I know it makes me a terrible, heartless son-of-a-bitch, but…

I get a lot of crazy email forwarded my way. Mostly it comes from family members who, I guess, feel as though I need educating. Some I look up on Snopes and debunk. Most I ignore. This one that I got today, though, got me thinking…

Basically it was a letter forwarded on from some nameless guy, somewhere, ranting about how it wasn’t fair that he had to submit to random drug testing at his job, while the unemployed folks, whom he supports with his taxes, are free to sit around all day, doing drugs. Here’s the final quote from the piece:

So, here is my question: Shouldn’t one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check because I have to pass one to earn it for them?

Putting aside the fact that the original author was probably some bitter middle aged white guy living off of government disability checks, who had probably never had to submit to a drug test in his life, I found something in it resonating with me. And, to be quite honest, that kind of terrified me… So, I thought that I’d open it up to discussion here.

And, no, I’m not suggesting that individuals suffering from drug dependencies be cut off completely from government welfare programs. I realize full well that many of those people have children that need to be fed, and, even if they didn’t, I don’t think that anyone should be cast aside to starve to death or forced into a life of crime. But, with all of that said, doesn’t it make sense that there be some minimum requirements that one must fulfill in order to participate in such programs? I know that efforts are made to ensure that people are looking for gainful employment, or taking advantage of job training programs, but would it be too much to ask that they also lay off the meth?

I can see how that might come across as a bit too Big Brotherish, and something about it doesn’t sit right with the part of me that sends annual contributions to the ACLU, but I’m not so sure that I’d protest a plan under which individuals, after a certain number of months or years on public assistance, would be screened for illicit drug use, and directed toward appropriate resources.

So, does this make me an asshole? Am I teetering on the precipice of teabaggery? Will I soon be writing letters to the editor about how disgraceful it is that our President bows to children? Do we need to organize an intervention?

[Tonight’s post was brought to you by the adult remake of The Big Lebowski.]

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  1. TeacherPatti
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    No, Mark, you are not an asshole. I have at least three kids on my caseload who have guardians who provide basic stuff for them–roof over the head, clothes–but that’s it. These guardians are getting paid for adopting these special needs kids. I find it unconscionable that these guardians will not take these kids are a free–let me repeat that FREE–pair of glasses. All these particular kids need (a set of twins and another little boy in another family) need is a good pair of glasses and they can compete in regular classes…but their guardians are unwilling to take them to the eye doctor. The eye doctor is on the bus line, they make weekend appointments…and the glasses are FREE. Forgive me for being bitter, but if those checks were dependent on getting the kids glasses, you bet your ass they’d get them to those appointments.

  2. Mike Shecket
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    You know what I always say: “Pee for urination, not for discrimination.”

    Or was it: “Don’t be a slob, pee on the job.”

    Or: “Hold in that urine, Martin Van Buren.”

  3. Peter Larson
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    You’re an asshole. No one should have to submit to a drug test for a welfare check.

    I’ve known a lot of addicts trying to clean up in my life who had to rely on food stamps to get by. Without even the laughable, minimal support provided by social services, the chance of cleaning up and moving on with life would be 0.

    I can certainly speak for myself in this regard. I won’t go into the gory details, but social services helped pull me out of the hole and into the regular world. If I had had to have taken a piss test, I’d never have been able to pull out.

  4. Peter Larson
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Besides, being on welfare sucks.

    It really sucks. These assholes who put together these emails have no clue as to how bad it is.

  5. kjc
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I’m leaning towards asshole.

  6. Robert
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    No, Mark, this doesn’t make you an asshole.

    I’m not sure what it was that did, but I know it happened way before you started thinking about this particular topic.

  7. Peter Larson
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    You’re an asshole.

    Social services are primarily aimed at kids. A child’s mother may be a drug user, but that should not prevent her from getting food stamps to feed the kids, regardless of time spent on welfare.

    The more I think about it, have you ever known anyone who has gotten any type of welfare, besides me? Have you ever been on it yourself? I seriously doubt it.

  8. the injector
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    if you feel like paying more to keep someone locked up in prison, then your hypothesis makes sense (we are talking like $32,000 per person a year). also, it may be worthwhile to research what forms of public assistance are actually being doled out to potential drug addicts. As far as I know, it is difficult to even get food stamps in this state unless you have children. And, even drug addicts need to eat…

    so define the welfare check…I say we redirect the $32,000 spent on prison lock up per individual per year to effective drug treatment programs in this state–provide that kind of public assistance instead of the prison pen public assistance.

    oh…and some of that $32,000 per year per individual could go toward more mental health treatment programs, because lots of addicts are self medicating for severe and persistent mental illnesses.

    So the roots of what cause many forms of addiction need to be paid attention to and addresses, and unfortunately, in this country and particularly in this state we have de-funded (or underfunded) community mental health programs and are using our prison system as a mental health treatment facility.

    Again, what do you mean by welfare check?

  9. Jon
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Yeah, we should punish the senior citizens with Glaucoma for using their medicinal marijuana cards.

  10. Ted
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I believe he was suggesting that they get directed toward treatment, not cut off. You might want to read it again.

  11. Posted May 4, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I’m with Peter on this: Social services are primarily aimed at kids. A child’s mother may be a drug user, but that should not prevent her from getting food stamps to feed the kids, regardless of time spent on welfare.

    It’s easy to say, oh, that lazy lousy leech shouldn’t get my tax dollars, if you’re willing to call the five-year-old who doesn’t have any choice in the matter collateral damage – and you yourself say that you’re not. (Which makes you not an asshole, ps.)

    And, even if we could expect your stereotypical unemployed drug addict to moved by the argument of “get your shit together or we cut off your kids’ food/health care/etc,” (when the kids had already obviously failed to be sufficient motivation to get off the smack in the first place), do you really want to even be somebody who makes a credible threat about letting kids starve to death because their parents’ didn’t work hard enough for you?

    And what’s the alternative? Not just the lockup costs that Injector mentions, but taking away the kids and putting them in foster care ain’t cheap either, nor necessarily a fantastic option for the kids.

    Unfortunately, the only option available that doesn’t make you an asshole is being willing mollycoddle those lazy addicts with treatment and counseling and job training (and jobs – the irony being that the workplace drug tests are themselves a barrier to recovering drug users) and all that other liberal nonsense.

    Actual solutions are a lot less pithy than bumper-sticker haiku libertarianism. But, again, your head knows that what resonates with the gut isn’t necessarily the right answer. I vote “not an asshole.”

    (And I’ve got comparisons available. I haven’t spoken to one relative in about 9 years after he seriously proposed that all schools be private, for-profit enterprises, and that the 4- and 5-year-olds whose parents couldn’t afford tuition get jobs to pay for school themselves, because it will teach them good lessons about work ethic, rather than letting them grow up to be the same lazeabouts that their parents must be. Asshole.)

  12. Glen S.
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I think this is a fine idea … as long as we ALSO drug-test every investment banker who benefits from government bailouts, every agribusiness official that benefits from farm subsidies, senior directors of companies that get big tax breaks from state or local government, owners of stadiums or sports franchises that receive taxpayer support, etc. …

  13. Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I know several people who currently get or have previously gotten welfare, EBT, WIC, etc. In all cases, the situation was reasonably similar to what TeacherPatti described. For example, a child for whom the parents were (are?) getting WIC has severe developmental problems due to malnutrition.

  14. Laura
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    You aren’t an asshole. End of story. There should be a separate TYPE of service for what Peter Larson is talking about- people who are trying to clean up, to get by, to pull out of the hole. There is a subset of people giving them a bad name, and they know that better than anyone else. They would get the help they needed a lot faster, and they would be better served.

  15. Edward
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Maybe we could put them in camps. We could call them something Orwellian, like Liberty Centers.

  16. Peter Larson
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Mark, I really don’t think you’re an asshole. Well, I do think you’re an asshole, but not in the asshole sense.

  17. TeacherPatti
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Quoting Murph:
    (And I’ve got comparisons available. I haven’t spoken to one relative in about 9 years after he seriously proposed that all schools be private, for-profit enterprises, and that the 4- and 5-year-olds whose parents couldn’t afford tuition get jobs to pay for school themselves, because it will teach them good lessons about work ethic, rather than letting them grow up to be the same lazeabouts that their parents must be. Asshole.)

    Um, I just threw up in my mouth a little. Does he want to start state run orphanages for children born out of wedlock, too? (Remember when Newt G. posited that little gem??)

    A lot of welfare is about the kids, which is why if the parents aren’t using it for the kids and the kids are suffering (see cmadler’s comment & mine), then we have some problems that need to be addressed….

  18. tommy
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Seems about even on the asshole, not an asshole question. Clementine should be the one who decides. After all, she knows everything! I suggest asking in a manner in which she can get her mind around. Something like, “Clementine, do you think I’m a doo doo butt?”

  19. Posted May 4, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Back in the day, when food stamps used to look like dollars, and I sold drugs for a living…people traded their stamps to me for drugs more than a few times. The same people would also trade stolen items. Let’s not pretend that there is no problem. That was 15 years ago…I’m sure things haven’t improved that much. I’m not saying cut anyone off who is discovered to be on drugs, but mandatory treatment is a must…for the kid’s sake. Nothing wrong with drug testing for benefits. It about saving families, not trampling rights.

  20. Kim
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    So, we have former drug addicts, prostitutes and dealers in the MarkMaynard.com audience. Anyone else want to come forward?

  21. Robert
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Kim, that actually explains a lot now that I think of it.

  22. Kim
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    There are also politicians, tea baggers and professors reading, though. It’s probably one of the more integrated places in this corner of Michigan.

    I wonder if there are terrorists, pedophile priests or people with exotic pets.

  23. Robert
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny, Kim, that you would say that there are “also” politicians, tea baggers and professors as if those groups are mutually exclusive from former drug addicts, prostitutes and dealers.

  24. Dirtgrain
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Clarification: can one be using drugs and be a recovering drug addict? Weaning?

    Should adoption agencies be allowed to require drug tests of prospective parents, denying those who fail the tests? If so, then should any drug-using parents be allowed to raise children? What sort of line should be drawn? Test positive for any illegal drug and instantly be denied welfare? Permanently? Should some drugs be categorized differently? Maybe marijuana gets a lesser consequence than heroin?

    Regarding the “welfare is about the kids” reasoning, I’m not sure that parents, on welfare, spending some of that on drugs is better for children than having those kids stay in foster homes. If parents are choosing drugs over kids . . .

    I wonder how many drug users are attempting to self-medicate (or unconsciously attempt to self-medicate). What exactly does that mean. How many are seeking pleasure? How many are avoiding pain?

    I wonder if we could develop a system were people had to do some sort of work (in cases where they are physically and mentally able) in their communities in order to receive welfare.

  25. Jules
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Given that we’re in the state of Michigan, I would think that there’s a likelihood that some of those unemployed folks had a job at one time and would like to have another. So why make an assumption right off the bat that just because someone is unemployed, they must also be a lazy drug addict? And if they were employed, didn’t they pay into the system for just such the event like the one that they’re going through? Jesus f-christ, I’m sick of compassionless idiots who send around dumb f-ing emails such as this. Btw, Michigan passed a law to do just what you’re talking about and it was ruled unconstitutional. Cam Getto was involved in the lawsuit against the state (Yay, Cam, as far as I’m concerned). Here’s a link about it being struck down http://www.talkleft.com/story/2003/04/10/879/80591

  26. kjc
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Yeah and then i want all the alcoholics, legally fucking up their kids’ lives, to come forward.

    I’d rather see, say, Wall Street do something for communities, rather than your average food stamp recipient.


  27. Fred Sandy
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    You’re an asshole, alright. Just not for this.

  28. Becky
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Seems to me that whenever there is a system in place to catch people in any kind of corner before they fall through the cracks (the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, the aged and infirm or very young) some people will abuse the system. This does not feel like a reason to unduly flagellate the system or those who depend upon it–part of a compassionate government is choosing not to abandon or degrade those who need help simply because a minority will abuse whatever help is offered. Don’t trample a lot of folks in order to root out the “guilty” among them. Seek a realistic budget for welfare and encourage good habits, but also accept a few leeches as the cost of doing good for many.

  29. Knox
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Regardless of whether or not we screen people for drugs, I think we should bring back pillories. Perhaps we could fill Water Street with them.

  30. Knox
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    And, as no one has commented on the Big Labowski tribute, I thought that I should mention that it looks pretty damned entertaining. I’m not a fan of the porn generally, but this one might be worth a few hours in the pillory. Thank you for the tip.

  31. Fujimoto Senryu
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    We should drug test people on welfare. We shouldn’t revoke their benefits if they are doing drugs, but we should offer them counseling. Plus, just the knowledge that they must submit to drug testing may make some people stop or at least modify their drug taking habits.

  32. SG
    Posted May 26, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have never ejaculated as hard, or for so long of a period. It’s been five minutes now, and it doesn’t seem to be abating.

  33. Jefferey Niethamer
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I have a subtle spin on this. I think that we should urinate ON the people who are receiving welfare, as they pick up their checks. I think that this would motivate them to find employment.

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