Want government assistance? Just say no to drugs.With 80 million baby boomers hitting reaching retirement age over the next couple of decades, the 70 million Gen Xers following them are going to have a much heavier dependent-to-worker load than their parents did. With more than 40% of births in the US now being to non-Asian minorities (and the consequent rise in the number of children born out of wedlock and into poverty), the nation's per capita human capital is decreasing. The US continues to run a perpetual trade deficit that has probably only been temporarily reduced due to a sharp drop in oil prices, while the federal government plans on spending $4 trillion--nearly $2 trillion above and beyond what it takes in--in 2009 alone. The seeming capriciousness of governmental bailouts has prescient people previously ignored predicting a decade or more of malaise similar to what Japan experienced through the nineties and into the present.
Lawmakers in at least eight states want recipients of food stamps, unemployment benefits or welfare to submit to random drug testing. ...
"Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs," said Craig Blair, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature who has created a Web site — notwithmytaxdollars.com — that bears a bobble-headed likeness of himself advocating this position. "If so many jobs require random drug tests these days, why not these benefits?"
Blair is proposing the most comprehensive measure in the country, as it would apply to anyone applying for food stamps, unemployment compensation or the federal programs usually known as "welfare": Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Women, Infants and Children.
Lawmakers in other states are offering similar, but more modest proposals.
On Wednesday, the Kansas House of Representatives approved a measure mandating drug testing for the 14,000 or so people getting cash assistance from the state, which now goes before the state senate. In February, the Oklahoma Senate unanimously passed a measure that would require drug testing as a condition of receiving TANF benefits, and similar bills have been introduced in Missouri and Hawaii. A Florida senator has proposed a bill linking unemployment compensation to drug testing, and a member of Minnesota's House of Representatives has a bill requiring drug tests of people who get public assistance under a state program there.
These lawmakers are moving at the right time, under a collapsing sky. The time is ripe for the Republican party to reassert itself as the enforcer of green eye-shade conservatism.
How about this as an idea for a campaign ad that could be replicated by Congressional challengers across the country in the 2010 election cycle? A woman who looks like Roseanne comes into a convenience store yelling at her uncontrolled hellions, before going up to the counter to buy cigarettes, liquor, and lottery tickets with her food stamp card. A narrator along the lines of Robert Stack sternly says, "Ask [sitting Congressman] why he supports giving taxpayer money to the poor for the purchase of cigarettes and booze. Congressman, is this what you intended when you voted for last year's spending bill with its $3 billion increase in temporary welfare benefits, on top of the $20 billion we are already spending?"
It may come as a surprise that food stamp cards can be used for cash purposes. Since 2004, all 50 states and DC have participated in the EBT (electronic benefits transfer) program. Beneficiaries are given what is essentially a debit card that transfers funds from a federal account to retailers. Additionally, it may be used at ATMs. Recipients have two separate balances; one for food, restricted to items that are not supposed to be immediately consumable, and another that may be used on anything, including vices like those depicted in the hypothetical ad.
The amounts received for each balance are contingent upon state laws, and finding out total distributions at the state or federal levels is difficult (it has proven so for me, anyway). But I suspect few people realize welfare benefits can be used to buy Kools and Steel Reserve. Further, I imagine the vast majority of those who become aware of it happening will disapprove of it.