Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why Welfare Drug Testing Won't Happen

Okay, this blog is not supposed to be a political blog.  That is not my goal.  My intention was to create a space where I can lob complaints/criticisms that turn into full-on rants that are too long to post on facebook.  But since my standpoint comes from a place of observing things as logically as I can, naturally there are going to be posts that take aim at politics (where logic goes to die).

Today I won't be calling out Congress.  They're doing a fine job.  (Feel free to pause to laugh at that, then cry.)  What I will be writing about today is something I keep seeing on facebook, which sometimes turns even the best of us into amateur political commentators.

I've seen quite a few facebook posts lately in which people express the opinion that welfare recipients should be drug tested.  In theory this makes plenty of sense.  Why should you have to submit to a drug test to have a job, when those who don't can stretch out on the couch and smoke their drugs all day?

The problem with the theory, however, is that reality shoots more holes in it than Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy shoots holes in villains.  Or 1930s sedans.  Or any prop or building or whatever that's anywhere near Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy.

For starters, not everyone who is on welfare is a bum who sucks up drugs and pumps out babies.  True, there are (and always will be) those who take advantage of the system, suck up drugs, and pump out babies.  But go ahead and name one thing ever that was designed to help people that some seedy people didn't figure out how to take advantage of.  It's just an unfortunate truth that humans are greedy schemers.  Blame evolution.

The reality is that a lot of welfare recipients are people who have jobs. They just have jobs (created by the wonderful "job-creators" politicians speak so fondly of), but the jobs don't actually pay them enough to get by without assistance.

We are a capitalistic society, and capitalism rewards people for being greedy schemers.  At the company I worked for before my job was outsourced (I guess you're still technically a "job-creator" if you're creating jobs in India and the Philippines), I did a quick calculation once and determined that if I worked for the company for my entire life I'd never make as much money as the CEO received as a bonus in one year.  The same CEO who had sunk the business into bankruptcy and got booted off the stock exchange.  He was rewarded for being a schemer, not for doing his job well.  This type of behavior is why the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are getting richer.  And the middle class is getting disappear... disappearier?

Before this turns into a rambling tirade about something else altogether, let me try to locate the focus and wrangle it.  Ah!  There it is!

What nobody who is demanding welfare drug testing seems to have thought about is cost.  It always boils down to money, doesn't it?  And money is something that our government seems to have trouble not having negative amounts of.  According to Statistic Brain there were 4,300,000 receiving welfare benefits as of November 15, 2012.

How much money would it cost to drug test that many people?  Let's say a urine test costs $30 (I tried to find an actual amount and found claims they cost anywhere from $25 to $140).  At thirty bucks a pop this would cost 129 MILLION DOLLARS.  Not to mention the cost of hiring people to administer the tests and collect the samples and people to file all of the pee-related paperwork.

The government does not have this money.  So where would it come from?

Option 1: Raise taxes.  This would be extremely unpopular and could quite possibly result in more people being on welfare.  So that wouldn't work.

Option 2: Slash budgets.  This is one way the government attempts to reign in the budget.  Unfortunately for your children, and for the future of our country, one of their favorite targets is education.  So let's say the education budget gets slashed again so the government can afford to drug test welfare recipients.  This means education suffers.  Undereducated people tend to get jobs with lower incomes.  People who receive lower incomes often end up on welfare.

A pattern seems to be emerging.  The government spending more money it doesn't have to drug test welfare recipients will cause them to pass the tab onto tax-payers, which will cause more of these tax-payers to end up on welfare, which will force the government to spend more money drug testing more people, which will... Alright, you can see where this is going.

So maybe it's not "fair" that hard-working, job-having Americans have to take urine tests, while welfare "bums" are free to binge on box-wine-and-PCP cocktails.  But it's up to your employer if they want to have you pee in a cup, and it's up to the employer to pay the bill.

Of course, if these employers, er, "job-creators", took it upon themselves to take a pay cut from a fuck-ton-million a year to a shit-ton-million a year, they could pay their employees more, meaning the employees would be less likely to end up in the welfare office.  Or they could afford to keep the jobs in America, rather than going the route of outsourcing to save a buck.  Once again the result would be fewer Americans on welfare.

But fuck that.  Let's not demand more of the rich.  Let's point our fingers at the poor.

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