A Raw Deal
April 16, 2012 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation that would require thousands of people applying for welfare to pass a drug test before they could receive benefits.

Georgia officials have estimated 800 of 19,000 applicants would likely test positive and be denied TANF.

Gerry Weber of the Southern Center for Human Rights said the organization is prepared to file a lawsuit over the issue, but not until it is put into practice. It takes effect July 1.

Florida was the first to pass a TANF drug-testing bill in 2011. A federal judge suspended it under a legal challenge that is currently before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. 
posted by goHermGO (166 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would also like to see people get off drugs. I am not convinced that making them into indigents is the solution.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:20 PM on April 16, 2012 [27 favorites]


As this is doubtlessly a matter of principle and all for the public good I look forward to the same being true for business tax breaks.
posted by jaduncan at 6:22 PM on April 16, 2012 [93 favorites]


Truly, this is Government by Popular Bad Idea in Facebook Status Update.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:27 PM on April 16, 2012 [56 favorites]


The Daily Show covered a similar Florida law.
posted by Jernau at 6:29 PM on April 16, 2012


Yes, because what you need to get off say, smack, is to not have food stamps for your family.
posted by angrycat at 6:29 PM on April 16, 2012 [22 favorites]


I was all prepared to just be like "Oh look some more wacky legislation being proposed" but then I caught that this is something the governor actually signed. The longer article is worth reading. If people aren't on Medicaid, they even pay for this drug test on their own dime. And they on;y have to pass it once. And this whole thing might save the state ... up to 103K annually (that can't be right, can it?). I don't mean to say that's chicken feed, but it seems like very little savings for something so controversial. Also of interest in the article

Georgia has had similar laws struck down by the courts, including a former mandate to drug-test candidates running for public office.

My guess is this won't stand the ACLU challenge, but wow, I'm surprised it got this far.
posted by jessamyn at 6:29 PM on April 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation that would require thousands of people applying for welfare to pass a drug test before they could receive benefits.

To prove they need money for drugs?
posted by jonmc at 6:30 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Daily Show covered Florida passing the same sort of measure in a bit that culminated in Aasif Mandvi crashing a press conference and handing Governor Rick Scott a urine sample container, asking that he pass a drug test before receiving any more public funds in salary.
posted by XMLicious at 6:30 PM on April 16, 2012 [44 favorites]


There should be a drug test to be governor.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:31 PM on April 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


HB 861: Because kids on welfare with drug-addicted parents haven't suffered enough.
posted by box at 6:31 PM on April 16, 2012 [74 favorites]



People who get government money should not be using drugs.

So, they included politicians on that, right ? And defense contractors ? The military ?

Oh, just people who don't have lobbyists....

SNAFU.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:31 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


As I recall, when they did this in Florida, it wound up costing more for the tests than they saved on the denied benefits. And the governor had a cozy relationship with the testing firm, so they did pretty well.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:32 PM on April 16, 2012 [26 favorites]


The assholes nailed two birds with one stone: Hippies & the poor
posted by growabrain at 6:32 PM on April 16, 2012


Here is the money quote that tells you everything you need to know:

Albers also says there are a host of exemptions in the bill that take into consideration various situations. For example, people on welfare who live in nursing homes won't be subject to a drug test. The bill was also amended so that only one parent has to pass a drug test before a family can collect benefits.

Welfare applicants who pass the drug tests will receive a refund, Albers says. And those who fail the test will receive information about rehab facilities in Georgia.

1) Single parents trying to kick the drug habit? Good luck feeding your children.

2) The government now has to pick up the tab on an estimated 18,200 drug tests which they estimate at $30 a pop. Good. Half a million in additional expenditures to let 800 people not get services they need. Someone with better resources than I could probably estimate the additional burden that will be on governments when addicts without assistance turn to crime. Enforcement, prosecution and incarceration.

Why is public assistance and treatment beyond the pale but complete welfare subsidies in the form of years in prison a-okay?

posted by munchingzombie at 6:33 PM on April 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


The same should be true of state legislators. For example, Georgia state senators are paid $17,342/year plus $173/day when in session. With a session of up to 40 days in length, that's $24,262. I feel quite confident that's more than Georgia provides welfare recipients.

By their own logic, mandatory drug testing for state legislators (and candidates for office while we're at it) only makes sense.

The Daily Show covered Florida passing the same sort of measure in a bit that culminated in Aasif Mandvi crashing a press conference and handing Governor Rick Scott a urine sample container, asking that he pass a drug test before receiving any more public funds in salary.

That was some good stuff. How I wish regular reporters would do that kind of thing, just absolutely call politicians out on the carpet.
posted by jedicus at 6:33 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


number of welfare users who use no drugs * percentage of false positives in drug tests = ?
posted by thelonius at 6:33 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, Michigan was the first state to drug test welfare recipients. It was found unconstitutional shortly after taking effect, and drug testing welfare recipients no longer happens.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 6:33 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Next on the agenda: The Smile Test. If those welfare recipients are smiling, then they aren't getting a nickel. We want our poor sad miserable, they better not be benefited at all by anything, if they seem content then they must be up to something, and its probably something criminal.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:35 PM on April 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Clear answer: Throw buckets of piss on the governor's lawn.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:36 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, to qualify for TANF in Georgia you have to have a child, be here legally with social security number, go to work or work training for 30+ hours/week, have a gross income below $784 a month and countable assets of less than $1,000. You can only be on TANF for 4 years in your entire life. If you're already on assistance and have a child, you will not get increased benefits (because that's obviously why you're having the child). And after all this, you get less than $300/month for a family of three. All information from here.

Now they need a drug test too? Oh, they have to pay for that drug test as well? Not to mention showing up in person to pee in a cup, which I bet will be separate from turning in your application and your interview. Good to know how much you hate people who need help Georgia.
posted by Garm at 6:38 PM on April 16, 2012 [26 favorites]


I'd like to see a drug test for state officials. I'll bet that law will never happen in a million fucking years. But I'd love to see it. Boy-o-boy, that would be fun times.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


They wish poor people would just die and go away.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Time to sing it again! C'mon everyone join in you know the words!

OOOOOOO

Hate Hate hate hate hate the poor! Hate hate hate hate hate hate the poor! Come along and hate the poor tooonight, baby!

posted by The Whelk at 6:39 PM on April 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Welfare applicants who pass the drug tests will receive a refund

Right, because the only thing that makes more sense than charging them in the first place (presumably to save government money) is to then have to send 98% of test takers their money back. Good luck figuring out how to administer that's not going to cost a ton- I doubt you can set up the office and hire the people you need for the $84,500-$103,000 you're supposedly going to "save". Ridiculous.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:41 PM on April 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


Actually, I don't know that one, The Whelk. I thought it went to "Help Me Rhonda," but it doesn't quite fit.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:42 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ this country is fucked.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:45 PM on April 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Columnist Proposes Drug Tests for Politicians - Newspaper columnist Carl Hiaasen wants the entire Florida state legislature to be tested for drugs, and he says he'll pay for the tests.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:49 PM on April 16, 2012 [23 favorites]


Have I got a deal for you!
posted by zombieApoc at 6:52 PM on April 16, 2012


Drugs! Drug use! Enjoying drugs! Having drug parties! These poor have it good. You people don't understand.

If they are enjoying the money that I earn, the money that I earned honestly, and if the poor get that money, take it from me, and then enjoy it, then that means I don't have it, then that means I'm not enjoying it, then that means they stole it, then that means they are thieves, and therefore that must be why I'm miserable: the poor stole my happiness.

Sure, you might say, maybe they aren't enjoying the money that they steal, maybe they don't enjoy the drugs they buy with it, but that is worse. That means they are wasting it. We have to be sure, whether or not they are wasting it, whether or not they are enjoying it. That test is easy. We can find that out with a drug test. But still, I don't think that is enough. What if they enjoy other things, like Magic: The Gathering, or Eating Food? Despicable. That could be food I could buy, or game cards I could purchase. But most terrifying of all, the worst thing, what if they made money using my money? That could have been money I could have made with that money. That could have been my money! Money they make is money I didn't. Those thieves are stealing more than my happiness, my very livelihood, they are stealing my future. How dare they!

After receiving government aid those scumbags better be crying, destroyed by what money we give them, they should be worse than they were before, because otherwise they might start to think they deserve it. Think that they deserve living, deserve a place in society. But that would be my life they are stealing, my place in society they are stealing. It is a zero-sum universe, people. A zero-sum universe. Their benefit is my detriment. Fuck the poor.
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:54 PM on April 16, 2012 [85 favorites]


I think the first question, before the outrage, should be - Who has stock in, or is taking kickbacks from, the companies doing the drug tests?
posted by Catblack at 6:55 PM on April 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


This is one of those policies that is very satisfying to a certain portion of voters. I was reading about that political party that says it will crowd source all its votes based on the desires of its constituents. This is sort of what that looks like - punish those weaker than me so I can feel better about myself.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:56 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have to pass a drug test to keep the job from whose pay welfare funds are deducted, so it's only fair that the recipients also pass a drug test. They can get high and drunk and get welfare money the day I can go to work high and drunk.
posted by Renoroc at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there a list of all this horrible legislation (this, the stuff Walker pushed through stopping employees from being able to sue, the child labor law repeal attempts in the south) sponsored by republicans?
posted by cashman at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2012


I have to pass a drug test to keep the job from whose pay welfare funds are deducted

The state in which you live has dedicated welfare fund paycheck deductions? That's fascinating. I've never heard of such a thing before just now.
posted by hippybear at 7:03 PM on April 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


I have to pass a drug test to keep the job from whose pay school's are run, so it's only fair that the recipients of those funds also pass a drug test. Teachers, janitors, administrators and students can get high and drunk and get tax dollars the day I can go to work high and drunk.

Why start and stop at welfare recipients? Tax dollars go to everything from road work crews to NASA scientists to health inspectors to university presidents. Why not test them all? (Other than the fact it is a waste of money with no reasonable benefit.)
posted by munchingzombie at 7:03 PM on April 16, 2012 [12 favorites]


Renoroc: that logic should be applied equally to all beneficiaries of government funds. BTW, if you use the Internet, I'd like you to pass a drug test before you get online, seeing as government funds created what became the Internet.
posted by roboton666 at 7:05 PM on April 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


TwelveTwo, put that to a Nashville-slick country song melody and you've got a hit. Though you should probably add something about no whining, guns, and rolling up sleeves.
posted by emjaybee at 7:05 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I have to pass a drug test to keep the job from whose pay welfare funds are deducted, so it's only fair that the recipients also pass a drug test. They can get high and drunk and get welfare money the day I can go to work high and drunk."

The answer to pointlessly reduced liberties for you (assuming your job isn't safety critical) isn't to pull everyone down to the same level.
posted by jaduncan at 7:05 PM on April 16, 2012 [23 favorites]


Instead of just denying people welfare, I'd love to see a system where if you test positive, the state pays for you to get help and then once you're out, gives you the TANF (but actually a livable wage). Making poor addicts poorer is not the answer, but helping them with something other than emergency cash or food stamps just might be.

But then I'm just a dirty commie.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:06 PM on April 16, 2012 [26 favorites]


I have to pass a drug test to keep the job from whose pay welfare funds are deducted, so it's only fair that the recipients also pass a drug test. They can get high and drunk and get welfare money the day I can go to work high and drunk.

In the Daily Show piece they presented data that appeared to show that drug use in the general population was more than four times as common as the rate at which Floridian welfare recipients failed the drug testing - so, yes, people who go to work get drunk and high, probably at a greater rate than welfare recipients do.
posted by XMLicious at 7:08 PM on April 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


When I worked in a jewelry production house sticking diamonds into gold all day long, I used to regularly go to work stoned and would sometimes have a beer or two during lunch break.

Sometimes the solution is to find the right line of work.
posted by hippybear at 7:10 PM on April 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


so, yes, people who go to work get drunk and high, probably at a greater rate than welfare recipients do.

Well naturally! What gives one greater incentive to get drunk and high than one's job? If they really want people off drugs, they should put everyone on welfare and let us all stay home!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:10 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If they really want people off drugs, they should put everyone on welfare and let us all stay home!

But then no one would be on Metafilter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:11 PM on April 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


The state in which you live has dedicated welfare fund paycheck deductions? That's fascinating. I've never heard of such a thing before just now.

You're being deliberately obtuse here. Taxes are levied and revenue is spent. We can argue how best to spend the revenue (and this law is short-sighted), but don't pretend the revenue comes from leprechauns.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:11 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


If a parent tests positive for drugs will DCFS step in?
posted by desjardins at 7:12 PM on April 16, 2012


TwelveTwo, put that to a Nashville-slick country song melody and you've got a hit. Though you should probably add something about no whining, guns, and rolling up sleeves.

If only I had a knack for songwriting, but if I did I imagine the chorus would have the line: "get the hell outta my country, you ain't no American to me."
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:12 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


desjardins - Most states generally do that already, they're just not public about it.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:13 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to pass a drug test to keep the job

I've never had to pee in a cup for a job, and I've worked retail and office jobs all my life. Maybe get into a different line of work, since yours seems to put you in the "If I have to suffer, so does everyone else!" camp. What a shitty attitude.
posted by rtha at 7:13 PM on April 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


I think it's a ploy to force Democratic voters onto the street (the homeless are unlikely to vote) while riling up the radical right-wing base.

I hate this country. I hate living in it, I hate what is framed as "normal" and "real" in TV, print, and Internet news, I hate how right-wing the supposedly left-wing party is. I hate the way (most) of my neighbors and coworkers think. I hate how anti-intellectualism is gaining credence in the national dialogue. I hate how the the poor and minorities are being ever-more demonized. I hate that another term for Obama is going to mean more of the same. I hate that I have no real options besides leaving and not coming back.

I wish there was some way to give the idiots the world they voted for while the rest of us can go along with our lives. When I look at America today, I often think of when Göbbels asked "Do you want total war? If necessary, do you want a war more total and radical than anything that we can even imagine today?" and the crowd answering "YES! YES! YES!".
posted by dunkadunc at 7:15 PM on April 16, 2012 [44 favorites]


And defense contractors ? The military ?

When I'm doing consulting work for any defense-related business, even on a sub-sub-sub-contract basis, and even when doing the work 100% off premise (as in, in my own home office) I have to be able to show that I've been tested within the last year, and on a few occasions I've had to pay for the tests myself.

As far as the military itself, Mrs. Deadmessenger tells me that when she was serving, most recently in 1993, she had to pee in a cup damn near as much as in a toilet. I can't imagine things have changed in that regard since.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:18 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, if they don't pass, then they'll send them to get treatment, right?
posted by jabberjaw at 7:21 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in that terribly benighted state. There are people I know who would cheer this. I need to come up with better counters to them than "Do you just hate life, is that it?"
posted by JHarris at 7:21 PM on April 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


i totally get this. i, too, am resentful of imaginary freeloaders.
posted by facetious at 7:27 PM on April 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


I live in that terribly benighted state. There are people I know who would cheer this. I need to come up with better counters to them than "Do you just hate life, is that it?"

How about "If we know that the cost of the testing exceeds the saved welfare, what is to be gained? I just don't think we can afford that kind of program right now." The main counterargument to any desired program is always cost; it isn't something that can only be used against liberals, and frankly is an argument that should be made a lot more in policing matters of all kinds.
posted by jaduncan at 7:28 PM on April 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


They can get high and drunk and get welfare money the day I can go to work high and drunk

Get high and drunk after work! That's how a lot of people stay sane.
posted by fuq at 7:29 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


When the 3rd generation owner (meaning, his grandpappy took all the risk in starting the business) of the company I work at started bitching about welfare queens, I flipped him a twenty and said, "Here's your share for the year. Will you be quiet about that now? I'll give you another this time next year."

(this is also the guy that's at the office 10-15 hours/week, but he can't "afford" to give me vacation time...)
posted by notsnot at 7:29 PM on April 16, 2012 [16 favorites]


I think it's a ploy to force Democratic voters onto the street (the homeless are unlikely to vote) while riling up the radical right-wing base.

dunkadunc

The sad thing is, perhaps the most terrifying thing is: this is no ploy, because there is no plot.

As long as we keep thinking there is some big arc unfolding, we'll keep waiting for someone to step out from the curtains. We'll keep waiting to see who the actors are, who the enemy is. We'll keep waiting.

As long as we keep thinking there is a plot, a plot we just can't figure out yet, then we'll keep promising ourselves that once we know, we can act. Once we know who to fight, we can fight. Once we know which front is the main front, then we'll be sure. We'll keep promising ourselves that once we know, then we'll act, and then things will be ok again.

But the tragic joke is that there is no plot. We are the actors behind the curtains. We are only waiting for ourselves.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:32 PM on April 16, 2012 [14 favorites]


Jesus Christ this country is fucked.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:45 PM on April 16


Jesus Christ: "This country is fucked."

FTFY
posted by 4ster at 7:33 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


How about "If we know that the cost of the testing exceeds the saved welfare, what is to be gained?

Few people want to listen to facts, use reason or apply logic. They just know some sumbitch is out there working the system over on their dime. They're actually right about that, but wrong sbout who's doing it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"You can judge a society by how it treats it's most disadvantaged" etc., etc.
posted by joz at 7:37 PM on April 16, 2012


Oh, and one more thing, my hypothesis is this will just lead to a rise in the use of synthetic cannabinoids "spice" and "K2" and what have you. Making them illegal (just happened in NYC) will just prevent research from being done on them and oh yeah the bodegas are still selling it. This law will just promote their use among welfare recipients and no one knows much about the side effects and long term heath aspects because in America. The Florida electeds must be so high they don't understand that people will always find a way to get fucked up. That's just one thing humans do. We can make it illegal to be a human or we can try to understand it.
posted by fuq at 7:37 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Renorac. Are you saying that you work for the state of Georgia? Otherwise I'm not seeing the relevance of your comment. If your private employer is making you take a drug test that's between you and them, because certainly not all employers require drug testing. Not even all government employers.

In addition, you're probably getting paid a fairly decent salary to assuage the humiliation of pissing into a cup. Offer welfare recipients the same pay and they would probably have few complaints.

Finally, what's so wrong with welfare recipients smoking a joint now and again? Should someone unable to find employment give up all pleasures for the duration. Maybe sleep on a dirt floor as well? We're long past the stage where we can pretend that occasionally enjoying marijuana will destroy someone's ambitions forever. Not only did our last few presidents indulge, but so did Richard Branson, Mike Bloomberg, Steven Jobs, Sergey Brin and other billionaires, and geniuses such as Richard Feynman and the Beatles.
posted by xigxag at 7:42 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, because denying people who are using drugs a small pittance won't make them even more desperate. Guess they'll just have to build more private prisons to house them after they commit crimes to get money for food and drugs.

/profit
posted by azpenguin at 7:50 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's a reason Georgia still needs approval from the Justice Department whenever they want to change their election law.
posted by steamynachos at 8:05 PM on April 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seems like it would be a lot more effective if you made people get off welfare before they could take drugs. Now THAT would be a motivator.
posted by jcworth at 8:05 PM on April 16, 2012


I have to pass a drug test to keep the job from whose pay welfare funds are deducted, so it's only fair that the recipients also pass a drug test. They can get high and drunk and get welfare money the day I can go to work high and drunk.

Look at this chart. Most drugs, particularly the most harmful (heroin, meth, cocaine), are undetectable via urine testing after just a few days. The tests can't distinguish being high at work from being high on the weekend or on vacation, either, nor are they even meant to. The primary effect they have in practice is as an extrajudicial punishment for smoking weed.

In short: drug testing is a massive waste of time and money. I don't care what your job is, what you imbibe while off-the-clock should be your own business as long as it's not interfering with work. If your job is so important that this is simply not the case -- if you happen to be the sole curator of an entire rocketship full of nitro-soaked babies, for example -- then the question becomes why we're not testing you for the single most commonly abused drug in the country: alcohol. And the answer is obvious: because this isn't really about the safety of our precious rocketships and babies, it's about the politics of the Drug War.

Personally, I think it's bullshit that anyone in this country is expected to piss in a cup for that.
posted by vorfeed at 8:09 PM on April 16, 2012 [87 favorites]


> They can get high and drunk and get welfare money the day I can go to work high and drunk.

I read your comments here. I just figured you were always high and drunk.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:24 PM on April 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


TwelveTwo: "But the tragic joke is that there is no plot."

I work for a government (not the one in question) and I can assure you that there is no way any government is ever going to be organised enough to sustain any sort of 'eliminate the weak' plot for more than a few weeks at a time. Any action you see that resembles a co-ordinated attempt is purely coincidence.
posted by dg at 8:31 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Georgia has a lottery, which could easily be argued to be a drug in itself by anyone who's stood in line at a convenience store. Will Georgia also test for the telltale signs of drug abuse, such as the presence of scratch ticket dust on fingers and clothes?
posted by jsavimbi at 8:47 PM on April 16, 2012


Using taxpayer money to write checks for people who won't work is an obvious and unalloyed good, and requiring some kind of compliance with some expected standards of behavior (short of getting job, of course) in order to receive those checks is an unalloyed evil.

I was talking with a guy at the welfare office who told me he wasn't getting enough money from the government and asked if I could help him out with a few bucks so he could feed his ten children. I said, "How do I know you won't just go spend the money on drugs?" And he said, "RACIST!" Funny thing, we were both white. So then, he said, "Oh, I've *got* drug money."
posted by Infinity_8 at 8:52 PM on April 16, 2012


If people aren't on Medicaid, they even pay for this drug test on their own dime.

The place where I had my immigration medical was primarily a drug-testing facility. Nice little racket, that one.

requiring some kind of compliance with some expected standards of behavior (short of getting job, of course) in order to receive those checks is an unalloyed evil.

Let me quote:
State officials said it was hard to pinpoint the financial impact of the bill. During the session, they suggested an impact that could range from a net cost of about $84,500 to a savings of about $103,000 annually.
$103,000 in a FY2012 state budget of $19.3 billion? Got to love the fucking priorities there. I don't see Governor Birther and his pals in the legislature demanding "expected standards of behavior" for people who receive tax breaks or state subsidies or other rich-people-welfare. Until that happens, let's call it what it is: the good ol'boys pissing on the poor for shits and giggles.

Is there a list of all this horrible legislation (this, the stuff Walker pushed through stopping employees from being able to sue, the child labor law repeal attempts in the south) sponsored by republicans?

There is, but it's on ALEC's fileservers.
posted by holgate at 9:08 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Folks maybe back it up and don't call each other assholes? This thread will be easier to deal with if we can stick to the topic and maybe keep the trolling to the obvious over-the-top stuff. Otherwise, you know where Metatalk is.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:09 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. All recipients will have to pony up money for the test, which presumably will be difficult for them because they're already on welfare for Pete's sake.

2. False positives will deprive honest people of their financial support inadvertently.

3. Administering the return of funds to those who test negative will cost even more money.

4. Real addicts will probably just turn to further and more serious crime if they lose their subsistence level support, resulting in greater social cost than the fricking welfare check was to begin with.

5. All recipients will be forced through a degrading process intended to stigmatize them even further (which is probably a plus to the designers of this social engineering).

6. It's a principle that's unevenly applied to the poorest of our society, when the more affluent who receive government funds in a variety of other ways are left immune to this nonsense.

I mean, I could go on. But holy hell, these right wing assholes are incredible. No wonder they distrust government so much: they're so incompetent at it!
posted by darkstar at 9:16 PM on April 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


Er, sorry about the "assholes"...just read jessamyn's post.
posted by darkstar at 9:17 PM on April 16, 2012


The Daily Show covered Florida passing the same sort of measure in a bit that culminated in Aasif Mandvi crashing a press conference and handing Governor Rick Scott a urine sample container, asking that he pass a drug test before receiving any more public funds in salary.

Gosh, one of the more satisfying Daily Show pieces I've seen in a while.
posted by the cydonian at 9:25 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


if you happen to be the sole curator of an entire rocketship full of nitro-soaked babies, for example -- then the question becomes why we're not testing you for the single most commonly abused drug in the country: alcohol.

As a school bus driver I was subject to random drug testing and for alcohol. If I was in an accident, whether my fault or not, I was tested for drugs and alcohol.

Would you want it any other way?
posted by JujuB at 9:34 PM on April 16, 2012


For someone who's job is driving? Sure, okay. For someone who doesn't even have a job? What?
posted by rtha at 9:50 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Er, sorry about the "assholes"...just read jessamyn's post.

No, she was chiding me about a deleted comment of mine, probably not about your estimation of the right-wing in general. Although I suppose that, too, may be considered needlessly incendiary.

But as far as I'm concerned, some of the comments in this thread are pretty incendiary in the other direction. Surely it's possible to argue in favor of this law without basically arguing that welfare recipients are, as a class, lazy, entitled drug-users? A comment that is loaded with palpable resentment against the poor, as a class, is probably not the most productive way to get one's point across. Unless the point is to express resentment against the poor. Which I, for example, find excessively provocative.

Given Garm's information about what it really means to be someone on welfare in Georgia, I have a very difficult time understanding how anyone expressing resentment against a group that is so unambiguously desperate, and who is provided with such a tiny benefit (much less, for example, than the average actual tax savings resulting from a common middle-class tax break like the mortgage interest deduction), isn't revealing something very negative about their own character.

Welfare recipients are the poorest-of-the-poor, are families with children, and these days they don't get diddly-squat in benefits. The fact that the high-end of the estimate of the savings that the state officials involved themselves provide is only about $100K a year demonstrates both how tiny these benefits are and how few beneficiaries are expected to test positive for drug use.

The comments in this thread that vilify welfare recipients cannot possibly be really and truly about how much taxation supports their benefits (because it's actually so small), nor that the benefits are undeserved (households with children and gross incomes less than $800 a month, really?), nor that they're any more likely to be drug-users than the general population (they're not). What it's obviously about is an irrational and hateful sentiment so well parodied by TwelveTwo. A sentiment that when aired publicly deserves the most intense mockery and personal opprobrium.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:56 PM on April 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


I propose the opposite: that if you can prove you are gainfully employed, you can buy all the goddamned drugs you want.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:05 PM on April 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


The fact that the high-end of the estimate of the savings that the state officials involved themselves provide is only about $100K a year demonstrates both how tiny these benefits are and how few beneficiaries are expected to test positive for drug use.

What it suggests is that one could quite easily pass a bill in the Georgia legislature to mandate that welfare recipients fight each other to the death on live television (brought to you in association with Macon Bacon and Alpharetta Sweaters) for the right to receive benefits, because fuck them, they don't vote anyway.

Put simply: in 2005, Bumfights was a web meme; in 2012, it's how the GOP runs states.
posted by holgate at 10:06 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Y'all should see some of my fellow Georgians on Facebook. I mostly stay out of it, but sometimes I have to wade in and set the record straight, e.g. when one of them complains about a "lack of people willing to work for 10k just above their entitlements" and that "single mothers are receiving upwards of 7k-8k [in income tax refunds] when they paid NOTHING INTO IT."

I added it up. If you're a single mother with three children, including a babe-in-arms still at the breast, have the minimum allowable wages (a little less than $1,100/month) to get the maximum EITC ($5,110), and receive the average benefit for SNAP (about 75¢ per person per meal) and also get WIC (approx. $15/week), it still comes to less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. Naturally, and as usual, pointing out the facts of the matter, including linking to the actual State of Georgia COMPASS eligibility estimator, makes little to no difference.

Of the people I know on Facebook who might think something like drug testing indigent mothers is a good idea all but a handful have told be about how they personally witness every time they go to the grocery store a person in front of them, talking into a brand new iPhone with their 'hair and nails did', brazenly buying steak, lobster, and birthday cake on an EBT card. Then they drive away in a brand new Escalade. (Which is all code for the person in question being black, of course.)

The TANF and SNAP situation in Georgia is, in my opinion, catastrophically prejudiced and punitive. As was pointed out by Garm above, you already have to work or participate in back-to-work training 30 hours a week to even be eligible in Georgia. Sometimes that "work" pays far less than minimum-wage, as was pointed out in The New York Times earlier this month. That is, presuming the case worker doesn't lie to your face and claim you aren't eligible for TANF. As for SNAP, never mind the fact that in Georgia you are not eligible unless you work, the response is, "Lol Screw it.. they richly deserve better food than working people right??"

All of which is to say that in Georgia there's the usual right-wing animus for the 'shiftless' poor underlain with a deep-seated racial hatred that's only been exacerbated by recent events.1

It's going to be a long, hot summer here in the Empire State of the South.



[1] I wanted to find something written by a white, right-wing person from the Georgia blogosphere about the Trayvon Martin case to link as "recent events", but I couldn't find anything I could stomach linking to during a cursory search. Needless to say, the Martin case has caused the Eschat-o-meter to rise by a notch or two around here.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:12 PM on April 16, 2012 [15 favorites]


Crap. That should read, "…all but a handful have told me…" in the third paragraph.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:14 PM on April 16, 2012


I was talking with a guy at the welfare office

No, you weren't.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:02 PM on April 16, 2012 [8 favorites]


Its not about solving the problem, the cure is worse than the disease in terms of budget losses.

Its about humiliating and actively, aggressively attacking people you think beneath you. And its all going to come back to bite them in the ass.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:12 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a school bus driver I was subject to random drug testing and for alcohol. If I was in an accident, whether my fault or not, I was tested for drugs and alcohol.

Would you want it any other way?


Yes. Like I said, drug tests do not actually test to see whether you're currently impaired. I'm all for blood alcohol and field sobriety tests when necessary, because those do reveal whether you're currently impaired, but that's not what we're talking about here.
posted by vorfeed at 11:18 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I just realized that it'll probably cost a lot of money to run all of those drug tests. I wonder which medical company lobbied over the big bucks to the politicians that got this passed?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:28 PM on April 16, 2012


Aren't welfare funds dispersed by the federal government? IMO, the federal government should take this and other programs for the poor out of state hands entirely. It would save money if it was centrally administered, plus the programs are prone to abuse in poor-hating states.
I was all prepared to just be like "Oh look some more wacky legislation being proposed" but then I caught that this is something the governor actually signed. The longer article is worth reading. If people aren't on Medicaid, they even pay for this drug test on their own dime. And they on;y have to pass it once. And this whole thing might save the state ... up to 103K annually (that can't be right, can it?). I don't mean to say that's chicken feed, but it seems like very little savings for something so controversial. Also of interest in the article
I think in Florida, it had a negative cost. This would only catch hard-core addicts who can't stop for a week or two in order to past the test.
number of welfare users who use no drugs * percentage of false positives in drug tests = ?
Interesting question.
posted by delmoi at 11:31 PM on April 16, 2012


As a school bus driver I was subject to random drug testing and for alcohol. If I was in an accident, whether my fault or not, I was tested for drugs and alcohol.

Would you want it any other way?
I doubt many people making over then, say $70k a year get drug tested. It's only common with shitty jobs. IMO, testing should only be allowed if there is a clear risk associated with that particular drug and that particular activity.
posted by delmoi at 11:34 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do believe that food stamps saved the lives of my family. When I first got food stamps (then called EBT), I couldn't qualify for much else. Because I'd been previously successfully employed, I briefly received something called TEA that got a roof over our heads just long enough to find a job. Then, there was a cycle of work, kids got sick and then I'd get sick (or failed babysitter or whatever life thing would happen), miss too many days in a row, and then lose my job.

At one point, I got yet another full-time job, which was a once again a mixed blessing. We had a roof, I no longer qualified for food stamps, and I also had a reasonably-priced, mostly reliable babysitter, and one kid had started kindergarten. The younger child spent the day with her, and the older child could take the bus to her house, because she happened to live in the area.

Then, the cycle started again, mostly with relatively mild illnesses. The babysitter looked after a few kids and couldn't take mine when they were sick, which was understandable. We all had strep that year. The older kid had a reaction to MMR and had "fake" measles and required a doctor's note to go to school or the sitter. And then the kids came back from visitation with dad with pink eye. One last strike at the job, and I got fired.

This ended up working out ok.

I had moved to an apartment complex with HUD/Section 8 funding after I got my job. I didn't need the rent help at the time, but it was right next door to the elementary school. My first visit was the apartment manager's office. They expedited my case and we had Section 8 within a month (mostly because I'd been a faultless tenant with an unfortunate history at for almost a year) and moved us from a 2-br to a 3-br apartment (the kids were of an age that sharing a bedroom wouldn't work because of different genders). I had just enough in savings to be able to pay for a few months until my youngest started kindergarten. I broke down in tears when they told me what my rent would be.

The day I got fired, I also went to fill out the food stamp forms. I knew how it worked by that point. My old case was still relatively fresh in the system. I am good at filling out forms and have a history of impeccable honesty. Food stamps came quickly.

Once I got both kids into school, that freed up my time a lot. I got a part-time job at the local University that fit in with the kids' school hours and worked there for 7 years. Two years ago, based on that work history, I have a better part-time job, at the same University, that pays well and fits with my life and my now teenaged kids' needs. I also met a wonderful guy and married him a few years ago.

We haven't needed the food and rent assistance for a few years now. I always reported my information honestly, and sometimes that can bite you. If you're at a cut-off income, you can lost a significant amount of help. Luckily, I'm good at stretching a food budget. We've always eaten well. It takes time to cook from scratch, but I could always feed a friend or 3 who needed a meal.

Here's the thing...

If I had to have passed a drug test, on top of all of the other things, I'm not sure how I would have reacted. We're doing well now, but at the time, it felt like a parade of shame and indignity for me. It was hard. I got to socialize with other adults outside of work every other weekend, and if I had gone to the "wrong" get-together that happened to be a smoky situation, I don't know if the second-hand might have been enough to set off a test.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's insulting to assume that folks receiving government assistance aren't working or contributing. Maybe they are trying and circumstances happen. Even if they can't work, maybe they are taking those food stamps and taking the time to make more food and feeding more folks who do really need it. Maybe, like a friend of mine, they are watching the kids of other single moms for a couple hours a day, out of the goodness of their hearts, and feeding those kids, too. Maybe they were the one person with a car and some gas money, and folks grateful for a ride had them over for dinner.

Sure, there are folks who are just lazy. I've met them. I've also met folks who were just plain broken, and yeah, those folks are going to tend to self-medicate, aren't they.

I've been in the whirlpool of shame and hopelessness. I can't believe anyone would stay there voluntarily. Of course, there is going to be drug use there. Some folks get better. Some folks don't. Others are lucky.

I'm grateful every single day that I don't have to fill out recertification forms. The process is already soul-crushing, even with the best of social workers involved.
posted by lilywing13 at 11:49 PM on April 16, 2012 [241 favorites]


delmoi: "Aren't welfare funds dispersed by the federal government?"

TANF is currently funded by block grants to states. Adding to the misery is the fact that, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in their article TANF Benefits Fell Further in 2011 and Are Worth Much Less Than in 1996 in Most States from last year, much of the money budgeted for TANF at the Federal level has been shifted by states to purposes other than cash assistance.
In 1997, three of every four federal and state TANF dollars went to cash assistance for these families. Today, only one in four TANF dollars does. States shifted substantial portions of these funds to other purposes in the years when the economy was stronger and need was less, and — for political and other reasons — have been unable (or have declined) to shift funds back when need grew sharply as the economy weakened.
The CBPP has a tremendous amount of information resources pertaining to TANF/Welfare Reform. Just as an example, they recently concluded that, more than 90 percent of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households — not to able-bodied, working-age Americans who choose not to work.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:50 PM on April 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


delmoi: "I doubt many people making over then, say $70k a year get drug tested."

Jobs requiring a "Q" or "L" security clearance have been subject to random drug testing since 2008, even for contractors and sub-contractors. Apparently most jobs requiring any kind of clearance [PDF] are also going to require random drug testing.

Any of the big outfits that contract with the U.S. federal government, e.g. General Dynamics, Bechtel, GE, Accenture, etc., are almost certainly going to be required to be a Certified Drug Free Workplace. In addition, Georgia requires all contractors with more than one employee to certify that they provide a "Drug Free Workplace". Neither federal or state law require random testing, but neither do they preclude it.

There are jobs which do have federal requirements for drug testing, viz. jobs related to nuclear power or weapons as outlined above, and certain transportation related jobs such as engineer, pilot, or truck driver.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:39 AM on April 17, 2012


That comment by lilywing13 should be sidebarred.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:03 AM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have been writing and rewriting my comment here for a while now. I know that my opinion likely differs from a lot of the ones in this thread.

I feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system in some way. It would be beneficial to those not receiving assistance as well as to those who truly need it, if we could weed out the people who were taking advantage.

The ideal system would be the one where people and families are helped enough to get themselves back on their feet, and are able to turn and contribute to the system that helped them. Obviously, there are extenuating circumstances, and some exceptions will never fully be able to support themselves.

It would take extra money at first, at least for the first 10 years or so, but after that I think we would start to see a healthier society if we tried to help people in all the ways that they need help. So, think about a person who is addicted to meth and has two kids and no job and sometimes spends what little money they get buying more meth to calm the pangs of their addiction. People want to give that person food stamps so at least the kids are eating. But wouldn't it be better to take 6 months, put the parent in a rehab program, give the kids a stable environment to get healthy, and then reunite the family and give the parent a job (working in the same rehab program that helped them fight the addiction, maybe)? Imagine how differently the kids could end up in those two situations.

In a lot of ways I think that the forms of assistance that are available now are like a band-aid on an arterial bleed. But in other ways, I think that they can be a crutch, allowing people to continue in some of the same unfortunate ways. I think it's akin to giving a bleeding person blood transfusions instead of stitching them up and stopping the blood flow.

So, I'm not completely opposed to drug tests for welfare recipients. I think the way it is proposed here is not the right way to do it, but I'm not convinced that that means we shouldn't do it at all.

And I'm rather shocked that legislators do not have mandatory drug testing.
posted by Night_owl at 1:05 AM on April 17, 2012


Night_owl: "I think that they can be a crutch, allowing people to continue in some of the same unfortunate ways."

This just isn't so. When AFDC became TANF in 1997, federal law provided a maximum lifetime benefit of 60 months of cash assistance, but states could elect to have shorter periods if they desired. In Georgia, the maximum is 48 months.

Additionally, there 21 Non-Financial requirements you have to meet in the State of Georgia [PDF] (pg. 16). Already among these is the rule that anyone convicted of a felony drug charge is ineligible for assistance.

Furthermore, the State of Georgia already recognises that there are people who will need drug or alcohol counseling and rehabilitation before they're ready to work. In fact, that's what they call it: Ready-for-Work.
Substance abuse counseling and treatment are available through the Ready-for-Work (RFW) program, a gender-specific treatment program designed to address the needs of women who abuse alcohol and other drugs.

Participation in the program is available to individuals who meet one of three non-financial criteria and the sole financial requirement. Participation in the RFW program is available to individuals with active TANF cases, individuals whose cash assistance was terminated within the previous twelve months because of employment, and individuals with active DFCS child protective services cases.

The income limit for the RFW program is set at 235% of the FPL for individuals not eligible for TANF cash assistance. There is no resource limit.
Not to mention that, Failure to meet work requirements and/or personal responsibilities can lead to a 25% reduction in benefits for the first material violation and permanent ineligibility for TANF for a second material violation. [Emphasis added.] This is known colloquially as the Two Strikes and You're Off rule.


Night_owl: "The ideal system would be the one where people and families are helped enough to get themselves back on their feet, and are able to turn and contribute to the system that helped them."

This is precisely what TANF and its associated programs are designed to do. The pernicious myth of there being rampant "Welfare Queens" simply must be extinguished. There simply aren't millions of otherwise able people collecting welfare rather than get a job because they've been conditioned to be dependent on the government.

Reagan twisted them around and created one character, and tried to leave everyone with the impression that it was happening all over the place, says Kaaryn Gustafson to CNN. Gustafson continued,
"It's totally false that these women typified welfare recipients.

While others believe the Welfare Queen will be dethroned, Gustafson remains unconvinced.

"I would love to think that will happen," she says. "But I'm hearing politicians say poor people need to learn how to work or that we need to drug test welfare recipients -- it makes me think that even if people aren't directly invoking the Welfare Queen stereotype, they are indirectly.

"The ghost of the Welfare Queen is still lurking."
posted by ob1quixote at 1:59 AM on April 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Flagged as fantastic, lilywing- thanks so much for sharing that with us.
posted by Philby at 2:14 AM on April 17, 2012


2) The government now has to pick up the tab on an estimated 18,200 drug tests which they estimate at $30 a pop.

This part surprised me. I would have thought they'd stick the welfare recipients with the cost of the testing. Deduct it from their benefit check or something. I mean, as long as you're kicking someone while they're down, you might as well make them beg for more.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:16 AM on April 17, 2012


Accenture, ..... a Certified Drug Free Workplace

HA! I mean, in the actual office, sure. Maybe. But...HA!
posted by inigo2 at 4:20 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can we please not use the phrase "choose not to work"? And not quote things that do?

People are not stupid. TANF has a ≤5 year lifetime eligibility limit (it's set by each state). It provides income well below the poverty line. Again depending on the state, receiving TANF benefits may force you to work for below minimum wage (see the NYT article from last week linked earlier) or go to some class that genuinely might help you find work, or might just be useless and take the time you would otherwise be using to look for work. So, yeah, please go find me the person who said, "I'm going to sit on my butt for 5 years well below the poverty line (for a single person, never mind a multi-person household), not attempt to find something better and eliminate this pathetic little safety net I have."
posted by hoyland at 5:54 AM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta/East Point) and the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), discuss the new law in this video. Debbie Seagraves of ACLU Georgia also weighs in on the "Social Responsibility and Accountability Act".
posted by goHermGO at 6:38 AM on April 17, 2012


There's a reason Georgia still needs approval from the Justice Department whenever they want to change their election law.

FYI, Texas' AG has already stated that they're going to challenge this portion of the Voting Rights Act all the way to the Supreme Court as early as next year. I shudder to think how fast Romney's appointees would deep-six the VRA.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:44 AM on April 17, 2012




This part surprised me. I would have thought they'd stick the welfare recipients with the cost of the testing.

That might have run into a legal challenge, so Georgia's left with diverting over half a million dollars to Piss-In-A-Cup Clinics, Inc., its chosen service provider. That money's still secondary to the main goal, which is to introduce a bit more spite to the lives of the poor in order to impress fuckhead voters.
posted by holgate at 6:57 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system in some way.

Your feelings are not evidence. Can you provide a verified example of one of these people? (i.e., not some woman you saw in the grocery store) What percentage are taking advantage?Where did you get this feeling from?

I am honestly sick and tired of people who want to make laws and policy based on feelings.
posted by desjardins at 7:25 AM on April 17, 2012 [21 favorites]


I would challenge anyone who thinks getting welfare/food stamps is something people relish and enjoy and take advantage of to come to town and do a re-cert for their food, like I do every 6 months.
Come sit in that room, and talk to my caseworker, who in 2 years has never made eye contact with me.
Deal with the overburdened, understaffed, underfunded bureaucracy.
Deal with the humiliation that comes along with using food stamps the first 2 or 3 times, before you stop giving a shit.
Deal with telling your friends or parents or coworkers that you rely on gubbamint benefits, so you'll likely be hungry and grumpy from the 27th to the 3rd.
Deal with asking your awful boss for his signature on verification forms, that great moment when you illustrate to management just how dire things are on your salary. You probably won't get the tiny raise that could make your life measurably better, but you also won't ever have to look your boss in the eyes again.

If anyone clamoring for this sort of legislation wants to come and do those things with me, I welcome them. And I'm sure when it's all said and done, they'll desperately want to join me in smoking a $5 joint in the yard when the sun goes down.
posted by broadway bill at 8:04 AM on April 17, 2012 [31 favorites]


Iowa Republican state senator Mark Chelgren (Ottumwa) proposed Thursday that people who receive child support payments should also be drug tested if the person paying the support requests it

Jesus christ. So if the custodial parent fails the test, then...child support doesn't have to be paid? The child will be removed from the home and...placed with the non-custodial parent? Put into foster care? Given than I'm sure Iowa's not any different from other states regarding the understaffing of its social services offices, how many additional social workers etc. will they have to hire to track this? Or will they simply add to the caseloads of existing social workers?

If the custodial parent actually does have a drug problem - and one of the things shit bills like this gloss over is that not everyone who uses drugs is an addict, just like not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic - will they be offered a spot in rehab? Will they be required to go even if they're not an addict, thus taking up a space that could be used by someone who a) need it and b) is actually ready to use it?
posted by rtha at 8:15 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Night_owl: And I'm rather shocked that legislators do not have mandatory drug testing.

Can you do your job? Get your work done? Then it shouldn't fucking matter what you do when you're not at your job. Period.
posted by tzikeh at 8:18 AM on April 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Deal. Real. Asshole.

(For those of you not in GA, Governor Deal's campaign slogan was Deal. Real.)
posted by JKevinKing at 8:19 AM on April 17, 2012


I feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system in some way.

The subsidized oil companies and Wall Street bankers? The lobbyists who write the legislation they send to the politicians they own? The wealthy who pay less tax than I do? The churches who campaign for politicians who vilify me and pay no taxes at all?

You're right, I also feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:21 AM on April 17, 2012 [33 favorites]


I've got no problem with drug testing recipients of government tax breaks, as long as it's done equally. If any board member of any corporation tests positive, that corporation should lose their tax write-offs for the year. Police officers and everyone in the military — after all, they're protecting us and wielding guns, right? — should be tested every single week. This includes all local, state, and federal politicians. After all, they're making Very Important Decisions and we can't have any of them using drugs of any sort.

As soon as that passes, I'll accept that it's done for the good of the country because Drugs Are Bad. Until then, it's more legislation aimed at jailing undesirables. Which is fucking fantastic, because as everyone knows, a single parent in jail with their kids spread out of the foster car system is far less expensive to society than handing out food stamps without drug testing.
posted by deanklear at 8:21 AM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know about you anyone else, but I find it hard to get bent out of shape about hypothetical welfare queens in light of all the money unaccounted for or wasted in our little Middle Eastern misadventures, banking bailouts, wars on nouns, etc.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:33 AM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Deal with asking your awful boss for his signature on verification forms, that great moment when you illustrate to management just how dire things are on your salary.

I find it disturbing that people who are working can be earning so little that they also are eligible for food stamps. (This isn't a judgement on people who need food stamps, but on the companies that employ them. Especially because the cutoffs for help are so low.)
posted by jeather at 8:57 AM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Totally agree jeather. To make matters worse, I make more than minimum wage. The biggest issue I face is having a job that schedules me for just under 40 hours--to avoid giving benefits--but spreads my hours all over the place, making a second job basically impossible. Oddly enough, I have several friends in the same situation.
posted by broadway bill at 9:00 AM on April 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


There might be a plot. This could be a trial balloon to see if they might be able to knock people off of unemployment insurance and medicaid. The negative savings from blocking drug-using TANF recipients is chickenshit compared to the very real savings that the states could get from these "non-value-added activities".
posted by double block and bleed at 9:02 AM on April 17, 2012


The biggest issue I face is having a job that schedules me for just under 40 hours--to avoid giving benefits--but spreads my hours all over the place, making a second job basically impossible. Oddly enough, I have several friends in the same situation.

Some years back, some stores that are part of a large, multinational corporation whose name rhymes with "ball fart" came under fire for practices like this, because the counties in which those stores operated noticed an uptick in the number of (employed) people who were accessing services like food stamps and WIC. It's a shitty thing.
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


To make matters worse, I make more than minimum wage. The biggest issue I face is having a job that schedules me for just under 40 hours--to avoid giving benefits--but spreads my hours all over the place, making a second job basically impossible. Oddly enough, I have several friends in the same situation.

This is, in fact, a very common tactic used by businesses today. It's so common that I suspect it's probably being taught in management classes or seminars. That would explain the seemingly simultaneous appearance of such management systems across the country.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:24 AM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yep. In fact, I work for a (massive) state university system, and I regularly overhear praise and justification for the practice from MBA students and instructors. My boss also happily reminds me any time I ask about more hours. He seems to think I should be as excited about the tactic as he is.
posted by broadway bill at 9:39 AM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system in some way. It would be beneficial to those not receiving assistance as well as to those who truly need it, if we could weed out the people who were taking advantage."

I feel like there are too many people who base their policy decisions not on evidence but on vague moral qualms, which are easily manipulated by cynical interests specifically because they are so devoid of fact yet appeal to common narratives of what people would like to be true. I feel like there are too many people willing to rest on self-serving and just world fallacies in order to justify cruelty to others, cruelty that ultimately undermines the very self-interest that would otherwise animate the decision. I feel like these people are idiots who make America worse, whether through ignorance or malice, and I feel frustrated that they often constitute enough of a plurality to make policy decisions based on superstition, animus, or just intellectual laziness — specifically frustrated because these idiotic policy decisions have real, negative consequences on innocent Americans who have only happened through circumstance to bear the brunt of this mean-spirited, judgmental bullshit from people too dumb, dishonest or uninterested to base their decisions on empirical thoughts rather than mere feelings.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on April 17, 2012 [25 favorites]


I feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system in some way.

Isn't the whole point of such systems precisely to offer some advantage to the disadvantaged? If no one takes advantage of a system then what purpose does it serve? Honestly, thinking in terms of needs muddles this, because the American love of autonomy ultimately involves the belief that nothing is ever truly needed, no money is necessary, anything of monetary value is always merely advantageous. I could make a billion dollars without even one dollar, that is the dream. So really, it is never need, need is bullshit, you should just be cleverer, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, therefore any case of receiving a handout is always be a case of taking advantage.

Now even if the way they take advantage is excessive, immoral, then does anyone honestly think it is all that awesome? If the choice was your life or the life of the most fantastically ostentatious welfare queen, would anyone really choose their life? Ostentatious in this case is like hundreds of dollars a month for free. Oh my. Truly such a lottery win, such luxury, such money that an exploitative mind can lift from a too compassionate government. But this money is not needed, the reasoning goes, it is just taking advantage. Sure, but so what.

The point of these systems is to get them back into the game. So, who cares if some are clever and greedy, if we reward the clever and allow them to survive, then the logic of their greed will move them into real business. Then they can take advantage of the market place. What is wrong with taking advantage? That is what everything apparently is.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:56 AM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Consolidated preapplication for benefits.

The biggest issue I face is having a job that schedules me for just under 40 hours--to avoid giving benefits--but spreads my hours all over the place, making a second job basically impossible. Oddly enough, I have several friends in the same situation.

This is, in fact, a very common tactic used by businesses today.


I can understand why a business would try to keep someone just under the level needed for benefits -- I think it's an abhorrent practice, but I understand it. But why the weird spreading out of hours instead of blocs? (How much spreading out of hours can they even do, legally?)
posted by jeather at 11:02 AM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live here in GA and if you want an idea of how the locals view this law, take a gander at the comments in the local paper of the second largest city in the state. A few reasonable voices are drowned out by all the yahoos who think like this:
The poor as some of you like to call them are mostly first class con artist. How do I know I see them everyday in the stores buying lotto and beer. Many of the "poor" well sell their EBT cards for cash. Years ago I had a young white guy who was perfectly able to work ask me to do this for him...

As for the suggestion that politicians be tested, as was alluded to upthread this was actually passed here a few years ago; it was an election year and both parties were trying to outdo each other as being tough on crime. It was struck down by the courts, just as this law will probably be, but it still allows for political points at the expense of the downtrodden, just like our state's immigration and voter ID laws.
posted by TedW at 11:16 AM on April 17, 2012


> But why the weird spreading out of hours instead of blocs?

This is so you can't get another job and are at their mercy. Simple!

At my wife's previous job, they did this, and went further, requiring you to be available any time with 24 hours' notice (this for a skilled job that paid barely better than minimum wage).

At one point they reduced everyone's hours without changing this policy - when the workers complained, the boss complained about people's "sense of entitlement".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:17 AM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


But why the weird spreading out of hours instead of blocs? (How much spreading out of hours can they even do, legally?

Well, obviously, they need your labor, so they have an incentive to keep you from jumping ship.
AFAIK, there is nothing in any law governing scheduling of hours, other than issues of overtime and mandatory breaks. For instance, my son works a second job at a fast food chain. They schedule him in 3-4-hour blocks scattered randomly through the week. Luckily, he works the night shift at his primary job, so the second job never overlaps that schedule, though he does sometimes have to hustle from one to the other. I'm sure some mba somewhere is proud of this system.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:29 AM on April 17, 2012


Taking advantage of the system: Working people < 40 hours, so you don't need to pay benefits, and moving their hours around erratically so they can't get another job and become less needy and less available on short notice.

Yea, I also feel there are too many taking unreasonable advantage of the system.
posted by Goofyy at 11:56 AM on April 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


You know, I had not honestly looked for reasons why I am scheduled like I am (I mostly avoid thinking about it when I can, because it is slowly sucking my life away), but the idea that it is to monopolize my time is pretty scary, and probably correct.

I know my immediate supervisor is not near crafty enough to come up with something like that, but I do not doubt for a second that his superiors are.

Just to give an illustration of what it looks like: I work, scheduled, 39 hours a week. It is spread over 6 days, so I have one truly free day. Today, for example, I was scheduled to work from 8am-12pm, and then 3pm-7pm. I can't wait to quit this job in a spectacular manner in 2 months when I go back to school as a fully-funded graduate.
posted by broadway bill at 12:16 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


moving their hours around erratically so they can't get another job and become less needy and less available on short notice.

I have a hard time believing that, if this is exists, it's very widespread and done on purpose. Working people less than 40, oh hell yes, but moving hours around on purpose? People who are that evil are rarely that smart. Never ascribe to evil what incompetence will explain.

The "moving hours" perception usually comes from low-skill service jobs where hourly work is wildly different in absolute effect, and/or there is a mixture of people that want more hours and those that don't. For example, restaurants need people at lunch and dinner rush, and servers want to work those hours, creating competition for choice hours between employees. This isn't the restaurant owner's fault; it's the nature of the business.

Now, on top of that, recognize that most restaurant middle managers are where they are because they're incompetent dolts. Voila! A fucked up schedule.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:20 PM on April 17, 2012


Hey, if it makes anybody feel better I have to pay state & federal taxes on the vast fortune I accumulated this year 'taking advantage' of unemployment insurance.

Oh well, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing everyone's paying their fair share.

I guess I should just be grateful they didn't require a drug test. Yet.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:30 PM on April 17, 2012


I can't remember where I first heard this analogy, but I'll reiterate it: lots of Americans would gladly vote to live under bridges, cooking sparrows on skewers over an open fire, if they could be sure that the guy next to them doesn't get ketchup.
posted by holgate at 12:31 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Never ascribe to evil what incompetence will explain.

And how does "incompetence" explain the scattered hours?

It would surely be easier for a lazy person to schedule people on fewer days and longer shifts, right?

> For example, restaurants need people at lunch and dinner rush, and servers want to work those hours, creating competition for choice hours between employees.

That example seems to contradict your argument. If everyone wants peak hours, but the management has to share them out, surely it makes more sense to have servers work contiguous hours that include both peak and non-peak times than to have them work one day peak hours, the next day not?

I worked in fast food with a competent but overburdened manager (which gives similar results to incompetence a lot of the time). His scheduling short-cut was "You're free Monday? Good, we'll write you in for 12 hours Monday!" People grumbled a bit but it made perfect sense - and we got full days to do things with.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:48 PM on April 17, 2012


Working people less than 40, oh hell yes, but moving hours around on purpose?

I feel like there was some sort of corporate document leak showing that Wal-mart does, in fact, do this deliberately, but it is equally likely that I only wish this had happened.
posted by elizardbits at 12:51 PM on April 17, 2012


but moving hours around on purpose? People who are that evil are rarely that smart.

A job I won't reference used things as petty as seating plans and scheduling preference to punish people, as well as hiring people under the pretense of a long term part time job and then requiring that they be available on all scheduled days, whether the work or not, without guaranteeing them any hours such that people would book all seven days and sometimes get four hours and sometimes thirty-five. And never call them again, if there was a drop in work availability, leaving them flailing.

You don't need to be smart to yank people's chains.
posted by Phalene at 12:52 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]



I have a hard time believing that, if this is exists, it's very widespread and done on purpose. Working people less than 40, oh hell yes, but moving hours around on purpose? People who are that evil are rarely that smart. Never ascribe to evil what incompetence will explain.


I can't comment on the thought process behind it, but I was once offered a job at a check cashing company during a very desperate period in my life. The pay was a dollar more than food service and offered raises and benefits after 6 months. I honestly jumped around a bit when I got the offer on the phone.

Then I asked about the schedule. I would be working 32-36 hours a week and I would need to be available to work mornings, mids and evenings. "Oh?" I asked, "How much notice would I get when my schedule changes? Like a week or two?" No. I would work 2 mornings, 1 mid and 2 evenings each week and there is no set schedule. I would be notified of my work schedule on Thursday and the work week starts on the following Sunday. I should expect my off days, work days and hours to vary each week.

At the time, this seemed like the perfect presciption to keep me off balance, insecure and stripped of the ability to do anything else with my life. I declined the offer.
posted by Vysharra at 1:03 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


If everyone wants peak hours, but the management has to share them out, surely it makes more sense to have servers work contiguous hours that include both peak and non-peak times than to have them work one day peak hours, the next day not?

The point that you're missing is that over-scheduling is just as much a financial risk as under-scheduling is a personnel and customer-service risk. You don't need many people, period, at non-peak hours, and they're not making money then, either, so they don't want to be there. You're paying people to literally stand around. Sure, you can press them into service doing other things, but that's not their ideal focus.

The balancing act is inherently more difficult than you realize. And it's often left to the incompetent to do it.

His scheduling short-cut was "You're free Monday? Good, we'll write you in for 12 hours Monday!"

So, his scheduling shortcut was paying 4 hours of overtime, translating to six hours of normal time. In other words, he's spending about an entire man-day's worth of resources to cover for a scheduling shortfall that was taking place on paper.

That's not a recipe for long-term success.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:14 PM on April 17, 2012


The future is part-time workers bidding on shifts in an online reverse auction. The lowest bidder gets the shift. Imagine making $20 an hour for the late-night shift no one wants during the holidays, and minimum wage for a midday shift during the summer when student labor is available. And glowering at your coworker who underbid you by twenty-five cents to get an extra couple of hours. It will be glorious.
posted by miyabo at 1:49 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


An interesting article posted by Michelle Wirth on the Public Broadcasting Atlanta website just came across my news feed.
Report: Georgia levies some of highest income taxes on the working poor

Tuesday is the last day to file state and federal income tax returns. The deadline comes near the release of a report by the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which says Georgia levies some of the nation’s highest income taxes on the working poor.

The report says Georgia is one of only 15 states that taxes families of four living at the federal poverty line or making approximately $23,000 a year, and one of only five to tax families of four with incomes of just above $17,000.
The CBPP report goes on to call out Georgia as one of a handful of states that, taxed the income of one-parent families of three earning less than three-quarters of the poverty line, or $13,442.

Before you jump to the conclusion that Georgia's Republican majority are mean-spirited and just rubbing it in, Senate Majority leader Chip Rogers gives away the game. I’ve always believed a consumption tax treats everybody the same. It’s fair, it’s easy to understand. It’s flat. That’s the type of tax system that I think is best for Georgia, said Rodgers.

I'm gonna go listen to some Drivin' N Cryin' songs now.


P.S. Remember what I said about long, hot summer? Police handcuff Georgia kindergartner for tantrum
posted by ob1quixote at 2:09 PM on April 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


> You're paying people to literally stand around. Sure, you can press them into service doing other things, but that's not their ideal focus.

Wait, one moment ago you were saying that the issue was everyone wanting peak hours and the management not wanting to do it - now you're saying the issue is the management not wanting people to work non-peak hours. So which is it?

> So, his scheduling shortcut was paying 4 hours of overtime, translating to six hours of normal time. In other words, he's spending about an entire man-day's worth of resources to cover for a scheduling shortfall that was taking place on paper.

There was no overtime. Where is this place where overtime is calculated on a per day basis? Not the United States. (This job was in fact in Canada, and I didn't get overtime either.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:11 PM on April 17, 2012


Where is this place where overtime is calculated on a per day basis? Not the United States.

Some states in the US calculate overtime in a "more than eight hours per day" way if I recall correctly. California is one? Some state where I have worked because I remember this being a thing. So if the state law is a higher standard, it's the one that counts, that's from your link actually.

So which is it?

Scheduling people for shorter shifts means that you can have four people working three hour shifts when the place is busy instead of two people working six hour shifts which slop over to when the place is not busy. So the trick is shorter shifts (within the legally allowable range) and more people working them. Everyone is replaceable, is the thinking, and people who can't hack it can just be replaced with people who can hack it. There are a few laws in place in the US that prevent this from being worse [rules about being on call, rules about minimum shift lengths, rules about a bunch of things] but you can bet that places who want to maximize the surplus value of low wage employees are making the schedule as destabilizing as possible to make it work the best for the company and who-cares-if-it's-good for the workers who need a job.

And you see this in a lot of other ways too. "Teams" that are rebuilt every three months along with the moving of desks and management chains of commands. Schedules that change weekly for no real reason. Many people working just-under-fulltime instead of fewer people working fulltime. The huge costs savings involved in not giving people benefits makes the minor scheduling and other harassment totally worth it. And a lot of people working in low skilled and/or low wage jobs have no idea what their workplace rights are, or they're really not at that point in the hierarchy of needs where that is a place that they can focus their limited energies and attentions. Or where they can't risk losing a job even if they're illegally fired because you have to have time and a lawyer to fight that sort of thing.
posted by jessamyn at 2:24 PM on April 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes, in California, you are owed overtime for more than 8 hours' work in a day.
posted by rtha at 2:25 PM on April 17, 2012


Any of the big outfits that contract with the U.S. federal government, e.g. General Dynamics, Bechtel, GE, Accenture, etc., are almost certainly going to be required to be a Certified Drug Free Workplace
Drug free work workplace act does not require you to drug test employees.
posted by delmoi at 6:18 PM on April 17, 2012


delmoi: "Drug free work workplace act does not require you to drug test employees."

Just for the record, that was the last sentence of the paragraph you quoted. Neither federal or state law require random testing, but neither do they preclude it.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:27 PM on April 17, 2012


Just for the record, that was the last sentence of the paragraph you quoted. "Neither federal or state law require random testing, but neither do they preclude it."
The drug free workplace act has nothing to do with drug testing, so it's not really that relevant to the thread. The point is, most well paying jobs don't require drug testing. Obviously things like nuclear plant operators or fighter jet pilots and the like might be exceptions. But they would likely be tested whether or not the drug free workplace act applied to their employer.
posted by delmoi at 9:55 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is wrong with taking advantage? That is what everything apparently is.

This is a lot to do with the moralistic way all our economic conversations take place in the political sphere these days. There are no social programs which might empirically produce good results which can't be shot down by a hefty dose of moral outrage, and after a while empirical results take a backseat to political theater. Politically speaking in the US, letting someone go without help who might desperately need it is a much lesser sin than giving help to someone who might not deserve it. Note that this only applies to people who are already at the bottom of the income scale - those at the top get breaks too, like tax "incentives," and whether they are deserved is rarely questioned. So, we let people who are in need go without, because the worst thing we can imagine is poverty coupled with indolence, and the idea that the poor deserve their lot is entrenched in all our efforts to tackle problems, which in reality could be solved by more rational approaches to resource allocation.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:59 PM on April 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: Sorry, you're wrong. It's done, it's deliberate, and your "calm voice of reason" act isn't going to wash this time. Nor is it magically limited to unskilled labor. Some jokers called "Data Converters", in Kansas City, tried to pull this on me way back in the mid 1980's. I was there temping, and they wanted me permanently. The job was a perfect match for my skill set, and I work cheap.

Of course they didn't have enough work to pay me to do the actual tasks while they collected profits. Work was sporadic, given the nature of what they did (converting data between systems/formats). Jobs would come in demanding completion now, followed by periods of no work. I can understand why they wanted what they wanted. I can even accept that they had the brass to ask for it. The ugly part was, when I refused to accept the position, they told my temp agency that I was no good.
posted by Goofyy at 11:03 PM on April 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're quite right of course, delmoi. I only took issue because some of the guys I know with clearances groused about testing when it was implemented. I agree that testing is much more commonly used at the lower end of the job spectrum. Very often for jobs that don't really warrant testing. I think it's a cheap ploy by management to weed out "undesirables", i.e. some actual addicts but mostly recreational users who are unlikely to put up with their bullshit.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:34 AM on April 18, 2012


I think it's a cheap ploy by management to weed out "undesirables"

I can vouch for this; I have a friend who was hired as the manager of a plant some years ago, and one of the first things he did was drug test everyone. A lot of people failed; he fired the ones who weren't good workers but if you had a good record he would test you again in a month, at which point it was no longer a drug test but an intelligence test. It was quicker and easier to do it that way than to build up adequate documentation to fire the poorly performing workers and saved the company money on unemployment claims for just laying them off.
posted by TedW at 5:41 AM on April 18, 2012


those at the top get breaks too, like tax "incentives," and whether they are deserved is rarely questioned.

In our national narrative, they clearly deserve them, because they're at the top. To get to the top, you must have done something worthy; therefore, you deserve good things.

No one ever wrings their hands over the awful dependency on government largesse that must come about as a result of generous tax breaks and loopholes available to those who are at the top. It's tragic. Won't someone think of the extremely wealthy?
posted by rtha at 6:00 AM on April 18, 2012


"Politically speaking in the US, letting someone go without help who might desperately need it is a much lesser sin than giving help to someone who might not deserve it."

This is, sadly, more a general human psychological inclination than it is peculiar to US politics.

I'm reminded of one of the most notorious MetaFilter incidents of all time, involving an initiative to help a mefite that became a frenzy of investigation into honesty and worthiness. My position was a minority position, that in being charitable there will always be some amount of giving to the undeserving (by whatever definition) and that concentrating on that issue pretty much misses the entire point and, in practical terms, gums up the works of getting help to those who unambiguously need it.

The underlying dynamic of that situation and these things in general is that givers inevitably feel that the receiver has some moral obligation to them. They're owed. It can be practical (to pay it back later), but it's usually something more abstract, such as gratitude or honesty or being indisputably deserving or being virtuous. Something. Whatever it is, givers feel themselves invariably to be in a position to judge receivers.

Because for most people, giving is about themselves, not others. With regard to the undeserving, the fear is that one might be foolish, be conned — a terminology used in this thread. Are the people asking for money on the streets going to use it for drugs or alcohol? When they say they need money for food, are they lying? Maybe they're not broke and desperate at all and generate hundreds of dollars a day in begging? Maybe they're laughing at you behind your back.

These possibilities are so threatening that, for many people and perhaps most, it's reasonable to not help several deserving people so as to avoid "being made a fool of" by one undeserving. Or, for that matter, not helping any people at all to avoid such a terrible fate.

Coupled with the also-ubiquitous tendency to self-pity and feeling put-upon, that oneself deserves the charity and goodwill of others and not some grimy person of questionable character, a lot of suspicion of and ill-will toward the needy is often generated.

This is a human weakness, not something particular to the US or to the right-wing. Although, I do agree that it's quite heightened in both.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:19 AM on April 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


Let's restructure all welfare programs into rigged micro-lotteries then not tell the conservatives that everyone wins it a minimum and maximum of once every two weeks.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:08 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The huge costs savings involved in not giving people benefits makes the minor scheduling and other harassment totally worth it."

Yet another reason to support universal health care — it removes a lot of perverse incentives set up around paying employees benefits. Without having to cover health care, suddenly the training and unemployment insurance and other associated admin costs are less for one employee working full time than two working part time.
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 AM on April 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


This thread really shows and spells out why the Overton window seemingly only moves towards the authoritarian, body-policing Right these days;

Radical, authoritarian foolish-folly, unsound economics based law to use unproven, controversial, and false-positive producing, life destroying, absolutely privacy invasive drug testing... DISGUSTING, right?

Yet, this leads "progressive" leaning folks to...

DEMAND MORE EXPANSION OF AUTHORITARIAN DRUG TESTING FOR MORE PEOPLE, [ESPECIALLY IF THEY SUCCEED, like that caveat makes it "better", like such an expansion would "only catch up right wing governors who make absurd, dangerous and harmful anti-poor laws", like it wouldn't be abused, like it wouldn't be used as an anti-left, anti-progressive weapon to keep liberals out of civil service careers].

I'm saying, is it maybe not a better tactic to fight this on the premise, on the folly that it is... rather than falling into the actual goals of such a project (expansion of body-politics, further entrance of governments into the policing of the bodies of citizens, general authoritarian goals), assenting to the basis of such a proposal, look at what comes out of this, what does the world of observers see in the "comments sections" of this topic, not a denunciation of the goals, the methods and the tactics, but rather, a very VEHEMENT call to EXPAND such ridiculous, absurd and invasive testing?
posted by infinite intimation at 2:06 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know what you mean, infinite intimation, but I don't take most of the calls for widening the testing net as actually serious. I don't think people really are demanding that their governors and mayors be drug tested, people are simply using the examples of those positions to cast testing in a light that pushes testing proponents to rethink the logic of their position. It's just an effort to push pro-testing folks to the absolute logical end of their argument, and sometimes that's the best way to make a point sink in.

I'm sure if you polled most mefi users, the results would overwhelmingly favor no drug testing, period. I am sure that would remain the case even if there was a "only test rich and powerful people!!" option on this hypothetical survey.
posted by broadway bill at 3:01 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yet, this leads "progressive" leaning folks to...

...use a lot more hamburger than usual, was how I read the calls to test all legislators and the like. Not as a serious proposal, but as way to point out the absurdity of the argument that people who get taxpayer-funded benefits ought to be subjected to drug testing just because they get benefits.
posted by rtha at 3:08 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm saying, is it maybe not a better tactic to fight this on the premise, on the folly that it is... rather than falling into the actual goals of such a project (expansion of body-politics, further entrance of governments into the policing of the bodies of citizens, general authoritarian goals), assenting to the basis of such a proposal, look at what comes out of this, what does the world of observers see in the "comments sections" of this topic, not a denunciation of the goals, the methods and the tactics, but rather, a very VEHEMENT call to EXPAND such ridiculous, absurd and invasive testing?

I think it's mostly policitcal theatre. If the options for drug-testing people who get government money (where safety isn't a concern, so not pilots) are (1) no one, (2) everyone, like people on welfare and also politicians or (3) just people on welfare, then sure, that's my preferred order. But there's a huge gap between how much I want 1 and how much I want 2. And also I don't think that (2) has any chance of ever working, which is why I support it as a piece of political theatre, like I support requiring invasive exams for men who want Viagra in places where women who want abortions have invasive exams: I don't think it's a good idea in reality, but I approve of it in the contexts where it is being brought up.
posted by jeather at 3:21 PM on April 18, 2012


People are aware that the politicians passing these laws to drug test poor people would never pass laws drug testing all the politicians, so they are using hyperbole to call attention to that. They are not really saying that they think more people should be drug tested.
posted by inigo2 at 3:32 PM on April 18, 2012


A few months back, I had a couple local government officials at a meeting I attended flat out admit their new strategy for dealing with "undesirables" was to make them so unwelcome (basically legalized harassment) that they would get frustrated and move away. It was seen as cheaper and simpler than any other solution... and in fact, they'd added a few new tactics (dancing on the line of legality) this year, because other local communities had adopted similar tactics, and they had to raise the bar to stay ahead. They were careful to claim they only used these practices on criminal types, of course.

I suspect this is just Georgia trying the state-wide version of this gambit: the goal is only indirectly to save money, the real goal is to make poor people leave the state. Where will they go, and what will those bordering states come up with to stay "competitive" in this contest to see who can treat poor people the least humanely? Who cares as long as they're not in Georgia, right?
posted by Pufferish at 1:36 PM on April 19, 2012


I feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system in some way.
posted by cell divide at 2:26 PM on April 19, 2012


"I feel that there are too many people who take advantage of the system in some way."

I disagree with his comment and I agree that a lot of this stuff is motivated by irrational, emotional stuff. But I think that too much is being made of his word choice in that sentence. I don't think that anything should be made of it at all, really.

A lot of people, including myself, sometimes (or often, or always) use feel where others use think. And a lot of people use think where others use feel.

I'm not saying that the two words are, in these cases, exactly synonymous. They have slightly different connotations. But they both (in these cases) signify a cognitive perspective that is both a product of rational thought and emotion. You know, like a huge portion of all our opinions are. Myself, twenty years ago I deliberately began occasionally using feel where I'd previously used think to both take some edge off of what is often an off-puttingly dryly analytical persona, and because in truth I'm quite passionate and my feelings are very much bound up in my opinions, even those which have been carefully and deliberately rationally constructed.

The use of feel should not be seen by those inclined to be critical as some proof of irrationality, no more than the use of think should be seen by those inclined to be critical as proof of a lack of human engagement.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:29 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter whether he thinks it or feels it if there's nothing to back it up. It's not a cognitive process if there's no evidence to support it. If there is evidence, I'm more than happy to look at it and reevaluate my own perceptions. I don't know if Night_owl walked away from the thread or lost his internet access or is working three jobs, but he has not provided any further evidence for his assertions, and if he does not have any, I hope that he would not vote based on them.
posted by desjardins at 4:26 PM on April 19, 2012


Well, yeah. The substance of his argument is what matters, not that particular choice of word. I think he's wrong, you think he's wrong. That he used the word feel had pretty much nothing to do with anything.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:34 PM on April 19, 2012


I mostly walked away from the thread. I decided that, in retrospect, posting my comment was an even worse idea than I'd thought.

I don't have studies to support what I said. I have experience. I personally know people (not "I saw in a grocery store once", but actually know people) who abuse the system. But I concede the point that I don't actually know if there are a lot of people like that, or if I'm assuming that there must be a lot because I know some like that.

I got frustrated at the attacking of my word choice, because I felt like (see, here I go again) the people who were focusing on that were doing so not out of desire to make me think, but because I said something they didn't like. And if that doesn't sound like the truth, go back and look through the thread. There were other people who used the word "feel" to describe their opinions, why was my quote using the word the only one pulled out to attack?

So yeah, stepping back. Still reading the thread because there is some interesting information and conversation, but feeling tense about commenting.
posted by Night_owl at 11:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I got frustrated at the attacking of my word choice, because I felt like (see, here I go again) the people who were focusing on that were doing so not out of desire to make me think, but because I said something they didn't like. And if that doesn't sound like the truth, go back and look through the thread. There were other people who used the word "feel" to describe their opinions, why was my quote using the word the only one pulled out to attack?"

I agree with your evaluation and I didn't like that your comment was criticized in that respect. Which is why I spoke up and objected to that criticism.

But I'm also someone who had a comment deleted from this thread because I attacked people like you (I think your comment came after my deleted comment) in extreme and personal terms for your shared opinion about this because I think that opinion is wrong and toxic.

I'm not sure exactly what that juxtaposition should indicate to you, except that it's possible to very strongly disagree with you on the merits while not focusing on picayune things like the fact that you used the word feel instead of think.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:24 AM on April 20, 2012


Also, I appreciated that you obviously attempted to present your opinion in that comment in the most diplomatic, reasonable, and productive way you were able. Of examples of presentations of that particular point-of-view in this thread, yours was far-and-away the most civil and productive. Others were just obnoxious, and possibly intentionally.

But I think that I and others have explained why you're wrong on the merits (others have done a much more comprehensive job at this than I) and in this comment I think I explain some of the psychosocial factors involved in why you're inclined to what I think is a very wrong opinion.

The social consequences of these sorts of ideas and sentiments are not insignificant. They can be profound. In this particular case, I think they're deeply unjust. Deeply unjust. Hateful, even — whether or not any individual who has these ideas and sentiments was themselves particularly hateful.

Well-intentioned and good-hearted people can have wrong ideas that are harmful. I'm sure this is true about myself in numerous cases. That doesn't make the wrong ideas any less wrong or harmful or, crucially, any less deserving of censure.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:56 AM on April 20, 2012


The reason people reacted so strongly to that statement was because it's a trope* often used against the poor to deleterious effect. Similar tropes would be "i feel that black people don't work as hard on the job" or "I feel like gays more likely to sleep around." (I am not calling you racist or homophobic.) these statements push people's buttons because theyve been used for decades to deny equal rights. Some black people DO work less hard (I have worked with some) and some gay guys do sleep around. That shouldn't affect social policy, though.

Someone saying they feel that a lot of lawmakers would fail a drug test doesn't push the same buttons because lawmakers aren't a group that's systemically discriminated against.

* not sure this is the word in looking for. It's 3:30 am, I can't sleep and I'm typing on my phone.
posted by desjardins at 1:32 AM on April 20, 2012


Ivan, thanks for replying. I'm not upset that you (and the majority of the people in the thread) are calling me wrong. I knew that was going to happen before I posted my comment.

I think it's important to have discussions that challenge your beliefs. I think in some ways, that makes MeFi more useful to me than to the average user, because the average user shares similar perspectives with the general attitude of the site as a whole.

Desjardins, maybe it's because I don't often participate in these sorts of discussions online, but I had no idea that the phrasing was so common in the negative contexts you describe. I was just trying to couch my statement in the least offensive or inflammatory way possible, but I can see how that might not have come across.

Look, I think it's stupid in all the ways that humanity can be stupid that some of society looks down on those who need help. I feel compassion for people just like you do. I'm not heartless. I don't think that people who don't work, or people who are poor, or drug users, or whatever, are worth less. Is it really wrong for me to say that we should try to help the less fortunate out of their situation, rather than just survive it? Or was my whole comment derailed because of the part about people taking advantage?
posted by Night_owl at 2:32 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I concede the point that I don't actually know if there are a lot of people like that, or if I'm assuming that there must be a lot because I know some like that.

Another thing to think about is at what point does the testing of everyone on benefits do *more* good than just allowing that some small percentage is always going to try to game the system?

If you test everyone, you have to account for things like the cost of testing and the tracking of who gets tested when and how often - someone's gotta pay for that, someone's gotta keep track of it all; some people - probably many - who test positive are not addicts or dealers and are not cheating the system, so what are the consequences of making people like this ineligible for benefits? Suddenly, people who were otherwise regarded as law-abiding have become law-breakers: do they get kicked out of public housing? Do their kids get taken away? Do they get forced into treatment they may not need? Does something appear in their permanent record that makes it even harder for them to get a job or more schooling/training? Who pays for all of this?

This part of your comment in particular:

So, think about a person who is addicted to meth and has two kids and no job and sometimes spends what little money they get buying more meth to calm the pangs of their addiction. People want to give that person food stamps so at least the kids are eating. But wouldn't it be better to take 6 months, put the parent in a rehab program, give the kids a stable environment to get healthy, and then reunite the family and give the parent a job (working in the same rehab program that helped them fight the addiction, maybe)? Imagine how differently the kids could end up in those two situations.

Sure, that might be better. But a likelier scenario is that the parent turns up positive for the weed they smoke periodically. They don't need rehab because they're not addicted*. But their kids now have to go into foster care - which is really not a guarantee of a stable environment - and the parent has to take a rehab slot that they don't need that someone else might. And because of the way our system works, because they've tested positive once, they may now be ineligible for any other public benefits, which only increases their financial instability. Socially and economically, the costs of testing everyone may create more problems than exist because of the cheats. If that's the case, then "solving" the "problem" may not be the best plan.

*We also know that even if someone is an addict, just chucking rehab at them won't help if they're not ready for rehab.
posted by rtha at 6:37 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I personally know that one reason for drug use is that the working poor, who are making so little per hour that they see a bleak future unless they can somehow work an inhuman number of hours, are tempted to take something that gives them that ability. If my best bet for supporting my family was to go on zero sleep, then speed or something like it might start looking tempting. Of course I'd be foolish to tell myself that I was strong enough to handle the side effects and the potential for addiction, etc, but my hungry family might induce that foolishness. In many cases, someone on drugs might deserve extra food stamps.
posted by TreeRooster at 7:53 AM on April 21, 2012


The Whelk: "Time to sing it again! C'mon everyone join in you know the words!


Hate Hate hate hate hate the poor! Hate hate hate hate hate hate the poor! Come along and hate the poor tooonight, baby!
"
The sun beams down on a brand new day, no more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away, at last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

Gonna kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor tonight

posted by FlyingMonkey at 9:41 AM on April 21, 2012


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