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  1. talltom
    GOP lawmakers in statehouses around the country are pushing legislation that would force the unemployed to pass a drug test in order to receive benefits. In February 2012 Congress gave states the go-ahead to introduce such legislation, despite criticism from worker advocacy groups and civil libertarians.

    When the federal law was passed, House Republicans initially wanted to let states have all 7.5 million people collecting unemployment compensation pee in a cup. A compromise was reached, which authorizes states to test applicants for benefits in two circumstances: if they were fired for using drugs, or if the only occupation they’re suited for is one the Department of Labor lists as commonly requiring drug testing. Which jobs the department might include in the provision is not yet determined (Democrats say a small number of professions, Republicans say most), but in the meantime GOP state legislators are pushing forward with drug-testing proposals.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has asked lawmakers to push through legislation requiring not only unemployment beneficiaries to be drug tested, but also individuals applying for food stamps — a particularly draconian move on the governor’s part, especially since in the few states where where drug testing of welfare beneficiaries has been attempted, like Florida, there has been no evidence of reduced drug use.

    A state GOP senator in Arkansas filed legislation Tuesday, January 15, that would require applicants for unemployment benefits to undergo a drug test, while the Wyoming statehouse is currently considering a similar bill.

    “Legislators in Wyoming would better serve their constituents by trying to pass bills that solve problems that actually exist,” Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project, told Huffington Post, adding that Wyoming already has has the fifth lowest unemployment rate of all the states and a healthy unemployment trust fund.

    As Corolines commented last year, “Like many conservative legislative movements, drug testing poor people isn’t an idea that’s spreading through happenstance.” The proliferation of similar legislation proposals across multiple states is facilitated by the use of model legislation written by policymakers working with think tanks including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

    In previous years, attempts to introduce drug tests for welfare recipients have beendeemed unconstitutional. A federal judge halted Florida’s program for drug testing welfare recipients in 2011, ruling that if the legislation were really about curbing drug use by withholding government money, then the state “could impose drug-testing as an eligibility requirement for every beneficiary of every government program. Such blanket intrusions cannot be countenanced under the Fourth Amendment. What the Fourth Amendment requires is that such incursions by the Government must be reserved for demonstrated special needs of government or be based on some showing of reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”

    Notably, supporters of drug tests for welfare recipients have not propounded the extension of drug testing to other beneficiaries of government programs and subsidies — only the poorest and most desperate should be scrutinized when receiving aid from the state, such logic suggests.

    Meanwhile, the spread of drug testing proposals serves as yet another illustration of the country’s internal divides over the “war on drugs.” While Washington state and Colorado have legalized recreational marijuana use, the governor of Texas would deny the poor in his state their basic food allowance if traces of pot were found in their system.

    Natasha Lennard
    Salon
    Januart 16, 2013

    http://www.alternet.org/alec-pushes-proposals-drug-test-unemployed

Comments

  1. Alfa
    It seems that senator Rick Perry is a big fan of drug related crime and wants to greatly increase nuisance for citizens. While such drug tests may prove effective for drugs like marijuana with low addictive potential, it will force true addicts to get their food and money through crime.

    The food stamps system that the USA has is admirable. Especially for true addicts, because it feeds addicted people instead of giving them money. This is much more effective than giving money that may be used to buy drugs.

    In general it is not a bad idea to drug test in cases where the drug addiction is suspected as a cause of poverty, if this is tied to providing recovery help, social help, financial management and food stamps. But taking away food and money will cause damage to society.
  2. CaptainTripps
    A single person with zero income (this is after some deductions are applied) gets $200.00 in food stamps or SNAP as it is now called. Traditionally the going rate for "black market" food stamps is much less than the face value. This is now often lower as now most, if not all states, use EBT cards for basic food benefits. Unlike the actual stamps you can not tell how much is on the card without calling a special phone number. But even if the buyer calls the number and gets the balance, there is nothing to stop the seller from immediately calling that same number and cancelling the card as "lost" immediately after making the sale. So almost all of these sales are made between people who know and trust one another. The days of being able to sell them "on the street" are basically over. Also everyone has to eat and the small amount they could get selling them does not go very far. As a result very few food stamps are used to purchase drugs with. This is one of the big arguments made about drug testing for food benefits, that people use them to buy drugs.

    Then there is the issue of families. What if the drug user has children? The way the food stamp program works is that if a member of a food stamp household is ineligible, they are simply removed from the benefits. So, lets say a woman who uses drugs has three children and income qualifies for food assistance. What would happen if the head of household became ineligible for food assistance is that instead of getting benefits for 4 people she would get them for 3 people. So in reality the woman does not lose her food stamps, but rather the household loses 25% of their food stamps. This is literally taking food out of the mouths of innocent children.

    It should also be noted that unlike cash welfare assistance which under welfare reform became a block grant to the states with a great deal of flexibility, SNAP is a federal entitlement program. While the states are allowed some flexibility, it is a federal program with federal rules. A state would have to get permission from the feds to implement such a rule at a minimum, most likely would have to have to pass actual legislation and get it signed by Obama. No way that is going to happen. Playing politics with food might work in a redneck state like Texas, but nationally it would be terrible politics.

    Unemployment is different. One basic requirement for unemployment benefits is that you are ready, willing and able to accept employment. An example would be if you become disabled and are therefore unable to work, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Another example would be if you go to college and are not willing to drop out to accept a job. My point is that if you can show a rational relationship between employ-ability and drug use, it would be consistent with long standing policy to disallow UC benefits on this ground. I view the new federal legislation with the "two circumstances" as more of a clarification of policy rather than a change of policy. However, going beyond that would simply be more punitive than logical. There are many excellent employees in the United States who happen to use drugs relationally. The idea is to make people employable and this might make sense with people who abuse drugs, but drug testing would have the exact opposite effect with people who use drugs responsibly. It would actually take someone who is already employable and potentially make them unemployable. But who ever said the drug war was logical.
  3. runnerupbeautyqueen
    Our system is good but its not scam proof. While someone on food stamps is practically unable to sell them unless they actually accompany the buyer on their shopping trip what I have experienced is that instead people will buy things like expensive cuts of meat and they will sell the actual food instead of the stamps/EBT card itself. My dealers all have constantly well stocked pantries and freezers and enjoy steak and seafood daily. The people who sell the good food will then go get a few emergency food boxes filled with canned goods and boxed food like macaroni so as to not starve or be forced to spend their drug money on something as trivial as food.

    Personally I think instead of drug testing a better (although initially maybe pricey and time consuming) alternative would be to apply guidelines like WIC has, where you are only allowed to purchase certain things. Women who receive WIC benefits are only allowed to buy certain baby food, formula, milk, etc. and not things like steak, seafood, and whatnot.

    I am single, no kids, and there is no reason I should get 200 a month for food when I can get enough to survive on for about 50 and enough to actually maintain a pretty proper balanced diet for an extra 50. I always have a ton of money left over every month that I don't need. My mom was able to feed a family of 5 on 200 a month for years and we never knew what it meant to go without or go hungry.
  4. rickster999
    ^ I concur with Runnerupbeautyqueen. We need something like the WIC program to reign this shit in. There is no way these people should be able to buy over-priced candy bars and sodas at convenient stores and shit. This isn't an entitlement, it is peoples hard-earned cash getting blown when they themselves have to manage their finances. Then they get to watch some fuck blow $30 on Doritos and Mountain Dew. Absolutely sickening. Maybe if they actually had to have rice more often instead of whatever the fuck they wanted, they might be slightly more motivated to get off SNAP. Obviously nobody wants to see children starve. But at the end of the day that is the parents responsibility not Uncle Sams. It was designed for unique situations to temporarily help people out, not a fucking life-style.
  5. CaptainTripps
    I must say that I disagree with much of what Rickster999 has to say. SNAP is actually designed as a subsidy for farmers. That is why it is administered by the Department of Agriculture and not Health and Human Services. That is why renewing "food stamps" was part of the Farm Bill. It is designed as a supplement for low income people. It is not designed to be the sole source of food for anyone. I can not remember what food and nutrition services thinks it takes to feed someone adequately for one month, but it is more than $200.00. Single adults with no income are a very small minority of the basic food recipients. Most are elderly, disabled or the working poor. They do not "choose" to be on SNAP they are on SNAP by necessity. Most SNAP recipient would love to be over income to qualify. Maybe the answer is to raise the minimum wage to say $20.00 per hour. If there are not enough private sector jobs to go around we could always have the government create "make work" jobs. Sure that would destroy the economy, but that way we would not have to support able-bodied deadbeats living high on the SNAP lifestyle. Either take a good job, or don't eat.

    In the US today a disabled person on SSI gets a generous $700.00 per month. Because they are so rich, many of these folks only qualify for about $100.00 in SNAP. An elderly retired person making say $1,300 per month still might get a whopping $16.00 in SNAP. Who cares if they are the people who built this country, they should have planned for their old age better, besides I hear Alpo is quite nutritious.

    The SNAP program is strictly audited by both the federal and state governments. I cannot remember the federal error rate at the moment, but I know that Washington States error rate is less than 5%. That means that 95% of recipients are not only eligible, but are getting the correct amount. Oh, and the error rate also includes recipients who are underpaid. Do some people cheat, of course they do but it is not some wholesale ripoff of the taxpayers. Many people who have always worked and paid their taxes are shocked to find out how little they will get in food benefits when they loose their jobs through no fault of their own. "you expect me to feed my family on this!!!!!!"

    The one area I somewhat agree with Rickster999 and Runnerupbeautyqueen is about the type of food that should be allowed to be purchased. While I couldn't care less if they buy the occasional steak with their meager benefits, I don't think junk food should be allowed. I would also question if purchases should be allowed in places like 7-11 where prices normally are high due to the convenience. I once was behind a lady in a 7-11 who purchased about $70.00 of total crap with food stamps. I am talking candy bars, chips and soda. This was some years ago, but it still pisses me off. Not because it was an extravagance but a waste. With modern checkout systems with barcode and EBT cards, it is a simple matter of programing.

    As for people selling them for drugs, while it may seem common if you are mostly hanging out with dealers and addicts, it is a drop in the bucket, compared to all the millions of citizens who don't abuse this program, that improves the lives of many decent underprivileged citizens. In my opinion that is the problem with attitudes today. We have as many guns in America as people, so you would think there would be dead bodies piling up on street corners. But on a percentage basis gun violence is actually rather rare. Especially the mass killings that has everyone all upset. Because a handful of nuts can't be trusted with guns, no one should be. Because some people can't handle drugs, no one should be allowed to have them. Because some people might buy steaks to sell to drug dealers, poor people should not be allowed to have steaks, just in case they might be tempted to sell them.
  6. rawbeer
    I just wonder what the cost of drug testing all these people is? I would think the cost would be comparable to the cost of theft by people exploiting the system. So this wouldn't be saving the government money, but just reinforcing the government's stance that drugs are bad!

    If Food Stamps is a farmer's subsidy...maybe this is just a subsidy for the drug testing industry? It was Dick Nixon and the Federal Government that made drug testing the industry it is today. I'm sure there's been backroom dealings along these lines in the past. Ultimately this doesn't really save money, it just gives it to these people. It makes life harder for poor/unemployed drug users...who I'm sure will respond by using more drugs.

    I think drug testing is probably a good idea for certain professions like air traffic controllers and the like, but does this industry need more of our money? I certainly have less sympathy for them than farmers, who we actually need. But to test everyone who needs benefits seems like a huge waste of money and time and resources.
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