Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Soundbite Legislation For a Soundbite Nation

Last week I wrote about how facts don't always persuade people to see thing differently. I'd like to continue this meme for a moment. I believe that right now, more or less, we are legislating and processing legislation through soundbite.  If it sounds good in 15 words or less, then it must be good.  If it can be said succinctly on a bumper sticker and fits your political philosophy, then it's clear and easy to understand; simple and, thus, correct.  But often when you break such an idea down, it doesn't always work the way someone thinks it does.
For example, on my motherhood board, a poster asked about welfare recipients and drug tests. Should people be receiving welfare in Florida without first being drug tested? Well, the legislation passed and welfare recipients in the state are now being manditorily drug tested.  The comments from both sides of the spectrum were interesting on this one.

What you find is: most who have little to no experience with welfare or public assistance or know anyone who has gone through it seem to have no problem with PA recipients getting drug tested. They have to for their jobs. Why shouldn't those getting money from the government be using their benefits for drugs?!  

Commenter: Any job I have ever had I have been drug tested, they did a hair test for my current one! That being said, I am all for people on PA being drug tested. Why? Because if they have the money to spend on drugs they have the money to buy their own groceries, pay their own bills, and pay their own insurance. After all, your not really seriously looking for a job if your abusing drugs are you? 
Commenter: I was drug tested when I started my job, why shouldn't they? Seems only fair.
Commenter: They should be and being on assitance should NOT be a lifelong option, it should be viewed as a short term, help my life get out of a rut!I am not sure why this isn't mandatory anyway, every time my husband has been offered a job he had to prove he was not on drugs to get the job! For him to EARN/work for money for our family....crazy how this system is so skewed.

Those who have some experience with public assistance, regardless of political ideology, seem to tend to say, "You might want rethink this…" It breaks down into a few categories:

1. Cost savings are negliable.  Whose going to administrate the test? And if you see this kind of fraud happening so regularly, would testing them in order to take offenders off the rolls really save money?

Commenter: Well, it was designed to "Save taxpayers dollars" and we have saved...drum roll please....negative 45,000 (I think that was the last figure any who).
Commenter: All this sounds great and fine, but it will add a huge cost to implement. Not only do you have to pay the people who are administering the test (watching the peeing so no one can cheat), but also those who transport the specimens to the lab, the lab technicians who run the tests, the second set of technicians who "confirm" "dirty" tests (every dirty test is run through again to confirm) and then the people who process the paperwork and file the results in each claimant's file and then the ones to do the paperwork to terminate benefits. 
It is a whole lot of man hours and associated cost. People are screaming now about how much the welfare system costs - it will be much worse if they tried to do this.

2. So we drug test them and they test positive. What then? What happens to the kids? 

Commenter: So a welfare recipient tests positive for some form of drug and then what happens? Their welfare benefits are taken away so now they can't feed and clothe their kids. So the kids are taken away and now they are in "The System". The System pays a foster parent (or two) 4 times more than the welfare amount to care for the kids. How does that make sense? 
We want to throw mandatory drug tests on top of all of this? How much more hoop jumping do we need? How much more do we need to PROVE that we need assistance? That our children NEED food on the table and health insurance? That we need help getting community college job training paid for because of repeated "rainy days" depleting our rainy day funds? How do you prove need like that when all anyone wants to think is, "I'll bet they're doing drugs."

3. You can get around the drug test easily if you're really on hard drugs. So who does it really help? And then isn't a drug addict worthy of help too?

Commenter: I have had several "friends" (sarcastic quote marks!) who were on public assistance and were addicts. ALOT of the harder drugs don't stay in your urine for more then a couple days. If someone knows they have a drug test they wait a couple days then go back to drugs (sometimes a stronger amount leading to more overdoses, oh and have you ever been in an ER around the first of the month after SS checks go out. Flooded with overdoses) Addicts are very good at getting around things. Plus why take away certain programs that could help them get off drugs? Such as medicaid for treatment….
Commenter: i don't think that needing aid is in and of itself suspicious. and if lindsay lohan can live big while jet-setting, do we really feel that a beaten-down dad who cannot find a job, and whose wife is home with 4 hungry and maybe sick kids, and takes solace in a doobie, is not worthy of some help? 
Commenter: I don't see how it makes sense. Does someone who is a drug addict somehow not need food? Or shelter? We have as a society decided that either it is morally wrong for us to allow people in our country to starve to death or that it is simply uncomfortable for the well off among us to have to see starving people dying on the street. Either way we have decided to provide them with food, some medical care and shelter. Hopefully also education, job training and drug rehabilitation so they can stop being dependent upon us taxpayers. I fail to see how drug users would not still have these needs or why if we provide help to the 'morally upstanding poor' we would not provide them to people with addiction (a medical condition).There are also very few jobs where drug testing seems to make any sense. Of course pilots should not be high on the job. But do I care if my supermarket checker smokes pot on the weekend? Not my business
4. Then you have those who are living through public assistance right now. They really know the system and like it or not, it's tough. Now you want to add getting a drug test to all the hoops you have to go through just to get the aid? 

Commenter: My first thought - if only it were that easy. To answer your question directly, I don't mind the requirement and I'm sure most on assistance wouldn't also. However, I'm not entirely sure it's going to fix any problems and I do question seriously the cost effectiveness. Based entirely on my experience the system as a whole is a broken dadgum mess run by bunch of utter idiots who epitomize government employees at their dead level worst….. I have privately wondered how on earth people defraud either system. They are such a time sucker to even stay on them and the rules are so freaking arbitrary. At the end of it all I know my mother wouldn’t object to peeing in a cup to prove she’s not doing anything wrong other than trying to get by. It’s just one more hoop to jump through for a person who has worked her entire adult life but is now stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Commenter: The children in this country that are below poverty level are hungry. We are sending aid to countries that will stab us in the back given the right opportunity, but we are making it harder and harder for Americans to get enough food to eat. Jobs are going to illegal aliens, Americans cannot find jobs that will even pay their rent. Minimum wage won't cove basic needs in a family.
What I see here is that sometimes ideas may sound like they make sense, are reasonable and simple to implement, i.e., drug testing welfare recipients. Upon further thought and through experience, what looked like simplicity in reality only serves to add complication within a system already fraught with complication. When one has experience with a thing, one can talk. Many people pontificate about stuff that they don't really know anything about. Then they advocate legislation without truly thinking through the implications because it satisfies a certain philosophy. I don't pretend to be an expert, but I can read and I can think. This kind of soundbite legislation is one of the major problems confounding our society today. And you can get a solid idea of just how much simply by listening to the wisest people on earth: Moms.

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