave. But with a bill such as this, it affects all. The law-abiding families who have to take unpaid time off to drive who knows how far to the lab, thereby taking away from their kids (gas money spent that they may have otherwise been used towards something they needed). 

Now, since  the whole "it's my tax payer's dollars" gets everyone's panties tightly knotted, guess who gets to pay for it? And while we're on that subject, why aren't we also testing women on WIC, Medicare, legislators, and any other tax payer funded employee instead of the ultra-poor? This also includes police officers, fire, government, all people who accept medicare (doctors, nurses, dentists), school faculty, the entire board of education, all city workers, waste management, anyone on a construction job that's bid to the city or state, including the utility company employees, highway workers...This list could get really long. And I don't mean just when they're hired; I mean annually.

According to the ACLU, the number of drug-using Welfare recipients is about the same as the general population. 

"Before the Michigan policy was halted, only 10% of recipients tested positive for illicit drugs. Only 3% tested positive for hard drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines[3]  – rates that are in line with the drug use rates of the general population.[4]" click for source
So, if you (subjectively) want to argue that people on Welfare are more likely to abuse drugs or that this aides in the effort against the war on drugs, well then, maybe we should just start  drug testing everyone then. If you want to argue "If you've got nothing to hide..." well then, what do you have to hide?

All the arguments to support this bill are based on myths and stereotypes. It's classism pure and simple.

I don't understand why other people glamorize living on welfare nor do understand why people would  want   to stay living on welfare for most of their lives. The ones who have another child just to remain on Welfare; the truly lazy ones. I don't know how it is elsewhere, but around here, you  have to have a job or actively be searching (you have to show proof and they will check), or they will enroll you in their employment program. They will only give you actual money for a limited time, and after that's gone, no more for you. Each state has its own limit as to how much a family can receive in food stamps. Medicaid may be free, but the quality of care isn't always great once they know who your insurance provider is. And, recently, Medicaid HMOs and PPOs have begun limiting their services. For one, they don't cover every procedure or prescription (sometimes pre-authorizations aren't even covered). They've decreased the number of visits/services to certain doctors (i.e. dental and optometry). And, even then it's further limited. For example, you can't just go picking whatever glasses you want at your optometrist's; you've got this tiny carousel of cheaply made glasses... And don't go breakin' 'em! You only get one replacement. This isn't so bad for an adult, but this also applies to kids. These are just a couple if changes they've made in an effort to prevent people from abusing the system.  The food stamp money is not enough to live on entirely (which is why you'll see a lot of people on Welfare buying unhealthily - because it's cheap and they're trying to make every last dollar count). It is meant to supplement not to exist. And do you really think they enjoy their every move being judged when people find out they're on welfare? 
And then after this, where do we draw the line? What's next? What about the people who trade their food stamps for money so they can buy gas, pay bills, or basic necessities like diapers, toilet paper, etc? Forced birth control? Can't drive a car over X amount? Restrictions on what they can buy that would bring some happiness into their miserable lives (Have you ever had to tell your child, "No birthday presents/field trip because we had to pay bills..."? I've seen it firsthand...) Because that's where we're headed... And don't think that won't ever happen because it's come pretty close with Issue 5 in Ohio trying to do away with pay day loans. And it passed because people didn't like what other people were doing with their money and they thought they were doing them some good (those companies found a loophole...but that's a whole other tangent).

Then there's the whole argument of "I have to take a drug test for work". Really? How many times has your work randomly drug tested you? Do they do it annually? I guarantee that  it happens rarely. Usually, when an employer drug tests it's only during the application process. After that, they may say that they'll randomly test you, but not too many employers actually do (unless, perhaps, you've given them a reason to or you got hurt on the job).

So, honestly, what is the real reason we want to pass these laws? Is it because we (again, subjectively) hate the poor and hate the fact that they get free medical? Because that's what it sounds like to me. All the arguments I've seen supporting this are based on classist stereotypes and assumptions.

We all need to stop worrying so much about what other people are doing with their lives. If you want to help someone, actually get off your ass and help them. If you see someone abusing the system, then report them! There is a telephone number that you can call... Classism is not right and it's not ok. It's fueled by myths, hate, and jealousy. We need to stop this kind of thinking.


THUNDERCAT832 said...

A friend of mine was super pissed at me (still is to this day) for me narking her out about her abusing the system. I don't care is she's pissed, there are people out there who need that help and she wasn't one of them. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.

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