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.....................................................................................................Lack of Content Warning.............................................................................................................. I have been tasked with pointing out the blindingly obvious to those readers who have never heard of hyperbole or encountered humor in their day to day lives. The Angry Redneck Liberal is a character. A literary device by which I share my sincere policy views through the persona of a (usually, but not always) loud, profane, extreme and often-times offensive character. No one in their right mind takes his outrageous comments at face value. Rational, intelligent adults accept his schtick as an integral part of what makes him an (occasionally) entertaining read. Sometimes, a shocking statement is necessary to make a point, focus the reader's attention on a preceding point or (more often than not) just to get a cheap laugh. I made the Angry Redneck Liberal for that reason, and he performs his task admirably. I stand by every position I have put forth here. I hope you find it to be both a source of humor and food for thought.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Florida's Drug Testing Law

          I want to preface this article by saying that I do not advocate  people having the right to use illegal drugs.  I don't think people should have the right to do something just because they want to.  I don't care if people use drugs, but I don't approve.  Yes, I am aware of the damage done by legal drugs and the relative safety of marijuana, I just don't care.  I have a fairly simple rule of thumb when it comes to intoxicating substances:  If it's illegal, I don't have anything to do with it.  If you don't like the fact that your drug is illegal, you should lobby the government to change its legality.  When you have successfully completed this task, I will remove your drug from my list of substances that I frown upon.

          That said, I do not support the new law in Florida which states that recipients of government welfare benefits have to pass a drug test.  I see the Governor's point, ie: the State should not be subsidizing the lifestyles of drug users, but I think it's a stupid insulting law.

          I see no real benefit to this.  Are they going to offer taxpayer-subsidised counseling and treatment to those who fail these tests?  Of course they aren't.  All they are trying to do is scare people away from the programs to lessen the costs of administering them.  It's the same reason that Worker's Compensation insurance companies often require a drug test to be administered whenever someone gets injured on the job.  They hope like hell that the joint your pizza cook smoked last week will be enough of a mitigating circumstance that they won't have to pay for the burns he received when the pizza oven blew up.  It sure as hell didn't blow up because he got high a few days ago, but the fine print on the policy tries to infer that it did.  I've worked at restaurants where head chefs (actual credentialed, salaried food artists, mind you) chose to treat 2nd and 3rd degree chemical and grease burns themselves rather than go to the hospital because they would be automatically drug tested by security before the ambulance would be called.  The insurance would probably pay for the treatment (some years and a civil lawsuit later), but their job would automatically be forfeit for testing positive for an illegal drug.  It's a win-win for the company and the insurer.  No claim is filed and rates stay low.  The only loser is the injured employee.

          That's how this plan in Florida will work, except it is even more insidious.  In addition to scaring off people who fear they will be turned in to the cops (I am and have been poor, I know the way we think.  We have been instilled with a persecution complex since birth.  Ever wonder why poor folks don't call the police very often?  It's because the police (as agents of the State) have been the enforcers and brutalizers of our impoverished forebears for generations) by the social workers or be somehow publicly scapegoated.  Will there be a special door for people who fail the test to exit through?  Perhaps down a long, windowed hall where everyone can see the "dangerous, irresponsible drug user who doesn't care enough about his own children to set a decent example"?  Don't tell me it's not like that.  Ever see someone arrested for a petty crime at Toys "R" Us?  They take them from the office (25 feet from the front door) and walk them, in handcuffs, all the way to the back of the store and all the way around to get back to the front.  It's called a "perp-walk" and it's a shitty fucking thing to do to some kid that lifted a DS game or a teenage employee who fell victim to temptation while handling thousands of dollars in cash a day.  Beyond embarrassment, the "perp-walk" also serves as a deterrent.  "See this kid?", the policeman seems to be saying to you as he leads the crying, shackled boy past his friends and curious onlookers.  "He's betrayed the trust given to him.  It's a slap in the face to his family, his community and to hard-working people.  This could be you, you know.  And it will be if you don't straighten up."  Hell,  I get clammy palms if I drive past a Highway Patrol car on the highway and I'm never doing anything wrong.  How much more paranoid would I be if I had broken a law?

          That's not where my outrage on behalf of the underprivileged ends, though.  I am most offended by the provision in the law which requires the benefits applicant to pay for the test up front.  Sure, if they pass, they can get reimbursed, but that doesn't do a bit of fucking good.  People who require government assistance DON'T HAVE ANY FUCKING MONEY!!  If they had money, they wouldn't need government assistance.  And don't give me that "They can afford cell phones and Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, they should be able to pay for their own tests!"  You're right.  They should.  They can't.  They are poor.  The poor (and I include myself in this) don't have the best money management skills.  If you live from hand to mouth, you tend to buy things and make financial decisions without seriously considering the long-term financial ramifications.  "Payday loan til I get my Disability check?  Ain't got no choice, the lights get turned off next Friday."  "Ten percent check-cashing fee?  Well, I can't get a checking account, what choice do I have?"  Poor folks do buy a lot of crap, but it's not because they're irresponsible.  It's because they are regular people.  Regular people want stuff.  They shouldn't always buy it, but they do.  Everybody does.  We are a consumer culture. Poor folks are no less susceptible to advertising than middle class consumers. They may be even more so, given our society's demonization of the appearance of poverty.  As a kid, I saved up for weeks at my farm job to buy a pair of Levi's which cost 4 times as much as Rustlers, because I didn't want to look as poor as I was.  I can't excuse this behavior, but I also can't fault it.

          I wonder how many people (with no drugs in their system) won't get their test and forego their benefits because they couldn't scrape up the cash in time?  Don't tell me it won't happen.  I've seen people have kids they couldn't afford to raise because they couldn't scrape up 400 bucks for an abortion, do you think this would be any different?  Most folks, if they need an abortion or a drug test, would get the money somewhere, but poor folks only know poor folks.  Who are they gonna borrow money from?  The person that wants ten bucks to drive them to the test?  The other poor folks in line?  Governor Scott?  Hey! I know!  They should open a micro-loan center at each lab.  That way, anyone who's short the testing fee can pay it back out of their benefit when they are reimbursed!  It's a win-win!  I mean, as long as the goal is to keep taxpayer money out of drug users' hands as opposed to just cutting mandatory entitlement programs through extraordinary, duplicitous measures then that should be a fine compromise.  Florida drug tests teachers and state employees without making them pay for the tests, why wouldn't they do the same for benefit recipients?  Because they (the legislative proponents of this law) are pseudo-Randian, anti-welfare corporatists who know that drug use is both easily demonized in the realm of Public Opinion and concentrated in the lower economic classes at a much higher rate than in the general population.  Fomenting an anti-poor mindset in Florida residents under the guise of an anti-drug campaign, they hope to cut services to said poor while keeping the tax rates of their wealthy donors low.  It's kind of like the current mood among Republicans in the federal government with the difference being that these policies are intended to hurt only the poor, as opposed to the RNC's plan to hurt all Americans not in the 98th wage percentile.

     Hey Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature! Here's an idea. Want more money to meet your states obligations?  Raise taxes.  Oh, wait.  You don't even have a state income tax.  Or property tax on vehicles. Or mandatory vehicle inspections.  There's a huge revenue opportunity there. You just need to go after it.  We have all those things here in North Carolina and your residents can't seem to flee from there to here fast enough.  We really appreciate your efforts in driving your population north to further fund our schools, roads and benefit programs, if that was your intention, well done. Of course, our state also has its share of funding issues at the moment, mainly caused by the recession and currently attempting to be exacerbated by  your ideological brethren who assumed control of our State Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction last Fall.  That won't last long.  We have a tough Democratic Governor who keeps their idiocy in check and the good people of North Carolina, who are not in the business of punishing people for their own misfortune, will send those jackasses back to whatever local branch bank they came from in 2012.

I only hope the good people of Florida will do the same for you.

Tim

7 comments:

  1. @ Greg: You only say that because you spent over two decades living there.

    @ Kimm: Thank you and thanks for taking the time to comment

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  2. Thanks Tim--as a teacher in an inner-city school where 100% of our kids are on free breakfast and lunch, I've got to add one other way this legislature embarrasses Florida--it will starve a whole lot of innocent, NOT drug-addicted children. Way to go, Governor Voldemort.

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  3. Wow, before I read your post here, the big reason I had to be virulently opposed to the Great Florida Drug Test was because the Governor himself will benefit financially. Well, technically it's the Governor's wife who will benefit, since he transferred his shares of Solantic to her, TO AVOID A CONFLICT OF INTEREST?! ROFLMAO!

    Glad to get a whole different dimension on the issue, thanks!

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  4. You sir, are quite fucking awesome.

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  5. Why, thank you. I am certain that you are, as well.

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