Left Versus Right: Two Students’ Views on Welfare in America
By: Matthew Murphy
I would like to start by saying I am not a wealthy man. I qualify for welfare but I have not taken advantage of it. This is mainly because, even though I don’t have much money, I believe that money should go to someone who needs it more. I realize that I have a great deal of privilege. I am a white, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered male with a mother and a brother that love me and help me when they have the means to. I consider myself lucky because this is not the case for many Americans across the country. Times are hard, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing each year, but there is one thing that we have to alleviate the crippling pain of poverty, welfare.
In recent years there has been a storm brewing over this topic regarding whether or not to drug test every American, remember that we all are Americans, who has fallen on hard times and needs some assistance to make ends meat. This is completely un-American. It is a sad day indeed when being poor is associated with criminality, assuming that you associate drug abuse with criminal behavior rather than a mental health issue or a biological problem like science suggests.
Firstly, the assumptions that the far right make of people on welfare are widely unfounded and simply snap judgments made to other-ize and disenfranchise the lower class. The assumption is that people on welfare are lazy and just don’t want to work, but according to The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education 73 percent of people who benefit from major government assistance live in a working family, in other words they are the working poor. The majority of the people on welfare that don’t work, 83 percent, are either children, the elderly, or persons with disabilities, according to the Huffington Post. Obviously, it could be difficult for these people listed to get jobs, due to pesky socialist government ideals like child labor laws and safety regulations. Another great misconception is that people on welfare with mooch off the government forever. This is also completely untrue, with 19 percent or welfare recipients on welfare for less than seven months and only 19.6 percent staying on welfare for more than five years. Those numbers come from The U.S. Department of Commerce, but what do they know anyway?
Secondly, the key part of this, is the drug testing. I believe that the politicians that support drug testing for welfare recipients truly believed that poor people do drugs, that’s why they are poor, and we shouldn’t give these weak and stupid people more money of which they can use to get high. I believe they thought catching these people and getting them off of welfare would save American taxpayers money. Too bad this assumption was wrong. In July of 2014, Tennessee began drug testing their welfare recipients, and they caught the guy! That’s right, only one person out of eight hundred tested positive for drugs. In Florida, only 2.6% of welfare recipients tested positive for drugs. This is considerably lower than the 8% of Florida’s non-welfare recipients who test positive for drugs. This has been the case in every state thus far that has started testing their welfare recipients. In Missouri, 38,970 people were tested and 48 tests were positive, at an estimated expense of $336,297. In Utah, 9,552 were tested and 29 testes were positive, at an estimated expense of $64,556. The list goes on, with the same appallingly low amount of positive tests, and appallingly high cost to the taxpayer. So, I say again the assumption is wrong.
These findings, in regard to drug testing welfare recipients, beg the question, can this be considered a conservative program? If the goal was to save the taxpayer money but the result of this welfare experiment is even higher cost to the taxpayer than before, what exactly are we doing here? I thought it was the basis of fiscal conservatism to save Middle America and Reagan’s silent majority their hard earned money. What has happened to conservative politics in America? These new drug testing programs that are being implemented in states across our nation are an act of discrimination and marginalization. These programs are classist and there is no other logical explanation for them at this point. I guess it has become okay to treat an entire class like criminals, make them feel worse about their situation and insult and belittle them. Why do we allow this to happen in America? I can’t say. Maybe right wing politicians want to be tough, or pander to an uneducated base. All I know is I can’t support it. I can’t and I won’t.
By: Joshua D Huckleberry
If anything today is truly remarkable, certainly the capacity for generosity seen in the entirety of the United States and how we spend our money toward those in need is near the top of the list. In 2013, the United States of America gave over $30,000,000,000 in foreign aid to developing nations, an amount far greater than the combined totals of the Scandinavian nations and other European counterparts. But this generosity pales in comparison to the wealth of aid given domestically which in 2011 exceeded $1,000,000,000,000 through the welfare programs of the federal government and the states. Programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutritional Aid Program, and the Supplemental Security Income all in conjunction with other welfare programs run by both the federal government and states hand out this tremendous bounty of aid to those in need throughout the whole of the United States.
However, sadly, in this wonderful apple of American generosity there does exist a worm eating through its core. A report by researchers at the University of Michigan found that over twenty percent of recipients of welfare program subsidies were using illicit narcotics during the time in which they were receiving funds from the American taxpayer through these programs. Furthermore, the study found that those receiving the taxpayer funded handouts were far more likely to be engaged in illegal drug use than those who did not receive subsidies even after accounting for variables such as race, education, geographic region, and other such modifiers. Other studies confirm the UM report’s findings, asserting that consistent drug use among a significant portion of welfare recipients is far from unheard of and remains a detriment to their ability to attain and retain employment.
The sad reality is that with a nation as generous as the United States, there is often a chance that within benevolent action there will persist opportunities to be taken advantage of by those with a lack of consideration for the charitable efforts of their countrymen. This is obviously not something to be taken lightly.
As stated before, the United States is the most generous nation on the face of the earth. She gives more, clothes more, feeds more, and shelters more untold numbers of downtrodden people both within her borders and outside of them than any one country in the history of human civilization. Behind that generosity, laboring tirelessly to provide the capacity for the expansion of the public good, is the American taxpayer, an unsung hero of selflessness. Yet his generosity is betrayed by those who use the funds from welfare programs to engage in illegal drug use.
Some states have taken measures to see to it that the taxpayer is treated fairly, that they are no longer taken advantage of. Maine was one of them, instituting a randomized drug test for welfare recipients. Of the fifteen recipients randomly selected for tests, only two reported for their screening with one failing the drug test. While some declared the drug screening a failure for the proven drug use of only one of the fifteen, it should be noted by all concerned parties that thirteen of the fifteen did not report for their drug screening at all, choosing to stay home rather than fulfill the obligation required by law. For all we know, had all shown up as they were required by state law to, it could have resulted in fourteen failing the screening which would have resulted in a 93% drug use rate in those screened rather than the current 50%.
Regardless of the Maine drug screening, the reality of the matter is that what needs to be at the forefront of domestic policy is a true and unyielding respect for the American taxpayer, a person who has surrendered large portions of their life, their time, and their money and given them to those in need. When a welfare recipient, a person who is living on the money and generosity of the taxpayer, uses taxpayer funds to procure narcotics, they are delivering a slap to the face of their countrymen. Drug screening for welfare benefits is not a predatory measure, it is not an attack on the poor, and it is certainly not an attempt to harm other Americans. It is an act that is done to ensure that the American family who could have put their tax money to their little girl’s college education, or to new shoes for the family, or just going to see the grandparents in Iowa, is above all other things respected for the sacrifices they make for others in this nation. Because is it truly fair for even one person to steal from their countrymen? Is it fair for the honest middle class workingman to pay for somebody’s high? Any sane person will tell you it isn’t. The truth is that these screenings are not political goals, but rather moral imperatives to preserve the essential mutual respect necessary for this generous society’s continued survival.