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Avatar of GI KoreaBy on October 13th, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Should Welfare Recipients Have To Take A Drug Test?

» by in: Politics-US

Well that is what many states are now having people on public assistance begin to do:

As more Americans turn to government programs for refuge from a merciless economy, a growing number are encountering a new price of admission to the social safety net: a urine sample.

Policy makers in three dozen states this year proposed drug testing for people receiving benefits like welfare, unemployment assistance, job training, food stamps and public housing.

Such laws, which proponents say ensure that tax dollars are not being misused and critics say reinforce stereotypes about the poor, have passed in states including Arizona, Indiana and Missouri.In Florida, people receiving cash assistance through welfare have had to pay for their own drug tests since July, and enrollment has shrunk to its lowest levels since the start of the recession.

The law, the most far-reaching in the nation, provoked a lawsuit last month from the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing that the requirement represents an unreasonable search and seizure.  [NY Times]

The way I look at is that being in the military I am paid by the government and thus I subject to random drug tests, which I have no issues with since I don’t use drugs.  If people in the military have to take a drug test to get paid then why shouldn’t someone on public assistance not have to take a drug test as well?  If you are not taking drugs then that person shouldn’t have any problem taking the test.

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  • Atwork
    5:20 pm on October 13th, 2011 1

    “The way I look at is that being in the military I am paid by the government and thus I subject to random drug tests, which I have no issues with since I don’t use drugs. If people in the military have to take a drug test to get paid then why shouldn’t someone on public assistance not have to take a drug test as well? ”

    Scary, but this liberal was going to make a similar point before even reading your comment. My point is that since people employed in wide variety of positions in the private sector must submit to private tests (one of my relatives was recently given a test for become a carpenter’s apprentice…I kid you not), I really don’t see how this reinforces stereotypes about the poor. One concern, though. I would imagine that they wouldn’t simply use their benefits, but instead would be forced to go to rehab. That could be potentially very costly to the government, which means that there is someone who will seek to profit from it…and so, you might want to ask who’s behind the initiative.

  • chris
    5:36 pm on October 13th, 2011 2

    In Philadelphia (not sure if it’s only the city or the state of PA as a whole), drug addiction is a VALID reason for “being unable to work” and therefore qualifying on welfare.

  • Tbonetylr
    5:46 pm on October 13th, 2011 3

    #2,
    How does one prove thy drug addiction in Philadelphia? That might be fun, move there and get($$$) addicted.

  • Jinro Dukkohbi
    6:16 pm on October 13th, 2011 4

    No big surprise in Philly – I’m sure it extends to the whole state, since you can get free cell phones in PA too:

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_749344.html

  • Hey Drew!
    6:50 pm on October 13th, 2011 5

    I’ve also heard that the law, in Florida, actually costs more to implement than it saves. I agree that, in theory, receiving government assistance for certain things should bring about certain regulations to avoid abuse. But assistance =/= Military paycheck. They’re very different.

    That said,I don’t like the idea of tax dollars being going back to buy drugs, legal, illegal, whatever. But I also don’t like the idea of spending way more than necessary to catch 2% of the welfare recipients who toke up. If all they’re asking for is a urine sample, let’s be honest, any enterprising drug user is going to be able to fake it unless there’s someone physically watching the stream come out. And even then, wasn’t some celebrity caught using a prosthetic…member?

    But yeah, in theory, I support it. But not at the expense of spending MORE money.

  • kangaji
    7:03 pm on October 13th, 2011 6

    Wouldn’t anegative externality be an increase in theft?

  • John in NY
    7:37 pm on October 13th, 2011 7

    Why not? I had to get tested for my job. If you don’t do drugs, you shouldn’t have a problem.

  • Vince
    7:52 pm on October 13th, 2011 8

    This is a bad thing. These people need help. We should all pay more of our earned money to support them so they can have a lifestyle which is acceptable to them.

  • Michael B
    9:07 pm on October 13th, 2011 9

    The military doesn’t threaten drug testing for moral reasons, they do so to protect from drug-induced violence, extortion-based espionage, and accidents. Those aren’t dangers in public assistance cases. Drug testing has been piloted by several States. They found very low rates of drug abuse and extreme cost.

  • Tom Langley
    9:56 pm on October 13th, 2011 10

    Michael B #9. You are correct that the same types of dangers that you mentioned for the military are not present in the welfare recipient situation. The difference however is that people on welfare or unemployment claim that they are unable to find or are unable to work. If someone is using drugs then the reason that they are on welfare or on unemployment may be self evident. Plus if they aren’t working then it seems that tax money is being used to buy their drugs. If someone is truly down & out then I am happy that the government using our tax money helps them but that help should not extend to supporting a drug habit. I am glad that unemployment insurance is there since I had to use it for a while after the factory that I worked at shut down.

  • Vince
    10:26 pm on October 13th, 2011 11

    We should buy their drugs. That way they will be happy and have dignity.

  • ChickenHead
    10:38 pm on October 13th, 2011 12

    Once all the idealist liberal bullshyt clears, people who can do math will explain this program.

    More than two percent have failed so far… and another two percent have refused to take the test.

    No pass, no money… for a year.

    Not having to pay a year’s “entitlement” to two (and certainly four) percent of the welfare-receiving population pays for the program.

    As a bonus, it puts state money into the hands of those who are working instead of those who are not… certainly the lesser of two evils when public funds are involved.

    And, as a further bonus, some of these people may leave he state to a more liberal place with more tolerance for abuse of state generosity… making the program a long-term success by avoiding generational poverty.

    And, of course, if you can’t pass a drug test for welfare, you can’t pass a drug test for a job.

    That all stands well by itself.

    But wait…

    …there is a whole ‘nother angle that the media has been downplaying.

    These tests have not been for people on welfare.

    These tests have been for APPLICANTS…

    …meaning the Real Story is that 2 to 4 percent of the dumbazzes applying are too funking stupid to lay off the smoke or use one of the many urine/hair cleaning products before going in and sticking their hands out for free money.

    If those currently ON Welfare were randomly tested, one might find a drug use closer… or exceeding… the 8% usage in the general population.

    We all know two percent is bullshyt.

    While drug use is not necessarily a result of poverty, poverty if frequently a result of drug use. The media likes to discredit the myth of the drug-using poor without addressing poor drug-users.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter.

    The federal and state governments can’t keep giving money to every slacker and malingerer who wants it… they don’t have the money…

    …and the shrinking population of taxpayers who are sacrificing their lifestyle to support it are growing increasingly unhappy.

    So expect to see more ways to cut the welfare rolls…

    …which is exactly how it should be.

    Taking public funds should be a miserable existence filled with increased restrictions on behavior, reduced freedoms, and suspended “rights”… as well as lots of chores that “Americans won’t do”.

  • Retired GI
    3:25 am on October 14th, 2011 13

    You should have to do SOMETHING to receive government funds. Piss them.

  • ChickenHead
    7:44 am on October 14th, 2011 14

    “Piss them.”

    I have heard that passing a kidney stone is very painful.

    Can you imagine passing a 300 pound welfare queen?

  • kangaji
    8:28 am on October 14th, 2011 15

    The third tier effect is increased drug related tjeft and incarceration. accounting for tjird tier effects, if the policy is cost effective – awesome

  • Dragonfly
    10:28 am on October 14th, 2011 16

    If you want to see govt. money given to people with addictions, plus supplying them with the drugs, look no farther than the VA. There’s nothing more pathetic than a 100% service connected vet coming back to the clinic two weeks into a 30 day prescription for narcotics wanting a refill because they were “stolen”. What addict doesn’t secure his stash? These cases are a minority of vets seen at the VA, but you would be amazed at how much money and resources are poured into those who use the VA like their personal welfare system. Proportionately, it’s far greater than the vast majority of vets receive.

    I’m all for random drug screens for ANYONE receiving govt. handouts. You can’t get a job picking up dead animals off the road without a drug screen. Why should it be any different for someone receiving our tax dollars?

  • Tom Langley
    10:33 am on October 14th, 2011 17

    Chickenhead, there was & probably still is an organization called “The National Welfare RIGHTS Organization.” I $h!+ you not. They consider it a RIGHT to be able to sit on their fat a$$es & collect tax money. They really got burned up when some states put in work requirements for welfare & when a time limit for receiving welfare was established. I swear that this is the truth. Vince, if they are selling drugs to make money then that is their “job” and they shouldn’t need governmental assistance at all. If NK & SK ever make peace perhaps we could use these folks on welfare to remove the landmines in the DMZ.

  • Michael B
    10:50 am on October 14th, 2011 18

    Three out of four TANF recipients are children, and because of factors outside of their control, are dependent on others, their neighbors, absentee/dead parents, or the government. They don’t deserve your disdain. (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/data-reports/caseload/caseload_current.htm)

    A study in Utah found that half of recipients use less than 9 months of service before getting themselves back on their feet. (Mary Beth Vogel-Ferguson, Family Employment Program (FEP) Study of Utah: A Snapshot in Time – 2008: Wave 3, Social Research Institute, College of Social Work, University of Utah, January 2009.) There is a median of 2 years and a max of 5–so this isn’t a lifelong thing.

    The monthly benefit is about $300 for the first person, and about $100 for each person after that. That is, the benefits are tiny–there are no “welfare queens”.

    TANF families averaged two children–so these are not what I assume you envision about huge families.

    95% of the participants are women–these are not major sources of crime, and so we can’t just assume that women are on a criminal rampage around the country and that kicking out the 2-5% of the users who are on drugs will produce a savings. Even if it were true that the program’s 95% women were criminals, or that the men were all the addicts, savings from a lack of crime will not pay for the program. We have to spend fiscal resources, money, not a lack of something that
    may or may not have happened, savings.

    Since about 5% of TANF recipients are trying to get help to get off of drugs, and since drug testing in these individuals may test positive for a significant period even after they quit, you’d be kicking people out and toward their dealers and pimps. You can self-righteously say you had nothing to do with it, but when you were next robbed, you should wonder if it was because they didn’t have support when they tried to get off of drugs.

    The cost of drug testing once a month would be about 4.5 million individuals * $40 (the amount contracted in Utah, as it was handy) *12 months * the 2 year median time on the rolls = 4.3B. Since cash is only a quarter of the money (http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=936) and the total amount from Congress is only $16B, you would have no real cash program left.

    http://www.clasp.org/admin/site/publications/files/0520.pdf has a lot of great information too, if you were interested in a factual basis for what this argument is about.

  • Vince
    11:53 am on October 14th, 2011 19

    Where do I sign up to give these unfortunate people what is left of my investments and other savings? You have convinced me.

    Step 2- where do I go to sign up? Are there any other systems I can game and trick-funk? I’m kinda new to this game, so I’ll need some help from the old welfare hands.

    Let’s twist some doobies. I been waiting for these glory days of free money, weed, and people who will stand up for me in my time of need!

  • JoeC
    3:18 pm on October 14th, 2011 20

    One of the candidates recently said, “… if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

    There is an increasingly changing face of those needing public assistance.

    And, of course, there is a whole new set of impoverished suburbanites: the formerly middle class who lost their jobs. These folks may have been living the American dream — with the house, car and white-picket fence — but then saw it disappear in the Great Recession.

    The Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin has seen a crush of middle-class residents walk through its doors after losing their jobs, said Marcy Harris, planning and development director at the agency, which is outside Minneapolis.

    “We saw people who never thought they would use a food bank. They used to contribute to them,” Harris said. “And now they are here.”

  • Sonagi
    6:59 pm on October 14th, 2011 21

    Chickenhead #12: Once again your comment hits the mark. The only important point you seem to have overlooked is the tremendous human and financial toll of children whose minds and bodies are permanently damaged by parental substance abuse. Legal guardians of these children often collect hundreds of dollars in SSI disability payments, and the children require extensive, often 1:1 instructional support in school while the family may receive additional tax-funded public services from state and local family and child service agencies. Project Prevention.org, founded by a couple who adopted four children from the same drug addict mother, has some troubling statistics here: http://www.projectprevention.org/the-sad-reality/

    Michael B, #18: Your heart is in the right place, but I question your generalization of Utah statistics as applicable to Florida or any other state. I work at a Title I school with 80% free or reduced lunch, and I seriously question the TANF average of two children. Most students at our school have at least one sibling.

    Women of all socioeconomic groups have children for many different reasons. Household income is one factor. A middle-class family must reconfigure the household budget to accommodate another child. A poor woman already on assistance isn’t going to get rich by having more children, but neither is her standard of living going to decline much either. Guaranteeing assistance for any and all children is a compassionate notion that unfortunately removes a key disincentive against poor women anchoring themselves in poverty by having more children. On the flip side of the coin, there are few economically viable men in poor neighborhoods willing and able to partner with poor women in raising families, thanks to a decline in real wages for the bottom 5% of US workers.

  • ChickenHead
    10:29 pm on October 14th, 2011 22

    Michael B,

    I AM interested in looking at the facts…

    …though you have cleverly focused the topic away from giving a disincentive to the drug use that harms children and stops most chances of employment… and refocused it on “the children” and how women can’t be criminals.

    But we can discuss all of this, too.

    I should start by saying that I have made a lot of short-term sacrifices in my life so I wouldn’t have to make long-term sacrifices… and I am rather resentful of people who spent foolishly, failed to invest, went into needless debt… and now expect me to pay for their previous good times and flashy toys.

    Unexpected medical bills or natural disasters can be devastating to a family through no (or little) fault of their own and a compassionate government representing a pragmatically compassionate society should have a safety net for this sort of thing.

    Unexpected job loss can also be painful… especially with fewer replacement jobs available and no ability to sell a house if a move is required. I feel sorry for these people… but I have always protected myself against this kind of thing through maintaining a long-term emergency savings and not entering into any long-term payment obligations… both of which required some sacrifice on my part.

    So my pity level for people who thought the good times would always roll is somewhat less… especially when those who planned, worked, sacrificed, and saved are being asked to pay the bill.

    So, before we explore the specific facts, the first fact is there are a LOT of people with their hands out who brought problems upon themselves.

    The second fact is there are many “jobs Americans won’t do”… which is understandable because it pays to stay home and collect free money. Even stupid people aren’t too stupid.

    I guess two negatives DO make a positive… because if these two problems were combined, they would both resolve themselves… and I am a big advocate of their combination for many, many reasons.

    Regardless of these free money programs being wasteful, unnecessary, or rewarding of failure… or a correct and compassionate response to help people back on their feet, there is a final fact that remains…

    …the people on these programs DON’T NEED TO BE DOING DRUGS.

    No tortured statistics, released by agencies who wish to perpetuate and enlarge their programs, nor partial facts intended to stir emotional support can change that.

    Sonagi,

    I agree.

    Too many of these programs, while not rewarding unlimited reproduction, don’t discourage it… which makes the default action to be carelessness in a population already not known for long-term planning and sound decision-making.

    If this is combined with drug use by the parent(s), problems multiply.

    Add a complete lack of incentive to stop the drug use, or get a job, and problems become exponential.

    I also question the two-child average… especially when funds go to three times as many children as adults… although this could be explained by the number of no-parent families… meaning grandma is raising the kids because her crackhead daughter is off turning tricks down on the corner with little discouragement to have yet another crackbaby.

    This is not exactly a selling point in convincing me these programs are the correct way to deal with things.

    I should add that a couple of generations of relatively easy free money, a cultural shift to accepting (or championing) those who demand it, and not punishing indiscriminate reproduction, have done nothing to erase poverty… it has simply been institutionalized and perpetuated at a larger scale… while everyone involved on the bottom demands “their rights” and everyone on the top speaks of compassion while pushing more devious agendas.

    On a final note…

    Regardless of your thoughts on Pat Buchanan, he clearly said what I am thinking… and what many working people need to wake up to and resist if they want to continue the lifestyle they have earned.

    “We have accepted today the existence in perpetuity of a permanent underclass of scores of millions who cannot cope and must be carried by society — fed, clothed, housed, tutored, medicated at taxpayer’s expense their entire lives. We have a dependent nation the size of Spain in our independent America. We have a new division in our country, those who pay a double or triple fare, and those who ride forever free.”

  • johnny boy
    12:29 am on October 15th, 2011 23

    i had wondered about that 2% statistic. i didn’t know they only tested new applicants. i thought they had tested all recipients and that liberal media had hidden the number of people that mysteriously dropped out of the system of their own will.

    my thoughts on the military comparison are similar. it’s true that we get tested to prevent accidents, incidents, and lack of discipline, but we have at least one thing in common with welfare recipients and that is, like chicken head said neither of us should be on drugs.

    it should be somewhat of a hassle to receive the benefits. you should have to prove your worthiness to be on the program. service members have infinite amounts of constraints and stipulations on the free benefits such as healthcare, that the military is contractually obligated to give us. it should be as hard or harder to get free money from the government.

    if a lot of people had to be drug tested to generate the tax money to pay for the welfare, it seems fair to test those who receive it.

  • Michael B
    9:40 am on October 15th, 2011 24

    I appreciate the respectful disagreement many of you have had with my point.

    Chickenhead, I think your two main points to me were that people stay at home because of this program and that they shouldn’t do drugs and testing would stop them. In short, the benefit is on average $150 a month per person (you can find that data in this chart: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/character/fy2009/tab01.htm), so if a job were offering less than that, it wouldn’t be worth much to the recipient or to the economy. Also, several people have made the claim that they shouldn’t be doing drugs. That is not the same as saying we shouldn’t buy drugs for them. I would agree with that. Instead, the argument treats these “employees” of the government as if they were children of the government. You can say “if you want to live in my house you’ll live under my rules” to your 14 year old daughter, but it isn’t appropriate to say to other citizens because they’ve fallen on brief hard times (5 year limit on the small benefits they get don’t forget). By that logic, why not outlaw smoking for people on Medicaid, since we pay for it and smoking makes it more expensive? Or drinking since that has health effects and leads to drunk driving and other bad things? Why not say you can’t have unmarried friends sleep over (since so many here seem so concerned with the number of children poor folks have, and Christian marriage is the only moral way to live, and we don’t want to have our money go for buying condoms and abortions).

    We shouldn’t be legislating morality.

    Sonagi, I appreciate your perspective, but working at a school with poor kids doesn’t give you a full picture, and probably gives you a sense more focused on children, since that is what schools are geared toward. The average I mentioned was nationwide, but the individual contracts for drug testing (which range from $35-$80) happened to be from Utah. The national average data can be found here for 2009, the most recent year: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/character/fy2009/tab01.htm

    As you can see, the average family size is 3 (88% of TANF families are 4 people or less). I don’t want to make a pivot table just to make a point, so I’ll acknowledge that that could be a single parent and 2 or 3 kids, but I’d also point out that it could be 3 children with no parents (the tables show that group as it is not insignificant). Florida actually has an average of 2.7, (line 11) with over 60% of Florida Tanf households having only 2 people in them, and less than the national average for every household size (in percent terms, obviously) above that.

    Your assertion that a growing family size does not damage discretionary spending (the amount of money left over after “hard” costs) simply isn’t true. As someone working in the community, I would imagine you may feel (and I acknowledge I am playing Freud here, I apologize) that your work and the many interconnecting government and charity assistance programs must result in the additional children not costing a family more, but that isn’t the case. Page 16 of this 2010 USDA report (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/publications/crc/crc2010.pdf) on “Expenditures on Children by Families” gives the most recent estimates for husband-wife and single-parent families using data from the 2005-06 Consumer Expenditure Survey, updated to 2010 dollars using the Consumer Price Index. There is a lot of widely averaged data, so the averages include higher income families. But if the poorest group pays on average $5,000 per year, giving then $1,800($150*12) does not remove that barrier.

  • Sonagi
    12:46 pm on October 15th, 2011 25

    According to your link, the poorest group includes household incomes up to $57,000. I’m sure you understand that actual spending per child undoubtedly varies among the families counted. I noticed that while SNAP (food stamp) spending was counted, Medicaid and CHIP state public health care expenditures were not. This is significant because health care spending counted only “out-of-pocket” costs. A family on private health insurance has co-pays and limited coverage of certain procedures while a family not poor enough to qualify for public health care yet lacking for whatever reason private health insurance pays for everything. Meanwhile, a family whose children are on Medicaid or CHIP plans have minimal co-pays ranging from $1-12 and the rest is covered.

    Your average family size figures are correct. I located this revealing statistic from that same report:

    “The average number of persons in TANF families was 2.3, including an average of 1.8 recipient children. One in two recipient families had only one child. One in 10 families had more than three children. The average number of children in closed-case families was 1.8. Nearly one in two closed case families had one child, and only six percent had more than three children.”

    http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/data-reports/annualreport8/chapter10/chap10.htm

    Unsurprisingly, the average family size of long-term recipients is larger than the average for recipients whose cases were closed. Short-term recipients, who comprise a majority in terms of overall numbers, are not the problem. They are intended beneficiaries of the safety net. It is the long-term recipients who are small in number compared to short-term but over time, they consume a large chunk of spending not only on assistance but other public services. Combining TANF, SNAP, and other public assistance directly spend by households into one family benefit with a cap ten months after a family enrolls would not harm short-term recipients or even long-term recipients who make use of public and private family planning resources. It would discourage family models like these, this, this, and this. Keep in mind that while the total number of families like these wretched examples is small, the impact on our communities is great, especially in poor neighborhoods where these families are concentrated. Most importantly, children in these highly unstable households are growing up in misery that no public programs can rescue them from.

  • Sonagi
    2:29 pm on October 15th, 2011 26

    Here’s a more detailed story about one of the links above. I wonder if the two mothers were selling drugs to make up the shortfall between monthly benefits and spending on their combined ten children. Geez, wouldn’t birth control pills be a lot cheaper? One factor which may explain why these two young women have so many children appears in the story – the man, who may be the father of at least some of the kids and is probably providing some undocumented financial support to supplement monthly benefits. It is unlikely that these drug dealing women had their babies to make money off the dads. Rather, it is likely that they had so many children owing either to sheer recklessness or to cement the relationship with the boyfriend. In some communities, teens gain status by becoming mothers and men gain status by fathering children. Guaranteed state support underwrites these choices.

    Each state has different regulations, but generally it is very difficult to for the state to go after the father without the mother’s cooperation. If the mother claims she is afraid of the father, then social services cannot force her to divulge information about him. A friend who used to work for a state social services agency recounted a story of a young woman who came in to file for her newborn. When asked about the father, the case worker was told, “Well, it could be one of five men.” The case worker let the matter drop.

    As I remarked earlier, the flip side of the coin is economically viable poor men. Several years ago, I commuted to work by bus while my car was being fixed. On the bus I met a young man who worked at KFC. He told me how he wanted to marry the mother of his two children but “couldn’t afford it.” There is an obvious unstated conclusion to be drawn from his explanation. Two can live more cheaply than one, so how is that he cannot afford to marry his girlfriend? The only explanation is that the girlfriend is on assistance and marrying her would reduce her benefits because his income would be counted. Families like this I have empathy for. The man is willing to roll up his sleeves and do dirty work to earn a living. Thirty years ago, he might have earned $20-30 an hour in a steel mill or an auto factory. Unions are going the way of the dinosaurs and in their place are jobs paying $10 an hour that our presidents and state governors like to boast about as “job growth.”

    Helping workers train for skilled jobs need not cost more money. A lot of higher education is rent-seeking that does not add much value to the adult worker. We need fewer large state universities and more vocational training schools like Japan’s Kosen, featured recently in the Washington Post. Career switching is becoming the norm as technology makes jobs once in demand disappear while creating new jobs. Expecting adults to attend a four-year college to get started in the world of work only to have to return again and again to update skills is not feasible. A fair number of college grads are doing work that does not actually require a four-year degree. Employers can demand it simply because there is an abundance of college grads seeking jobs. This educational inefficiency benefits only colleges and universities and their full-time tenured professors. Since higher education relies heavily on direct public funding of colleges and universities and indirect funding through student grants and loans, federal, state, and local governments have the power to restructure higher ed as well as K-12, the preferred target of educational reformers.

  • Michael B
    9:24 pm on October 15th, 2011 27

    Thanks again Sonagi for these thoughtful responses. I did note the less than almost $60k was overly broad when I said “There is a lot of widely averaged data, so the averages include higher income families. But if the poorest group pays on average $5,000 per year, giving then $1,800($150*12) does not remove that barrier.” Just to clarify that while we don’t have perfect data, what we have mostly answers that kids are expensive, and we don’t give much money offsetting them. The health expenditure point is an important one, but of course you’re saying that the government covers most of the costs, meaning they reimburse other government facilities (county hospitals) and the medicaid program etc; since we don’t provide cash for these services to families, that just says that one major source of costs isn’t as costly as it otherwise would be. Agreed, though it still leaves kids a net cost. And you’re also saying a less pointed version than someone said, which is that we are blunting the impact of economic realities of childbirth for these families, causing more children to be had. I absolutely agree, I just think that the blunting is less important given the still crushing poverty they live in.

    In fact, I agree with a lot of what you said in general, though I would note that “long term” is relatively short compared to the common perception of “their entire lives”. Also, on education, while I do not agree that there is much rent seeking in education, I do agree that technical skills are in demand but not being fully supplied. As white collar jobs are over supplied, prices will fix that.

    In any case, thanks again for the factual discussion that ended mostly in agreement.

  • Vince
    11:15 pm on October 15th, 2011 28

    >Thirty years ago, he might have earned $20-30 an hour in a steel mill or an auto factory<

    As someone who has had immediate through distant family employed in those industries since the early 20th century, at which plant(s)- and doing just what- would a guy starting out 30 years ago come close to making that much?

  • ChickenHead
    5:15 am on October 16th, 2011 29

    Michael B,

    After looking at your links, here is what I think.

    You are correct about TANF.

    It appears to be short-term assistance and it seems structured to get people working.

    It also seems, in the last 10 years, states are running it rather strictly so that only 40% of eligible families actually get it… as the majority can’t or won’t fulfill the requirements.

    As programs go, this is not the worst. I will decide at some point if the benefits to society outweigh the burdens.

    I am guilty of lumping all “entitlement” programs together. I will pay more attention on this issue.

    Now back to the original question about drug testing.

    One of the four stated purposes of TANF is, “end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage”.

    It is unclear to me how a drug user can get a job or why they need any assistance if they can afford drugs.

    A drug test when applying for TANF is reasonable… and random drug tests for people on the program are also reasonable.

    The “high cost” of drug testing is a scam perpetuated by corrupt government workers, connected companies, liberal media who wants to manipulate public thought, and those who grasp onto this misinformation to support their beliefs or agendas.

    You can test for marijuana all day long for 87 cents a pop through immunoassay… and then send positive samples to a real lab for more expensive gas chromatography if you need some incontestable legal evidence.

    http://www.americanscreeningcorp.com/Marijuana-C288.aspx

    You can test for TEN drugs for $3.24

    http://www.americanscreeningcorp.com/10-Panel-Generic-Cassette-P1022C24.aspx

    As it only applied to new applicant, the recent incident where “only” 2% turned up positive was not an indication of how many drug users are using TANF. It was an indication of how many people are too stupid to stop using drugs before taking a drug test to get free money. The media misrepresented this. They also reported 2.8% as “2%”. Shame on them and their 1 significant figure reporting.

    Drug tests are a great incentive to stop using drugs for those who are supposed to be using TANF temporarily while looking for work. And, with the low cost of drug testing, it will quickly be paid for with only a small number of rejected applicants. Further, “the children” will be helped far more by less drug use in their families than all the good intentions of “protecting the rights” of poor people asking for public money.

    I agree with you that there may be a place for TANF if it is administered as it was designed.

    I still believe drug testing those using TANF is the correct course of action.

    I will further state that when one takes public money without returning some value, one becomes property of the State rather than a citizen of the State… and one must give up many rights which productive and self-sufficient citizens enjoy.

    Drug use is easily one of those rights.

  • Sonagi
    5:23 am on October 16th, 2011 30

    Agreed, though it still leaves kids a net cost.

    Do the math and show me how that works. If food stamps, food bank, and school breakfasts and lunches cover food costs, Medicaid covers medical costs, Section 8 covers most housing costs, and TANF covers clothing, utilities, the remaining rent, and other purchases, what else is left? You seem to assume that parents of five, six, seven children actually spend the money their children to meet their needs. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case as evidenced by the links to news stories of parents arrested for neglect. This is especially likely to be true for drug addicts who spend their TANF checks and sell their EBT cards to support their habit. The only help the kids get is what is doled out directly by the government – school breakfasts and lunches and Medicaid if the parent bothers to take the kid to the doctor.

    Vince,
    My grandfather and most of my uncles worked in GM factory until their retirement. Older workers still make those kinds of wages. New hires do not, thanks to tiered wage structures.

  • Sonagi
    6:03 am on October 16th, 2011 31

    I just think that the blunting is less important given the still crushing poverty they live in.

    They? The actual living conditions of people who qualify for assistance vary. In my community, a fair number of illegal immigrant dads get paid $20 an hour in cash for doing construction work. These families live in older homes but drive huge trucks and SUVs with a book value twice that of the vehicle I drive. Their children have cute clothes and gold jewelry given as gifts on special occasions. The kids sometimes buy snacks to supplement their free lunches. These families are not rich, but they are not living in “crushing poverty” either. One possible reason is that their cash income is not counted against them when filing for benefits for their US-born children. Even some of the American families whose kids are getting free lunches live in cute, post-WWII starter homes in the same price range and neighborhoods where I am currently browsing to buy a home.

    On the other hand, I see children living with their parents in rented rooms in some of these older homes or children living in motels. Most of these families are headed by a mom whose husband or boyfriend ran off. The immigrant moms may not be eligible for any assistance for themselves if they’re not here legally. The American moms, too, may not meet eligibility requirements if they’ve violated program rules.

    The real crush of poverty in the US isn’t a lack of calories or adequate shelter. It’s instability in a home headed by a drug addict with a rotation of adult roommates and partners entering and leaving. It’s gang violence in the neighborhoods. We have had in place for decades an array of public and private programs to help addicts get clean or help gang-bangers break free. Some people cannot or will not be helped.

  • Sonagi
    6:13 am on October 16th, 2011 32

    And let’s remember that a fair number of families on assistance are headed by adults on SSI and that some kids themselves draw SSI, a program that has expanded way beyond its original scope of providing much needed financial support to families with severely disabled children. Children diagnosed with speech delay or ADHD can draw SSI until they are adults. There is a catch, though, Kids with ADHD must be on meds to get a monthly check. Wonder if Big Pharma had a hand in writing that clause.

  • kushibo
    10:39 am on October 16th, 2011 33

    This idea — requiring drug tests for new applicants (or even current recipients) — could be brilliant if it required drug rehabilitation as terms of welfare, unemployment assistance, job training, food stamps, and public housing.

    But that would cost money, and although the overall costs of addiction — crime, medical costs, reproduction of poverty-inducing and crime-inducing conditions for the children of addicts, etc., etc. — are greater than providing rehab and getting at least some of the addicts off drugs, in the accounting process, those other things are not considered.

    Kangaji noted in #6 that there would be externalities to booting off or not accepting those who test positive for drugs, something that also doesn’t go in the ledger when politicos talk about “savings.” But if you don’t live near druggies, you don’t have to worry, right?

    And what drugs are being tested for? Is merely having tetrahydrocannabinol and no other drug in your system enough to be kept out of job training?

  • kushibo
    10:47 am on October 16th, 2011 34

    ChickenHead wrote:

    Unexpected job loss can also be painful… especially with fewer replacement jobs available and no ability to sell a house if a move is required. I feel sorry for these people… but I have always protected myself against this kind of thing through maintaining a long-term emergency savings and not entering into any long-term payment obligations… both of which required some sacrifice on my part.

    I thought you live in Korea and own a bar. Is that incorrect?

    I only ask because I have found that, particularly in this economic downturn, it’s far more difficult to do all the things I did in Korea in terms of savings, insurance, ownership of basic things like home and car, etc., than it is to do/obtain them now that I’m back in the United States (for the time being at least).

  • ChickenHead
    12:46 pm on October 16th, 2011 35

    Kushibo,

    It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing. The lifestyle I mentioned remains the same.

    I have always maintained an emergency savings. This was a big sacrifice when I was 18 and all my friends were buying top-shelf whiskey at the clubs while I was nursing my two beers for the night. Whenever I made some cash, a percentage of it went in the Shoebox… and it was only raided to buy something that was too good to be true or that could be resold at a profit… which made the Shoebox a profit center that financed its own growth better than a bank.

    I also ate raman and drank 40oz malt liquor when I was paying back the Shoebox… although the welfare mutherfunkers at the supermarket always had steak and always bought their good beer and cigarettes with cash in a second transaction… and don’t think I’m still not irritated over that… but that is another story.

    Anyway, I have also not entered into any long-term payment obligations… especially on stuff that will do nothing but depreciate faster than you can pay the principle.

    That meant my friends had the latest stereos on their credit cards while I bought last year’s model in cash from somebody who needed a dime bag more than they needed mom and dad’s gift. While my friends were showing off their new Acuras on 5 year payment plans, I drove a ’54 Ford, a ’61 Plymouth, and a ’70 BMW… all of which were less than a thousand dollars cash (’cause bein’ thrifty doesn’t mean being uncool). While my stateside friends were buying houses with inflated mortgages to finance Harleys and Jetskis, I was saving my money in Korea to buy my building in cash… which meant five years of living in a small apartment, driving an old car, taking only one vacation a year, etc.

    But now, some of those friends, and a LOT of stateside Korean acquaintances and friends’ friends have lost everything. I feel sorry for them. But they got greedy, partied like it would last forever, and now expect those who acted wisely to make further sacrifices to cover for their mistakes.

    Funk ‘em.

    Another important aspect of this type of risk management is a self-investment in education… not the meaningless pieces of paper that universities currently give away in subjects that no jobs exist for except to teach them… but you need a valuable degree that represents an actual skill… or you need to gain some practical skills that make you employable or self-employable… and you need to study occasionally to keep your skills relevant.

    I have worked for myself for most of my life and I have supplied quality products and services to customers with honest dealings, caring support, and sincere concern over their satisfaction… which is a business model that doesn’t really fail…

    … but I can also get a job if I need to… as I can explain to an employer exactly what my capabilities are and how I can help them build their widgets faster, cheaper, or of better quality, with me working for them.

    If someone has gotten themselves into insurmountable debt to live a bigger life than they can afford, piissed away their saving to buy needless crap, and spent all their time playing instead of mastering a couple of in-demand skills… well… I’d rather see them be put to sleep than have them come to me with their hand out.

  • kushibo
    1:41 pm on October 16th, 2011 36

    ChickenHead wrote:

    It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing. The lifestyle I mentioned remains the same.

    Yes, it does. Not to disparage you for all your scrimping and saving and careful planning, but there are a lot of things you don’t have to worry about financially in Korea that you would have to worry about depending on where you live in the US, even if you continued to do the scripting and saving and careful planning.

    Not to engage in a battle of anecdotes, but of all the people I know living beyond their means in a way you describe, none of them have become bankrupt or lost their homes, even if their home has lost value and may be underwater. The people I know who have ended up needing government assistance were frugal with money even before they lost their jobs or ended up with a medical catastrophe that caused bankruptcy and the need to get government assistance.

    You live in a place where medical catastrophe is far less likely to become financial catastrophe, where you can easily pick up stakes and move to a cheaper neighborhood and not risk drive-by shootings, meth heads breaking into your home or car, etc. You live in a place where an adequate shoebox of a home is possible to find that won’t bust your budget or entail long-term debt.

    I commend you for your scrimping and saving and careful planning, something I value. By doing the same, I had the money to do chonsei for a nice home/office and then take that money and later buy an apartment that has been a good investment so far. I scoffed when my father told me never buy anything on credit except a home and a car (and even then only if you absolutely have to), but he was right.

    But don’t kid yourself that that’s all you need to do in the US to avoid needing government assistance.

  • JoeC
    2:35 pm on October 16th, 2011 37

    And what drugs are being tested for? Is merely having tetrahydrocannabinol and no other drug in your system enough to be kept out of job training?

    I don’t know how sensitive drug tests are today, but in some of the places and situations I couldn’t avoid as I was growing up, I suspect just passive breathing may have caused me to fail a drug test.

  • Vince
    4:02 pm on October 16th, 2011 38

    Another course of action, and a harsh one, is to simply turn off ALL public assistance, and ALL of our programs to which people have paid over the years. I would propose that those who paid in to various systems get out what they paid in- period. Sucks.

    Then turn it all off.

    Initially, it would be a tsunami. But once the well is dry, people will stop coming to it. If some turn to robbery and pillage, then they could be hanged on conviction. Or killed during the commission of the crime. We will always have poor and we will always have a criminal element amongst the population, but we can control it. Making excuses for this element and subsidizing them does not help anyone.

  • JoeC
    4:58 pm on October 16th, 2011 39

    #38

    Very Darwinian.

  • chemlightbatteries
    6:10 pm on October 16th, 2011 40

    Ha ha Vince you make Mongo laugh! :mrgreen:

  • kushibo
    9:11 pm on October 16th, 2011 41

    Vince wrote:

    If some turn to robbery and pillage, then they could be hanged on conviction.

    Why clandestinely install a stealth Muslim in the White House in order to pass sharia law when non-Muslim law-and-order extremists will push for all the trappings for you?

  • Vince
    9:34 pm on October 16th, 2011 42

    Wow! Sharia. The in-vogue way to call someone a Nazi.

    I just don’t see a problem with taking someone out if he is committing a violent crime. Saves us all quite a bit.

    If that poor soul could have only been vacuumed out of his mother’s womb.

  • kushibo
    1:12 am on October 17th, 2011 43

    Vince wrote:

    Wow! Sharia. The in-vogue way to call someone a Nazi.

    Huh? What? How did you get “Nazi” out of that? And using the word “sharia” to mean Nazi is en vogue among whom?

    I just don’t see a problem with taking someone out if he is committing a violent crime.

    I hear this kind of hang-’em-high rhetoric from a certain segment of the population that has among their members those who warn of sharia law being imposed, even though they share quite a lot in common with the chop-’em-off crowd when it comes to simplistic and highly unconstitutional law-and-order solutions.

    Saves us all quite a bit.

    You bet. For starters, we won’t have to print out the Constitution anymore.

  • Vince
    3:10 am on October 17th, 2011 44

    Now- where did I say anything about violating due process? Remember- before we had the mega prison industries, those involved in violent crimes knew what would happen to them if they were caught. Cattle rustlers, robbers, and so on.

    The mega prisons are merely warehouses for bad guys- they were designed for “reforming” BGs and that has not worked; tossing in people for drug offences has added to the population.

    Maybe a re-look at concepts of old common law is in order, in which a transgressor has the opportunity to make amends to transgressees, the greater population does not compensate the victim but the transgressor does. The good side is that the transgressor is given the opportunity to make amends and restore himself to full citizenship, literally “paying his debt”.

    Not saying its a panacea but we’re not doing too well right now with what we have.

  • ChickenHead
    3:49 am on October 17th, 2011 45

    “For starters, we won’t have to print out the Constitution anymore.”

    That cracked me up.

    Vince,

    You know that I am a small welfare kind of guy…

    …but I do recognize that a huge skill-less and unsocialized population which has never known anything but instant gratification and dependence cannot be integrated back into society just by cutting off their food and shelter and telling them to fend for themselves…

    …as, if they are forced to, many will… and large parts of America will more closely resemble war-torn Africa… and, as the strongest tribes will survive, they will be as difficult to reintegrate back into America as it has been to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan.

    Weening the dependent is a generational project… with some long and short-term aspects.

    Some can be done in a short time… such as forcing those who are able to do Jobs Americans Won’t Do to work… with short-term government subsidies picking up any slack. Farm Welfare is better than Sit At Home Welfare.

    Increasing restrictions on those who take government money would also help… as those who live off the State become property of the State until such time they become self-sufficient. Just as different jobs pay you to meet different labor and lifestyle obligations, government assistance can demand certain behavior and lifestyle conformity. There is no ethical problem with exchanging public money for requiring abstinence from drugs/alcohol/cigarettes, curfews, inability to vote, very limited food choices, temporary sterilization, etc.

    Don’t like it? Get a job and become a full citizen.

    But it can’t all be Stick. There has to be some Carrot.

    There has to be a way to move out of this lifestyle. There has to be easily-available education, training, and socialization. And there has to be real jobs waiting for those who complete these obligations.

    This likely means that America has to rebuild its manufacturing industries through a combination of allowing tired old industry to die (Detroit), encouraging small industry to develop, abolishing some of the intentionally burdensome labor, tax, and environmental regulations, encouraging and protecting innovative research and application, punishing dumping, pirating, and other state-tolerated manipulative behaviors of export economies, etc.

    But it is likely the politicians don’t have that kind of vision and they will continue making short-term decisions to implement short-term fixes until the whole system becomes unsustainable and it crashes from its own weight… and Vince gets his way by default… and then we all get to discuss it from our bunkers.

    As a side note… If I was the president right now, I would drop everything else and put all the money into space-based colonizing and manufacturing. Much as did the Cold War space race, it would build American confidence, put people back to work with an actual goal with an actual payoff, and it would play on the strengths of American ability instead of trying to compete with Chinese labor prices. It would build high-quality unique products which would be in global demand and it would put America back on top for decades while other nations tried to catch up.

  • someotherguy
    7:29 pm on October 18th, 2011 46

    I agree with pretty much everything you said CH, but there are a few hiccups. Namely “inability to vote” can never be applied, the forefathers deliberately wrote the constitution in such a way as to never allow that. And you don’t want that anyway, it can quickly lead to a dictator setting themselves up.

    But yes, those who receive government unemployment benefits should be required to show up and perform community server / work projects for a set number of hours per week / month. I don’t care if it’s cleaning parks and highways, it’s something. I’m just concerned what the administrative cost would be, our government has never been particularly good at effectively administering ~anything~. The only way we have an effective military is because Congress keeps their f***ing hands out (most of the time).

  • ChickenHead
    6:36 am on October 19th, 2011 47

    This story has many element of what is disturbingly wrong with the welfare system.

    While this is an extreme case, it perfectly exemplifies the mindset of the welfare system… which is filled with able-bodied people who always seem to have money for smokes and cable TV.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/18/man-living-as-an-adult-baby-is-cleared-of-social-s/?page=all#pagebreak

  • Dragonfly
    7:24 am on October 19th, 2011 48

    Chickenhead #47: How true. A buddy of mine is a social worker who used to work for Child Protective Services. He says what bothered him most was walking into an 75 degree smoke filled house in February (in Michigan), where everyone was dressed in t-shirts watching a big screen TV. He had a full time job and couldn’t afford a big screen and kept his house at 65. Of course not all welfare recipients are like that, but he said there were enough of them to make a lasting impression.

  • Glans
    4:20 am on March 10th, 2012 49

    Pat Robertson says we should legalize marijuana and treat it like alcohol. Here’s the story at USAtoday.

  • Leon LaPorte
    6:06 am on March 10th, 2012 50

    49. Even a broken clock is right once (or twice) a day. The guy is a disease to humanity but even he can figure this one out. Either that or he is just stirring controversy. Regardless, it might help convince the farktards in his flock that we need to change policies. Sadly, he IS influential.

  • setnaffa
    7:21 am on March 10th, 2012 51

    So now we know Glans developed his theology at the 700 Club… :mrgreen:

  • Glans
    2:25 pm on March 10th, 2012 52

    The USA Today story links to Jacey Fortin at ibTimes, saying that other conservatives have supported legalization: William Buckley, Milton Friedman, Glenn Beck, Thomas Sowell, George Schultz; the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute.

    Nobody asked, but I think any kind of smoking is stupid.

  • Michael B
    5:09 pm on March 10th, 2012 53

    There was a period early in the Obama administration wherein the message seemed to turn toward marijuana itself probably isn’t so bad and might have some medical uses (making it a schedule II drug like PCP(!), Meth(!) and Cocaine, and not a schedule I drug with no value at all). The hold up would be that smoking it wouldn’t be prescription material because smoking is bad for you, but perhaps it would make for an ok prescription to consume via a pill or with food (e.g. pot brownies). The administration had a turn around in leadership and went back to the same policies of the last many administrations.

    Blows my mind though that you can get a federally-acceptable prescription for Meth or PCP but not pot.

 

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