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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rick Scott's war on the poor continues

From the

by Travis Webbb

While most of America is preoccupied with Anthony Weiner’s permanent disqualification as a Disney spokesperson, Florida governor Rick Scott continued the slow and seemingly unstoppable war against America’s poor.

In a bold example of perverse conservative logic, Governor Scott has signed into law a bill that will require people on public assistance to be drug tested before they can receive benefits. His reasoning: to protect the tax payer and promote personal responsibility.

That’s right, in order to promote personal responsibility he is requiring people be treated like children. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit, because, you know, the Constitution doesn’t just protect “tax payers,” it protects all citizens--the whole “unreasonable search and seizure” thing.

This story is being misreported all over the place, as news outlets continue to call people on government assistance “welfare recipients,” when, in fact, welfare was dismantled in 1996.

To be fair, the federal government still refers to its own programs--like Social Security and Medicare--as welfare, but it’s not a small distinction to remind Americans that the welfare system that existed in the public imagination for 40 years has been gone for at least 15 years.

Welfare’s been replaced with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the responsibility for the administration of those benefits was passed to the states at the same time Federal Welfare ended.

So, let’s start with TANF.

First off, the “T” stands for “temporary.” You are only allowed to receive assistance for two years without securing employment. After that, you are under constant threat of losing your benefits. Are there examples of people that receive benefits beyond the two years? Of course there are.

Is this bankrupting the government? Of course it isn’t. Every society will produce a number of individuals who are incapable of becoming productive members. That’s one of its byproducts. It’s our responsibility to take care of them because we are part of that society. There are lots of benefits to living in a sophisticated civilization--roads, air travel, cable, the Marines--and a few drawbacks--responsibility for the unfortunate, and yes, even the lazy.

Here’s my advice for dealing with this irremediable situation: get over it, and move on. Welfare queens are not syphoning your wealth.

If my tone is off-putting, I apologize. I have just spent a good portion of the day looking at TANF statistics, and research on drug use amongst public assistance recipients. And just like every boogeyman, it disappears once you actually look at what’s in the closet.

There is no convincing evidence of increased drug use amongst “welfare” recipients.

There are a couple of studies that claim there is, but they are trumped by much larger studies that show there isn’t. But let’s not take their word for it, let’s do a little back of the envelope social science research. I promise it’ll be short.

Florida had 106,342 Needy Family members as of September 2010. By the way California had 1.4 million, so Florida’s number is pretty small. Of those 106,342 people, 85,069 were children. Let me say that again, 80% of the people receiving public assistance were children.

That leaves 21,273 adults. Now, if we use the most out-there research on drug use amongst “welfare” recipients--that is, the most extreme, the one least likely to be correct--7.5% of these people are drug abusers. Again, the number is probably closer to 5%, where it sits for the rest of the population, but let’s grant the 7.5%.

That’s 1,595 adult drug users on “welfare.”

Wow! Way to go Governor Scott! You’ve just signed into law a program that will drive 1,600 drug users into the deepest ditches poverty can find.

And now Floridians and all Americans can rest peacefully, for conservatives and visionaries like Rick Scott are standing vigilantly at the battlements, ready to protect the tax payers from the destitute, the broken, and the hopeless.

Like I said, I apologize for my tone, but its hard to stay civil in this guerrilla war against the poor.

Maybe you see it differently.

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