Monday, April 30, 2012

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish Conservative Ideology

So have you noticed the huge increase in drug addicted applicants applying for public support? No? Neither has anyone else. Yet, among the proposals of some conservatives is to drug test applicants for welfare.

Why? Well, quite frankly, it's another one of those legislative sleights of hand meant to address offenses that are the figments of the imaginations of its supporters. You know, like 'welfare queens' driving Cadillacs (Reagan's invention); Rapist Willie Horton, terrorizing the country side while on furlough (George H.W. Bush and Lee Atwater's contrivance) and the foreign born non-citizen assuming the identity of a conscientious American citizen in order to stand in line and vote (the fictitious villain of the 2012 GOP).

The other one is the heroin-crack-meth addict who is trying to apply for unemployment...

Now of course, this is all done in under the guise of fiscal responsibility. We have to stop these people before they drain the national coffers, because its these poor people who are the one sapping the economic vitality of the U.S.

But it is again, the habit of blaming the poor for the economic woes of this country.

Pulitzer Prize columnist Cynthia Tucker has it right when she says, "Poor people are useful during political season."

"Politicians offer up the impoverished to distract from the myriad problems for which their platforms propose no workable solutions: Is the treasury awash in red ink? Are there too many demands on a shrinking government purse? Then let’s tighten up on largesse for the very poor."

"Never mind that traditional welfare programs barely make a dent in federal spending. Middle-class voters are eager to hear plans that aim the budget-cutting ax away from the entitlement programs, such as Medicare, which have a large constituency among the well-heeled."

"After all, voters, like political candidates, find it useful to point the finger at the less fortunate. The impoverished serve to remind the rest of us of our obvious moral superiority, of our wise choices, of our supreme good judgment in not being born poor."

"That’s why the current season has brought another round of the faddish insistence on mandatory drug tests for beneficiaries of welfare. Nathan Deal, Georgia’s Republican governor, has become the latest political leader to get in on the mischief-making, signing a bill passed by the GOP-dominated Legislature that would require drug tests for recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families."

"In places where conservative policymakers tend to gather — such as meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council — proposals such as this are offered up in lieu of legislation that might actually reduce spending or boost government efficiency or improve the lives of the poor."

"Mitt Romney, the likely GOP nominee for president, has endorsed the idea. In February, congressional Republicans refused to pass an extension of unemployment benefits until the legislation allowed states to require drug tests for the jobless."

And Tucker proves how ridiculous this thinking is when she reports the results of such laws when placed in effect...

"...[Florida] GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed the drug-test requirement last year."

"Though conservatives insist that the measure will save money, it didn’t in the Sunshine State. It didn’t reduce welfare rolls or uncover a culture of meth- or crack-addicted “welfare queens.”"

"According to Florida state documents released last week, only 108 of the 4,086 would-be beneficiaries who were tested from July to October of last year failed. (The documents were released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which obtained them as a result of a lawsuit against the drug-testing requirement. The ACLU notes that the law violates the Fourth Amendment ban against unreasonable search and seizure.)"

"That’s 2 1/2 percent, folks — a far smaller percentage of drug users than among the general population. According to last year’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by the federal government, 10 percent of Americans reported regularly using illegal drugs."

"Since taxpayers pay for the drug tests and since the requirement is likely to continue generating lawsuits, it will end up costing more in the long run. But it’s pretty clear that this idea was never about saving money or helping the poor. Quite the opposite: It’s another in a long list of mean-spirited proposals to inconvenience and intimidate the impoverished, as if their lives are not already difficult enough."

Of course there is real fraud to which conservatives could turn their attention...

Medicare billing fraud costs tax payers about $60 billion a year. That's fraud by medical professionals. If Florida Governor Rick Scott were serious, he'd realize that the money he used to test 4000 people applying for unemployment, would have better been used helping the feds catch those who fraudulently filing Medicare claims for HIV/AIDS victims. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 72% of the nations claims came from South Florida. Of course the problem is only 8% of the HIV/AIDS Medicare beneficiaries actually LIVE in South Florida. 

But of course, we're not talking about the poor, now are we? 

Our problem is that it is to easy to mask our political expediency in garbs of 'concern' for the poor and the 'morality' of fiscal conservatism. We want to be distracted by simplistic arguments that will help us avoid the discomfort of caring and actually thinking. The poor are easy targets for that type of distraction - and our politicians know it...

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