Pajama Journal


Faded-Flannel, Fluffy-Sock Journalism

The Unacceptable Costs of Drug Testing Welfare Applicants

On: July 31st, 2011 at 8:51 pm | In: Constitutional Law

By Deborah Mackto

Florida has been hit hard by the deterioration of the nation’s economic condition. The recession and resulting unemployment has created the need for more families to apply for public assistance during a time when the State is facing significant budget deficits. On May 31st of this year Governor Richard Scott signed legislation into law that requires all applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to submit to, pay a fee for and pass a drug test by urine sample. Governor Scott said, “It’s the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs” (Florida Governor Signs Welfare Drug-screen Measure). However, testing welfare applicants violates the United States Constitution, causes catastrophic emotional and financial hardship on our neediest citizens, fails to address Florida’s most dire drug dependency problem and wastes tax dollars at a time that we can least afford it. The potential benefits of this legislation are dwarfed by the costs and negative consequences.

The negative consequences will be catastrophic to families who are the victims of false positive tests. The cost of potential false positive tests cannot be ignored.  An example is found in the case of Elizabeth Mort. Elizabeth is not a drug user but because she ate an “Everything Bagel” containing poppy seeds two hours before she went into labor, her baby was taken from her only one day after her birth. The hysterical and confused parents were given no information on where their baby was taken and for five agonizing days did not know what had gone wrong or what to do about it. Nothing will repair the emotional scars caused by a flawed policy and a false positive drug test (Sullum). Under the new law the neediest of Florida’s citizens, those least able to defend themselves, will face the same kind of nightmare simply because they need financial assistance. Catastrophic emotional consequences due to false positive drug tests are not an acceptable risk to a civil society.

A civil society cannot assume that its least fortunate people, those who are in need of financial aid, are wasting aid dollars on drugs. A study by the University of Florida indicates that welfare recipients are no more likely to be drug abusers than the general population (Crew, Davis). The same study tells us that 97 percent of those tested will pass a drug screening.  Opiates and other dangerous drugs leave the body quickly, some in as little as one day (Drugs of Abuse Reference Guide).  A determined drug abuser would only need to abstain from drug use for a few days to pass drug testing.

Just as the most determined drug abuser will not be hampered by drug testing, the most dangerous and pervasive drug of this decade is not addressed by the legislation because this drug is a product of the pill-mills prescribing Oxycontin (Collins). Drug abusers of Oxycontin have prescriptions from these pill mills and will pass drug screenings.  For these reasons the most serious and dangerous drugs are missed or excluded by drug testing while the innocent ingestion of a poppy seed muffin will cause families to be entangled in the underfunded Department of Children and Families with devastating consequences. In the small number of cases where an applicant with a serious drug problem tests positive for an illegal drug, the law only requires they be given a pamphlet with treatment information. According to the official legislative summary of the law it does not provide for treatment, counseling or resources of any kind to rehabilitate the offender (”Florida House of Representatives - Documents”).

In addition to being ineffective against real drug users and ignoring the legality of our most common drug abuse, the law is unconstitutional. The legislative summary declares that, “The bill raises important constitutional questions related to the permissibility of suspicionless drug testing as a condition of public assistance.”  Indeed there have been numerous court rulings declaring similar suspicionless drug testing unconstitutional and a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America (Drug Testing of Public Assistance Recipients as a Condition of Eligibility). The Fourth Amendment protects us against search and seizure without probable cause. The collection of urine and other bodily fluids by government agencies is considered search and seizure and is prohibited unless there is reasonable suspicion, a warrant, or when a concern for public safety is present. The state of Michigan attempted random testing of welfare recipients citing the special condition of public safety and was challenged in court by the ACLU. The Court ruled that there was not a public safety issue that would exempt Michigan from the prohibition against warrantless search and seizure. Michigan’s law was struck the law down as unconstitutional and since that ruling no other state has attempted drug testing of welfare recipients without cause. (Marchwinski v. Howard quot. in ACLU).

Unlike Michigan, Florida is not attempting to make a case for a public safety condition and rather than random testing has ordered blanket testing of all applicants. This is a blatant violation of the intent of the Fourth Amendment which the ACLU has pledged to challenge. It is widely believed that the courts will again rule against suspicionless search and seizure. It will be a disastrous erosion of our constitutional rights if the law is not struck down. If such an unlikely event were to occur it is certain that anyone receiving public assistance of any kind will eventually be subject to random or blanket drug testing including but not limited to unemployment benefits, subsidized housing, Medicaid, Medicare, disability, health care vouchers, student loans and Pell grants. If the sacrifice of constitutional rights is allowed because politicians, however well-intentioned find it convenient to do so, we stand to lose the foundation upon which our country was founded and the freedom we too often take for granted in America.

A dollar value cannot be place on freedom. Governor Scott’s remarks after signing the bill tell us that his motivation is to save tax dollars. He was elected based on promises to cut costs. Given the mood of the electorate and the legislature that sent the bill to him can be assumed to have similar motivation. Indeed it is a fact that tax-payers want to save money and that the State must reduce waste. With the current budget crunch many people are frustrated with government waste. Nobody wants to see tax money spent on illegal drugs when it could be used to hire teachers, improve infrastructure or reduce debt. It is easy to see why someone who hears about the law initially may believe it is a good idea, but when the facts and figures are analyzed it becomes clear that rather than saving tax-payer money, this law will have a high net cost to Florida tax-payers.

It may seem that having welfare applicants pay a fee for their own drug test would prevent the program from costing the state money however most aid applicants will pass the drug tests and under the law the state will reimburse them the fee. The cost of testing alone is conservatively estimated at between $560,000 to $1,400,000 with some estimates as high as $44,000,000 per year (Miller, Hendrie). The financial cost of administration of the testing program is not addressed in the legislation nor have resources been allocated for it.  The Department of Children and Families has been charged with the responsibility of implementing and administering tests as well as investigating when an applicant tests positive. DCF will have to decide who can be designated as a payee for the dependents of the applicant until the applicant is able to pass the test. This means a social worker must be assigned to interview family members. The Department of Children and Families has the primary responsibility of making sure children are not in danger so in the case of positive test results investigations must be done to ensure children are not in a dangerous environment. That will cost additional money and mistakes will be made. There are in fact, no financial savings at all associated with this law. Even when a welfare applicant tests positive the Department of Children and Families will investigate and designate an alternate payee for the dependents and benefits will still be paid (Florida House of Representatives – Documents). The law requiring the testing of welfare applicants has only net costs and those costs are too high.

            The costs of our constitutional rights, the cost of the devastating emotional consequences of false positives and the financial cost to implement, administer and defend it are unacceptable. Government cannot, according to the United States Constitution, subject our poorest citizens to unreasonable search and seizure based solely on financial need. The state of Florida cannot afford the waste of tax dollars on flawed legislation that will hurt its citizens and create a bureaucratic administrative disaster. We cannot afford the cost of our humanity. We cannot denigrate the rights of our neediest people. As Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Roger Mahoney and other great leaders have expressed, a humane society has an obligation to its least fortunate, an obligation we must all heed as we may one day find ourselves among them.

Works Cited

 

Barnett, Ron. “States Seek to Link Public Assistance, Drug Testing - USATODAY.com.” News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World - USATODAY.com. USA TODAY, 19 Apr. 2011. Web. 11 July 2011.

Collins, Thomas R. “South Florida and Oxycodone: Invasion of the Pill Mills - TIME.” TIME U.S. TIME Magazine, 13 Apr. 2010. Web. 30 July 2011.

Crew, Robert, and Belinda Creel Davis. “Substance Abuse as a Barrier to Employment of Welfare Recipients.” Journal of Policy Practice 5.4 (2006): 69-82. Print.

“Drug Testing of Public Assistance Recipients as a Condition of Eligibility.” American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU, 8 Apr. 2008. Web. 10 July 2011.

“Drugs of Abuse Reference Guide.” LabCorp. Occupational Testing Services, 2007. Web. 30 July 2011.

“Florida Governor Signs Welfare Drug-screen Measure.” Cnn.com. CNN, 1 June 2011. Web. 11 July 2011.

“Florida House of Representatives - Documents.” Florida House of Representatives - MyFloridaHouse.gov. 11 May 2011. Web. 10 July 2011.

Miller, T. and Hendrie, D. Substance Abuse Prevention Dollars and Cents: A Cost-Benefit Analysis, DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 07-4298. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008. Web. July 10, 2011

Sullum, Jacob. “Poppy seed peril: eat a bagel, lose your baby.” Reason Mar. 2011: 11. General Reference Center Gold. Web. 8 July 2011.

“Urine Drug Screen: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. 22 June 2011. Web. 11 July 2011.

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The Greatest Political Evil…

On: February 19th, 2010 at 1:57 pm | In: Politics, Congress, Constitutional Law

…remains unchecked.

My hopes for a united United States continues to smolder deep in a pile of wasted ash. In the next election I may just vote against every incumbent running; Unless their opposition is too repugnant to pull the lever.

Where are the founding fathers when you need them?

 “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, it to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
—John Adams

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A Letter From The New President - To His Daughters

On: January 15th, 2009 at 10:33 am | In: Obama
Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you’ve both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn’t have let you have. But I also know that it hasn’t always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn’t make up for all the time we’ve been apart. I know how much I’ve missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me—about how I’d make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn’t seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn’t count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours. In the end, girls, that’s why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.

I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential—schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college—even if their parents aren’t rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you’ll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other.

Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country—but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free—that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.

She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better—and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It’s a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you’ve had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much—although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you—to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That’s why I’ve taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

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Yay!

On: November 5th, 2008 at 9:46 am | In: Election 08

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A Scientific Analysis of Recent Polling Data

On: September 16th, 2008 at 10:04 pm | In: Election 08, Uncategorized

Obama's Is Bigger

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It’s Over

On: May 7th, 2008 at 11:56 am | In: Election 08, Politics, Clinton

And Hillary knows it. At this point we can only speculate why she has declared her intention to campaign in West Virginia and Oregon this next week. My guess is that she hopes to recoup some of the millions she donated to herself.

Her victory/concession/donate@hillaryclinton.com speech in Indianapolis last night reminded me of when Oral Roberts declared God told him he would die if he didn’t raise some number of millions of dollars. Back then my pastor, Wayne Smith, promoted a bumper sticker reading: “Send Oral To Heaven In 87″.

I loved Wayne Smith.

Democratic party leaders should be as wise as Pastor Smith. He knew when to stand up to the power players. They should have to the courage to stand up to the Clintons and call it what it is. Panhandling and positioning herself for 2012, even if that means damaging Obama, the Democratic party or America itself.

The fat lady sang, they can tell her they saw it here.

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Indiana, Are You Listening?

On: May 2nd, 2008 at 10:51 am | In: Election 08, Clinton, Hypocrisy

UPDATE Part IV: (I post this first to give Mr. Kantor the benefit of the doubt. Updates 1-3 are below the original post)

I just read Kantor’s defense and he certainly seems adament about never having used /that/ word.

Then again, so did Mark Ferman. Still.. I would like to believe him. Maybe the second slur was doctored rather than enhanced. When I crank the volume I hear it but I won’t rule out the possibility that I am hearing it because I am predisposed to after watching the first video.

The first slur “Those people are shit” seems, to my hearing, maybe saying “Those people are shit(or shitting)..(unintelligible) Whitehouse.” This would tend to put the second slur out of context and so I am left wondering, Did he, or Didn’t he.

My thinking on this now is that someone with the equipment needs to enhance the soundtrack so this man is exonnerated if he is innocent and put out to pasture if he is not.

Original Post:

If not, it doesn’t matter, according to Clinton adviser Mickey Kantor.

Looking at polls in the documentary, The War Room, Kantor is seen with James Carville and George Stephanopolis. You know, the very same George Stephanopolis that moderated the ABC Ambush (debate) and will be hosting the 60 minutes Hillary Infomercial (town hall) in Indianapolis on Sunday, hours before voting begins.

Kantor says, “It doesn’t matter. Those people are shit.”

He looks up and says, “Oh, excuse me.”

Then he leans over near George and says conspiratorially, “How would you like to be a worthless white nigger?”

With the cameras rolling…

UPDATE:
The video is gone back (but without subtitles):

However if you watch documentary, The War Room (1992), crank the sound up when Kantor enters the picture and watch his lips carefully.

Here is the relevant clip from the documentary, Kantor enters at 4:37.

Wonder how long till they pull this clip.

UPDATE PART II:

ABC has pulled its story. Here is a screen shot of what was here (http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/05/clinton-informa.html) an hour or so ago.

ABC War Room Story before it was pulled

And here it is now:

ABC War Room Story AFTER it was pulled

UPDATE Part III:

It’s ba-ack. (Only different.)

ABC War Room Story before it was pulled

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Update: Barracks at Fort Bragg

On: April 27th, 2008 at 11:05 am | In: Support The Troops

“They just did 15 months for you, give them 15 minutes of your time.”

I can’t say it any better than the Dad of a soldier did in this video.

Update: Here is some salve for the disillusioned soul; proof one man can make a difference.

Army widens probe after finding bad conditions at Fort Bragg

.. Rogers said it was too soon to know whether the Fort Bragg problem was an isolated incident. He acknowledged the revelations from a video shot by the father of an 82nd Airborne Division soldier showing poor conditions such as mold inside the barracks, peeling interior paint and a bathroom drain plugged with sewage.

The soldier’s father, Ed Frawley, said he was disgusted by the conditions that greeted his son and the rest of his 82nd Airborne unit that returned on April 7-8 after a 15-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.

“We let our soldiers down, and that’s not like us,” Rogers told reporters. “We let our soldiers down. That’s not how we want America’s sons and daughters to live. There’s no good excuse for what happened.”

Read the rest here.

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Hillary Busted Using Push Poll

On: April 25th, 2008 at 4:20 pm | In: Election 08, Clinton, Hypocrisy

You can hear the evidence and read the story here, here and here.

In order to ensure adequate righteous outrage at this tactic, I provide to you the following definition from Wikipedia. Please pay particular attention to the highlighted keywords.

A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. In a push poll, large numbers of respondents are contacted, and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Instead, the push poll is a form of telemarketing-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as a poll. Push polls are usually the “innuendo” manifestation of knowledge gleaned from opposition research on an opponent. generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning. Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants, and is illegal in New Hampshire.

Now let’s review the keywords along with some synonyms:

  • Guise - cloak, cover, disguise, false colors, front, mask, masquerade, pretense, pretext, semblance, veil, veneer
  • Propaganda - misinformation, distortion, lies, rabble rousing, fear-mongering, demagoguery
  • Rumor mongering - Gossiping, scuttlebutt, innuendo, misinforming, calling fire in a crowded theater, crying wolf
  • Masquerading - a false outward show, false appearance, pretend to be someone or something that you are not
  • Innuendo - insinuation, implication, incrimination
  • Negative campaigning - Bush, Rove, Clinton
  • Condemned - wrong, guilty, worthless, unacceptable
  • Illegal - against the law, prohibited, criminal

And now you know.

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What Ever Happened To The Sunshine State?

On: April 24th, 2008 at 6:07 pm | In: Reference

The Keystone State License PlateRemember the days when states each had one license plate, proudly declaring something special about its people or place? Florida was The Sunshine State, Missouri was The Show Me State, Kentucky - The Bluegrass State, New York - The Empire State.

Gone are those days.

Florida long ago abandoned it’s claim to sunshine in favor of saving the whales, the turtles, the dolphins, the panthers, the manatees, the everglades, bears, the Buccaneers, and unborn children.

Florida proposed I Believe Licence PlateNow a new plate is being debated, the “I Believe” plate. Considering that we already have 8,342 plates, I have to say, this isn’t much more than shrug worthy - until another group applies for the “God Is Dead” plate. And you know its going to happen.

Florida will be sorry it didn’t stick to sunshine.

Currently Available Florida License Plates:

ENVIRONMENTAL

MISCELLANEOUS

PROFESSIONAL SPORTS

UNIVERSITIES

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