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Why I’m against drug testing for unemployment benefits and food stamps

Why I’m against drug testing for unemployment benefits and food stamps

Help people get off the dole, don’t just add more bureaucracy to police it.

It’s long been a rallying cry of the right: if you want to be on the public dole, you should be able to pass a drug test. You’ve seen the memes and the bumper stickers. Sounds good, right?

Governor Walker of Wisconsin has proposed his plan that would require drug testing for those seeking food stamps and unemployment benefits. According to The Daily Signal:

But the most controversial points are the governor’s proposals to require drug testing for individuals filing for unemployment and for “able-bodied, working-age adults requesting food stamps” through the state’s FoodShare public assistance program.

The bottom line, Walker says, is the bottom line: Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for public assistance programs for individuals who can’t pass a drug test.

Taxpayers should have a great say in where their tax dollars are spent, that’s not a point I disagree with and is a principle I will always advocate. When it comes to mandatory drug testing as a contingency for public assistance though, I’m not convinced it’s a good idea for two simple reasons: 1) requiring drug testing is an expansion of government 2) it doesn’t address the problem of why people are seeking public assistance to begin with.

If we are to consistently advocate reduced government intrusion in the life of the individual citizen and smaller government overall, then we can’t rightly argue that requiring drug testing should be conditional for unemployment benefits. An entire new bureaucracy would be required to implement such an act.

If the era of bloated government has taught us anything, it’s that the bigger the government, the greater the waste, fraud, and abuse. Those who are determined will always find a work around. More tax payer money is spent, more government jobs are created, and for what? To ensure the guy who got laid off thanks to Obama’s economy hasn’t been toking up?

I’m not pretending there aren’t those who live off taxpayer good graces. They exist, but they’re not representative of the entirety of the public assistance population. Which leads me to my next point.

Our attitude on limiting public assistance is all wrong, and so is the way we talk about it. There’s any underlying assumption and I’d argue in many cases, arrogance on the right, that everyone on public assistance is lazy or entitled, and so we treat them as though they’re undeserving or unworthy of public charity. We complain there’s an entire generation living off entitlements, yet show no interest in helping them to a place where they can succeed. We are not taking measures to address the reasons why people are on public assistance, we just don’t want them there.

According to a Guardian article, one in seven Americans is on public assistance. A ridiculously high number by any measure. Those that work to enroll people in programs like SNAP are charged with this goal, “alleviate hunger, lessen poverty.” A nobel cause, but enrolling citizenry in a public assistance plan without providing a means of escape helps no one. 

We all too easily take the road of judgment rather than reaching out to help those less fortunate saying people should just “Get a job!” And while the statement is correct, the attitude is not only personally destructive, but politically devastating. For all the criticism on the right to “Get a job!” what are we doing collectively to provide a solution?

Of course the answer should be simple: the private sector and local communities and charities should be there to offer this type of aid because it’s not the government’s job, but where are we to fill in the holes where both government and the private sector fails?

There are people who have never been told they’re valuable and that they have purpose in life. They’ve never been told it’s possible to excel or to change their circumstances. All they know is the life that surrounds them, in many cases, that’s a life smothered by poverty, violence, and drugs. It’s in these situations we should be showing compassion, assistance, and imparting the values of self respect, hard work, and the belief they too, can achieve whatever they believe to be possible.

I would love to see reform that starts with working to help those on the government dole get off and make something of themselves rather than more ‘reform’ that barely addresses the symptom.

 Follow Kemberlee Kaye on Twitter 


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My father said if you live under this roof, you need to follow my rules. This is not a giant leap into the land of responsibility. It is also a very necessary step into both adulthood and self sufficiency. How do you think we will identify the help they need? It’s time to proclaim “Get a job!” instead of continued coddling as this article suggests.

“I’m not pretending there aren’t those who live off taxpayer good graces. They exist, but they’re not representative of the entirety of the public assistance population.”

I’d like to see that study of the able bodied recipients who don’t have a car, air conditioning, fun money, an excessive diet, and the latest IPhone.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Spock. | September 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    The best way to “help people get off the dole” is to kick them off of it after one year, come hell or high water. Forget their drug use, criminal activity, etc.. Cut ’em a check for 12 months, let them spend it as they wish. If they spend it all on drugs and booze instead of rent and food, then they’ll starve. Fine. If the kids starve to death, prosecute the custodial parent and give them the death penalty since they didn’t have the sense to send the kids to grandma’s or turn them over to an orphanage or church for adoption while they go on their binge.

    The bureaucracy costs of these programs would be cut by about 90%. The only other benefit I would offer would be assistance with on-the-job training in private companies with a small stipend paid to the company. If they fail to show up or can’t show up sober, they’re done. If the company just takes advantage of the program to line their pockets with the little stipend and teaches them nothing or allows them to not show up, take them off the preference roster. They’re done, too.

    Let them sink or swim on their own. Make it about survival, not endless entitlements.

A practical issue is the pre-test probability of a positive test. If low in a given person, it’s hard to believe a positive result. Couple that with a draconian penalty for a positive test (e.g., loss of benefits), and you can see the injustice already. You’ll need even more government to adjudicate that unless you are willing to deny people basic due process.

See where that goes?

Likewise, if the pre-test probability is high, you won’t believe a negative result. That breeds more mistrust and distrust. Great way to build a society.

The solution is to get the economy humming and (over time) change expectations. You WILL work, there ARE jobs, there IS opportunity, so get going.

    due process? it’s not a court of law, it’s a government teat.

    that being said, i think drug testing is a waste of money at best, and another massive crony-capitalist gorge-fest at the public trough at worst. i’ve spoken with many ncaa athletes who laugh at the ease of sidestepping their mandatory drug testing programs….why would one administered by govt bureaucrats be any more effective?

      Spock in reply to Paul. | September 22, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      Tests are very, very inexpensive. You remove one drug addict and it would likely pay for the program in the private sector. Even when government does it, if people are removed from the system there will be savings.

        nothing the government does is inexpensive, and having the ‘private sector’ do it introduces the cronyism problem i alluded to.

        consider the fact there are roughly 100 million Americans on the teat… this rapidly becomes a multi billion dollar cluster job.

        just cut the budget by half and the people that can work will go find it….it worked when gingrich and company forced clinton to do it.

          Spock in reply to Paul. | September 23, 2014 at 12:31 am

          While I agree with the cutting funds in half, no one is suggesting to test all recipients. Even random drug testing of 10% may very well encourage some recipients to clean up.

        JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Spock. | September 23, 2014 at 2:39 pm

        All the testing would do is eliminate the benefit for the adult testing positive. They’d still get the money fo’ dey kidz. So, in order to REALLY cut them off, you have to take the kids away and put them in placement, which is a much fatter check than the check given to the custodial parent. In fact, there’s a long-standing scam that exemplifies this. It goes like this: Momma has four kids. She gets a welfare check for about $1200 per month, plus other stuff. She then claims she can’t take care of them because she’s supposedly an alcoholic or drug addict, disables, whatever, so she gives them up for placement. How wise and selfless of her. Then grandma steps up and volunteers to accept placement. Placement costs are paid at anywhere from about $800 pm per kid to $2000+ pm per kid, depending on the state. The welfare check balloons to about $5k or better per month. Here come de Cadillac Escalade. Oh, and there’s momma living right there with them, all under one roof. Dontavius, at least one of the baby-daddy, probably dad of the youngest or the next baby daddy to-be, is now driving the Escalade ‘cuz he’s living there, too, at least now and then, even though baby mama say she ain’t seen him in at least a year. This goes on and on and the only thing that changes is that a second Escalade is now parked in the driveway.

        Invoke drug testing and there will be more of this or, in cases where the mother really does want her kids or doesn’t have another party to work the placement scam with, the taxpayer incurs even more expense for rehab costs, monitoring mom’s rehab progress so she can perhaps get the kids back, and the court costs associated with hearings, reviews and decisions concerning the entire debacle.

        All this is about is expanding the bureaucracy and keeping the dependency culture voting ‘rat. That’s ALWAYS what it’s about; that, and the idea that government knows what’s best for everyone else.

        More bureaucracy=more fraud and waste, plain and simple. It’s always been that way, and it always will. It is the nature of the beast. The solution is to QUIT FEEDING THE BEAST!

      Aarradin in reply to Paul. | September 23, 2014 at 4:09 am

      The cost of the tests is trivial in the extreme compared to the savings related to not paying benefits to drug addicts.

      In FL, from the time they implemented drug testing until a federal judge decided to reverse the policy (based solely on his personal political beliefs) there was a 20% decline in the number of people claiming benefits.

      Note that less than 2% of the people who showed up for the tests failed them (which is the only stat you’ll ever hear from a Leftist) but 20% of the people previously on the dole gave it up knowing that they would fail the drug test.

      That represented a huge savings to the state, orders of magnitude larger than the cost of the testing.

        OK, I was unaware of those results in FL. Those are the kinds of numbers that would changes minds (including mine) on this topic.

        I can just imagine the progs getting themselves all bunched up over that though…. I’m sure it just wasn’t “FAIR!”

I wasn’t allowed to work if I didn’t pass a drug test, so why should my money go to someone who can’t?

    McAllister in reply to MarkS. | September 22, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Well said. While I have some sympathy for those hooked on drugs, I cannot agree to paying them to be drug addicts.

I am sorry, Kimberlee, but I disagree with you 100%.

I do feel compassion for somebody going through a difficult time, but that compassion cannot last for a lifetime.

And regarding your speculative reference to what is representative, I can only tell you that one leech sucking my blood is one leech too many.

This takes me to your outrageous and offensive statement that us, those who oppose public assistance for all, think/say with arrogance that “ everyone on public assistance is lazy or entitled“.
That’s not what we think!
That’s not what we say!
Not all of us anyway. How is your generalization any different to the one you try to criticize?

And how dare you say that we don’t offer solutions?
What about getting the government hand out of people’s pockets so that their money stops feeding bloated bureaucracies to the advantage of local businesses?
What about the claims to ease the burden of absurd government regulation over businesses?
What about stimulating job creation by helping small local businesses instead of forcing us to hand our money to insurance companies?

I am sorry.
Your article is riddled with lies and fallacies. It is not what we are used to read here in Legal Insurrection.

Some of these people are lazy and feel entitled, others just game the system, and then there are those that genuinely need it. The ones with pride don’t become chronic wards of the state, but far too many find government assistance gives them enough money to pay for their smartphone and cable bill. It is not my job to help these people find jobs. There are a multitude of private and government resources to provide them the skills to find a job. The writers paternalistic attitude concerning these adults only furthers the liberal idea that they are too stupid to look after themselves and that only a great society can elevate them. How about teaching these people that success comes from being self motivated.

I reread your article several times, looking for your solution to the problem. All you want is not to have drug testing and for “someone” to come up with some reforms. Did I miss something? Well, what ideas do you have to start the conversation about improving people’s status in life?

Here is one idea – let’s have drug testing.

You test positive, then let’s have a talk about your life. Instead of a benefit card where you decide how you spend the money,I would prefer making arrangements that a portion covers your housing,utilities and basics. And then, get you in a program to get off drugs, into job counseling, school, retraining and then job placement.

You test negative, then you can control more of that money, but you still need to get counseling, training and job placement. Cutting your expenses and budget planning is also in that picture.

If you don’t follow the rules, then you lose the assistance. If you follow the rules and start working, then perhaps the assistance is continued for a while, to provide an incentive to continue working as you rebuild your life.

When I was laid off and went on unemployment, I had already saved that emergency cushion. But I also cut my expenses, did some serious soul searching on what I wanted to do, rewrote the resume and sent out a ton of letters. Looking for a job became my job. The next job wasn’t the ideal job, but I stayed in it and eventually moved on to something better. I did not sit waiting for someone to hand me something.

I have been letting this comment sit for a bit, to make sure I want to submit it. So, someone may have already mentioned it and you may have corrected the error, but what the heck is a “nobel cause”? I really don’t think you meant to refer to a Swedish chemist. Or, is providing dynamite your solution to providing a means of escape?

    Paul in reply to Liz. | September 22, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    a much easier plan would be to simply slash the budget for such benefits by 50%, secure the Mexican border and watch people flock to jobs “americans won’t do”

Kemberlee is taking a lot of flak here, but she is rock solid on one thing: we don’t need another government bureaucracy charged with examining our bodily fluids.

I also hear a lot of “Am I my brother’s keeper?” sounds. Yes we are – it’s the government which is not. The only reason we have government welfare is that we have failed and our churches have failed. So before you ask Kemberlee if she has a plan, ask yourself if you have a (non-government-based) plan.

    Spock in reply to gibbie. | September 22, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    It’s not another government bureaucracy, but the reform of a wildly out of control bureaucratic entitlement. Government performs drug tests (or has the contracts to) already. I think it would be grand to remove welfare entirely and demand churches to do their work. It’s a hard sell…this is a good first step along with studies on welfare abuse.

      Shane in reply to Spock. | September 22, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      The churches used to do this on there own. Then came the government to kick them out. Because the government has much to gain by being in this business.

      Our churches still do this. Are you certain the churches don’t have food pantries and provision to help the needy? Most do not advertise it because the people who “need” help find them without billboards. If you start calling around and just asking, you might be surprised to find that every church in your town has a program to help the needy, both local and transient.

        Lear55Pilot in reply to PecanCorner. | September 23, 2014 at 5:22 am

        This is true – at least in every city in Texas – there is a food pantry of some type. In my own church, we give 80% of all revenue after expenses – back to those in need – and we build no gigantic temples with our tithes and offerings. Prior to the government entitlements, this was the way communities responded to the needs of those less fortunate. Can we just imagine how we could help the needy with just a portion of the money that government fraud and waste amounts to? One year of Presidential golfing trips could house and feed hundreds of hungry and homeless..

    Exiliado in reply to gibbie. | September 22, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    We have not failed.

    Cell phones are not charity.
    Paying somebody’s phone bill so that they can afford gold tooth is not charity.
    Paying somebody’s food so that they can afford a tattoo is not charity.
    Giving free stuff to people who drive $40,000.00 cars is not charity.

    Someone in the comments above mentioned the issues with generalizations. They’ll come back to bite you in the butt all the time….

    Kemberlee wrote an op-ed piece that said “we” should do something, but she never gave any indication what she does or how she would help. She deserves to get flak.

    Well, I did ask Kemberlee if she had any ideas on how to deal with this issue and then I gave some options (testing, treatment, training, schools, a slower cut-off of benefits). I’m looking forward to seeing her answers. I do not expect them.

    With respect to your questions….

    Have I failed? No, because I worked for non-profits for less than what I could have received at regular businesses. So, I didn’t get years of big bucks. But, I give to charities and my church. My church is active in helping people. The hospitals around here are Mercy, St. Anthony and Baptist. Where is the Muslim Hospital that will take everyone without prejudice and payment?

    Has my community failed? No, we deal with bombings and storms and help each other.

    Do I have a personal survival plan – yes, I saved and I am still saving and making sure that I am prepared for a downturn, a storm or whatever. There are lots of people around me that are doing the same.

    Now gibbie – what have you done to protect yourself in economic downturns? Can you survive a storm without handouts? Do you give to charities and your church? Do you volunteer to help? What is your plan?

    Oh, you don’t want another government entity to examine you? Tough. I am being examined in many ways and I am not asking for any assistance. But, if I need help, then yes, I do expect that there could be strings attached.

    So, who has failed? Hey, I’m voting conservative. I support conservative causes.

    the Biblical context of my brother’s keeper is a reference to Cain and Abel. The Sermon on the Mount does not reference being “my brother’s keeper”

    It was Cain, in response to a question about the whereabouts of Abel (after Abel had been murdered” who uttered: “who am I, my brother’s keeper”.

    At no time in Scripture is there a requirement to be “my brother’s keeper”, yet there is a requirement for just treatment for those who are struggling such as the widow and the orphan. The just treatment is about property rights as well as about looking after the orphan….. but it has no relevance to individuals who made a choice to do drugs.

Somebody wants contracts to do drug testing, and they’re pushing it every way they can. In San Diego, I was approached to sign a petition to put drug testing for doctors on the ballot. I thought about it for all of 5 seconds, and realized that any doctor who works impaired is subject to continual scrutiny by medical people who have an ethical duty to put a stop to that nonsense.

The measure would have required regular testing of ALL doctors, without probable cause.

I figure somebody wants to make money off of the drug testing business.

    Lear55Pilot in reply to Valerie. | September 23, 2014 at 5:31 am

    You are correct here! If you go back and look at Florida, there was a relative of the Governor that received the bulk of the testing contracts. So this does occur. Just look at the $500mil we lost on Presidential pals with Solyndra. Same ole payoff system found anywhere government is involved!

“… yet show no interest in helping them to a place where they can succeed.”

That is nobodies job but theirs, and if we really want to help we will get out of the way so that they can fall down and go boom. This is how we learn, not by other people taking away the consequences of our actions.

Hard consequences not only can help to impel the addicted towards recovery, they’re essentially the only thing that does.

No addict ever hit the lottery and said, “oh, I better quit using drugs or I’ll waste my lottery winnings!” Criminal convictions, job losses, divorces, impoverishment, imprisonment.. these are the common hard consequences.

Every single federal entitlement is rife with fraud and abuse. Drug screens will lower the rolls. The accountant’s key is whether drug screens lower the rolls enough to pay for their own bureacracy.

If entitlement receivers know they’ll be tested and test positive anyway, we will have learned something, mostly that someone is addicted (can’t stop using even knowing a test is imminent) and that tax money is paying for it.

Driver licenses are conditional, not a right. You can’t legally drive if impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. State DMVs can set whatever regs they want, voters and governor willing. Federal entitlements ought to be no less conditional.

We can argue the conditions, but tolerating the funneling of federal cash to drug and alcohol abusers makes the entitlement system one huge institutional enabler to huge numbers of addicts.

Just as there’s an naive assumption that no homeless person wants to be homeless (I’ve worked with plenty that flat refuse housing, work, etc.), there’s a naive assumption that people on welfare and food stamps are likely embarrassed by it and only need some help getting off of it. Those are in the minority is my best guest, a plurality at best.

You know, I saw the title of this post and was really intrigued. I thought ok, give it to me. I’m listening. And then…. just utter disappointment. Now, I’ll admit, I’m a little bit biased. I own a third generation family business in a once great small city in the Peoples Republic of Massachusettes. And as you can imagine, 50+ yrs of importing poverty and liberal plantation management has taken it’s toll. On the city and the people in it.
I watch dozens of these “able-bodied” young men walk and/or drive by my store every day. Newest shoes, jewelry, smart phones…. oh, and the belligerent, anti social attitude that always seems to come with. Sense of entitlement… yes. Gaming the system… not really. These are who liberals set the system up for. Think about it. Why would someone with a limited to nonexistent skill set go to work in a menial job at minimum wage when they can not work and get better than the equivalent. Especially when they’ve been condition to believe it’s just what you do. They’re a lot of things but stupid isn’t one of them.
In all honesty, I don’t know whether it makes sense to drug test unemployment/welfare beneficiaries. While wholeheartedly for it on principle, I believe I’ve read several times over the years that financially it make no sense, if your rational is to cut costs, because the cost of the testing would outweigh any savings from people denied benefits for failed tests. Plus, in any state like Mass, we all know they’d automatically be entitled to a retest if they did test positive. But at least make a concrete argument. As others have pointed out, Ms. Kaye’s argument seems to boil down to disagreeing w/ the generalized attitude she assumes, w/o providing any examples of, people who have problems w/ this system have. It’s been a while since I took position paper writing in college, but that’s lazy writing and even lazier thinking.
All valid reasons for drug testing aside for a moment. We all know that if we want to get people off the dole, we need to make it not particularly good to be on. No more “just like cash” cards to use. We have plenty of shuttered military bases and other dorm like facilities around the country. Having a rough patch in your life? Ok. Here’s a warm bed, here’s some decent cafeteria grub, here’s 5 pairs of jeans, 5 shirts, a pair of shoes…. oh, and we’ll throw in educational opportunities to boot. Because, you know, we care. You want anything more than that, you better find a god damn job.
There’s my rant. Apologies for misspellings, crazy punctuations and ramblings. It’s been a long day.

    Just keep in mind WHO tells you it’s not affordable to drug test. It’s not a big expense, which is why so many of use who are in the private sector are forced to random drug tests.

    Lear55Pilot in reply to StillTryin. | September 23, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Excellent post and as one who is active in two ministries which ONLY house and feed as well as educate those less fortunate, mainly abused women, children and veterans – it continues to amaze me why government does not do just as you suggest.

    Time to dust off the CCC?

    Chem_Geek in reply to StillTryin. | September 24, 2014 at 1:42 am

    IOW, “Screw you, I got mine.” I hope you beg for mercy and forgiveness.

“… For all the criticism on the right to “Get a job!” what are we doing collectively to provide a solution?”

Argghhhh no. We don’t and can’t fix ourselves collectively.

“… but where are we to fill in the holes where both government and the private sector fails?”

No again, the answer is nowhere because the person bears the responsibility to find the place were they can fit. Life deals consequences and it is up to the individual to determine how to best deal with those consequences otherwise we are just biologically adult children. And honestly just short of taking control of a persons body how do we get them to do anything they don’t want to do.

“… There are people who have never been told they’re valuable and that they have purpose in life.”

OMG what planet are you from? Because people have never been told something, exempts them from all of life realities? And honestly how can another person tell you what your calling in life is? There were some people willing to do this, they were in China, Cambodia, Russia and Germany. “How many fingers am I holding up Winston?”

“They’ve never been told it’s possible to excel or to change their circumstances.”

People need to be told this? Really!!!???!!!???

“I would love to see reform that starts with working to help those on the government dole get off and make something of themselves rather than more ‘reform’ that barely addresses the symptom.”

And here is your fatal mistake. When one wants to get off of the dole they will. When one wants to make something of their life they will. No village can raise a child to do these things.

If you want to end poverty in this country in a generation then tie in public assistance with birth control. Women who are receiving WIC money need to also be on a permanent birth control method until such time they are able to get on their feed and financially feed and clothe the child they currently have. Men who are serial fathers and not helping to support their children should be required to have a vasectomy and when they are on their feet and can support the child(ren) they have then the procedure can be reversed and they can sire as many kids as they can afford. (What would be even better is if the drug companies developed a permanent birth control method for men.) I realize this is extreme but it is going to take something drastic to eradicate poverty. The last thing people living in poverty need is yet another mouth to feed.

    Thanks for saying that welfare needs to be connected to birth control and limiting the number of children that are brought into the world. I’ve been typing the same idea but deleting it.

    Liberals want us to pay for birth control and abortions but would probably scream at this idea of required birth control. Greenies think that there are too many people on earth and would probably go along with sterilization plans, as long as it wasn’t their sexual organs being snipped.

    creeper in reply to mwsomerset. | September 23, 2014 at 7:52 am

    So long as more children = raise in benefits, we will never get a handle on this problem.

    Midwest Rhino in reply to mwsomerset. | September 23, 2014 at 10:27 am

    or also controversial, maybe take away the right to vote.

    In the 1800’s land ownership was a requirement to vote, at least in many states. That was too restrictive, but had a purpose of requiring responsibility. In contrast, using tax revenues to buy votes is even more destructive, to maintaining individual rights and liberty.

    because voting for more welfare (including special perks for government workers) is voting to redistribute burden to the working class, aka “war on the middle class”, or “war on capitalism”.

    One good thing about private and local charity (like churches often provide) is they have direct interface with those in need, and the needy don’t get to vote on how much the church/charity is forced to give them.

    So the nanny part of our state should be able to temporarily require birth control. And to deny those with their hand out, the ability to sell their vote to the socialists.

    But real solutions have to run the gauntlet of the histrionic leftist controlled Hollywood/media, where government is god. Even hinting that those “fallen into the safety net” should have some privileges withheld (like voting or having more children) is considered blasphemy.

The funny thing is that private, church, and charitable NGO solutions are out there and would fill genuine needs if Food stamps disappeared tomorrow – but people who want the government to do it will never admit that. All of our local churches have pantries and give to a local faith-based food bank that provides ample food to feed a family and people can go each month to get this. But I still hear local liberals touting “hunger” – they ignore me when I point out the resources. The same writers have usually never worked with “clients” long enough to know that some folks will hustle to get anything free they can and they are not interested in advice – the same people hit every church food pantry in town and still insist they NEED food stamps! I watched a young mother deciding what to put back when she bought groceries that her EBT card would not cover the other day. The total was ~$105 and she had $100 on the card. There were two packs of Coca Cola in bottles and the clerk suggested taking out one of them. The girl said “No I am getting that” then she looked around and decided to return the half gallon of milk and package of lunch meat. I bought the milk and lunch meat for her, but my point is people make their own choices and it is not the government’s responsibility to give them more when they chose to have a coke instead of buying milk for their toddler. Does she really need access to WIC because she is using her food dollars for high dollar soft drinks in quantity? Freedom means the liberty to make stupid choices and to have to (or get to) live with the consequences.

Overlooked here is that this need not be an all-or-nothing proposition. Certainly rules can be put into place that alter benefit entitlements upon the happening of various conditions (criminal convictions, probable cause of substance abuse impairment followed by a positive drug test, having a second or third pregnancy out of wedlock, etc.)

There are altogether too many incentives built into the current “safety nets” that encourage dependency and unproductive behavior. Just throwing out some thoughts to consider:

How about instead of offering various benefits, housing, foodstamps, etc., offering women who have children out of wedlock that they can’t support the opportunity to reside in nice wholesome rural kibbutz-like communities with their children where they have to live communally and follow rules and regulations with opportunities for education, and to job train and work at doing something productive, and get their lives together, and if they don’t, g’bye and that’s that.

How about we offer similar work camp opportunities for men without children in their care.

How about instead of food stamps, we distribute actual food basics.

How about we implement some different kinds of means tests or merit requirements so that money just doesn’t go to people who have never shown any attempt at productivity (school, work history, military history, marital family history, etc.), and like “rehabilitative alimony” require some kind of plan that’s followed through.

How about we stop caving to the terrorism of doing x.y.z because “it’s the children” we’re pretending to be taking care of who are “on welfare” when in fact it’s the parents who are “on welfare”.

How about we focus some more on the problem of aging out foster kids and require them to prove educational achievement (and consequent post-secondary college help) and for the rest offer vocational training.

    Janitor, These are all great ideas, many of which are “tried and true” and were used successfully in times past (especially if we read genuine history instead of fiction or PR). Thanks for a good list of workable solutions. Now if we could just get someone to listen.

    moonstone716 in reply to janitor. | September 23, 2014 at 8:32 am

    I love all of your suggestions (especially the one for single mothers, I’ve advocated for something like that for years) except for the part…”if they don’t, g’bye and that’s that.” It can’t be “that’s that” because we won’t let them starve their children. So there would still have to be a safety net.

    I think there are probably still some welfare people who would jump at the chance to raise their children away from the ghetto, even if it means hard work. But I’ll bet most would opt for days of leisure in the ghetto.

I know you mean well but your attitude of, “I’m not pretending there aren’t those who live off taxpayer good graces. They exist, but they’re not representative of the entirety of the public assistance population.” is the same as GM or Ford when they know they have a safety problem and rationalize the cost of NOT fixing it because it is cheaper to just pay the victim’s claims when they are killed than to have a giant recall. We have to go after all violations of our good intent laws and we cannot rationalize that responsibility away by ignoring the bad apples.

MouseTheLuckyDog | September 23, 2014 at 12:09 am

My feeling is that all these programs are designed more or less the same way roach motels are designed. You can checkin but you cannot checkout. Makes for a permanent constituency for Democrats.

Restructure them so that they prevent a person who has a setback from lowering in fiscal status, then once they get on their feet let them get back in.

Keep in mind that in 20 years only 40% of us will have a job. Machines can’t just replace fast-food workers, they can replace most workers. So attitudes to work will need to be readjusted.

As for drug testing, in general I’m opposed. Imagine a person who doesn’t even take asprin. It’s insulting to such a person. If on the other hand you have good reason that a person will abuse drugs, then test them.

    I don’t even take aspirin, but I get drug tested at work. Should I feel insulted too? They may be so insulted that they get a job instead…and then get drug tested there.

The idea of requiring birth control, personal finance management, life skills education and job training should all be mandatory in order to receive anyone of the benefits afforded by welfare assistance be it food subsidies, rent, utilities and cash. Abortions should not be allowed as it absolves the persons from learning to take personal responsibility. Like employment, unemployment or disability, payment continuation would be subject to regular compliance reviews and requalification. So much of the life style of welfare families has become generational and there needs to be an intervention to change it. Birth control above all should have priority as having babies seems to perpetuate the problem and has become the answer for getting an income raise via local, state and federal income subsidies.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Another Voice. | September 23, 2014 at 4:46 am

    What personal finances do these people need to manage? Given that they must not have a bank account totaling more than $2000.

    In fact this requirement seems to encourage people to spend money instead of saving it.

    My picture of “the social safety net” comes from the original version of the movie “Fun with Dick and Jane”. What we don’t need are people hitting a rough spot then losing their house, savings car and other stuff. Rather structure aid so they can keep the stuff they have but not get more stuff. They get the basics and that’s it. When they get back on their feet again they can start getting new stuff again.

    I’m not sure how to do this, but I know how to should work rather then how it does work.

      Concerning personal finance management training, if the benefits are being handed out via a card, why can’t it be tracked and certain expenses not eligible. We’ve heard stories on how cards handed out after disasters have been used for gambling, cruises and other adventures.

      If you get money, why aren’t you made to prove how you spent it – how much on housing, food, utilities, clothing. Go sit in the training center and take the course on basic budgeting, homemaking, child care, cooking, health and other topics and earn the right to start building up the savings without it impacting the level of support. Be able to get that entry level job, start the recovery process and phase out the support.

      If you don’t try to improve yourself within a certain time frame, then the level of support should decrease.

        Another Voice in reply to Liz. | September 23, 2014 at 6:05 pm

        Exactly, what a goodly share of us who work and support ourselves learned early on either through or in combination of our families and education. It’s obvious that too, too many of those “in” welfare have not learned a work ethic nor have they learned in knowing how to budget what they have been handed. Augmented with church and charitable community outreach programs and education they need (mandated)to learn basic money and life management skills. It is not like they are totally ignorant for they are well educated in how to get the system to provide them means to cover the cost of items not even a working family can afford. In my life time, I will never be able to afford what I have bought for the users and takers and to this end, to be made to feel negligent for denying them in part any of what I have worked and paid to obtain.

Congratulations, Ms. Kaye, on an article which has spawned so much passion! 😀

Put me in the camp that thinks that Drug Testing for Aid recipients is a good idea. It will help weed out the FEW people in the small percentage of people who apply for aid. It won’t affect many of them, but it WILL affect the people who would be identified as needing a different KIND of help.

I would be sure to ADD that help so that those who need it, get it… and I can’t prove it, but it seems to me that if you help the people who the Government spends the most time and resources on, then that would SHRINK the government’s need to be so large in short order.

“I’m not pretending there aren’t those who live off taxpayer good graces. They exist, but they’re not representative of the entirety of the public assistance population. Which leads me to my next point.”

I don’t think the professor knows too many people who are on the dole. I have known dozens and the vast majority of them could have been self-sufficient if they wanted to. They take the money because it easy for them and it is there.

TrooperJohnSmith | September 23, 2014 at 2:01 am

My advocacy for drug-testing those receiving benefits is simple and pragmatic.

If you cannot pass a drug screen, you will likely be in the food service industry for life. Therefore, you will always qualify for government largesse, paid for by me and others who work. Why should we be on the hook for your bad choices?

    Then, mandate the PHB to pay a wage to their food service workers which wouldn’t require support. End corporate welfare – mandate a living wage!

    Thief. IOW, “Screw you, I got mine!”

I had a gentleman interview with my company a year ago who was very specific about the hours he was willing to work. I made it very clear I was looking for a full time employee and he made it very clear he had to limit his hours or lose his benefits. He would rather work fewer hours than lose his “free” benefits.

It’s a cultural issue here. He wouldn’t have needed those benefits if he were working full time but his position was why should he spend 40 hours with the opportunity for overtime working when he could take it easy.

My employees all have to take drug tests. It’s a condition of their employment so as you can probably imagine, I have no problem requiring people who are not working but receiving taxpayer benefits to submit to drug tests as well.

    Exiliado in reply to Sanddog. | September 23, 2014 at 6:43 am

    For some people the issue boils down to simple arithmetic. Simply put, they bring in more value into their household by not working, or working less hours.
    The net balance between the increase in income and the loss of cash allowance, food stamps, medical insurance and other benefits is negative.

    And that’s exactly why the system is perverse, crooked.

    You cannot have a system in place that encourages people to work less at the expense of others.
    It is morally wrong, and financially unsustainable.

      “You cannot have a system in place that encourages people to work less at the expense of others.
      It is morally wrong, and financially unsustainable.”

      Exiliado – exactly. Our current system IS morally wrong. Government is actively contributing to moral decay in the “help” systems today. That reason alone is an imperative for reform.

“1) requiring drug testing is an expansion of government”

I would take issue with this. It’s quite probable that removing the addicts from the public dole will wind up saving more money than it costs. You may add another layer to the bureaucracy but you will shrink the one below it.

Scott Walker isn’t known for wasting money. If he says it will pay, I believe him.

My son is a Coast Guard certified tankerman. He is subject to random drug testing and those tests are done often. Should he fail one test, he would lose his license.

So let’s see what you’re arguing for here. If I have it right, you think a gainfully-employed, hardworking man should be subject to harsh punishment for failing a drug test but you have no problem with the deadbeat his tax dollars are going to support being an addict.

Does that about cover it?

My biggest issue with this whole discussion is the misuse of the term “Unemployment Benefits”, this is completely inaccurate to the point of being an outright lie! It is Unemployment “Insurance” Benefit, it may seem picky but remember words have meaning. Because it’s mandatory for my employer contribute the premium on my behalf and is part of my compensation, I think it is immoral to attach a drug test. Since I can’t wave the premium you can’t attach rules that I don’t agree to comply with. Its a forced contract!

As for welfare and food stamps, test all you want, it’s not my place to subsidize others addictions or choices. Since it’s not possible to be fair when stealing money from me and impossible to be fair distributing it then we should get rid of welfare completely! Just imagine how well we would treat each other if we knew at someone point we would have to rely on family or others generosity to survive. Instead of knowing that the government in its infinite wisdom was willing to steal from the people contributing to society to provide for those who choose not to contribute.

    I am an accountant and I have managed the payroll, human resources and accounting departments. Rules vary by state, but my experience is that the premium for unemployment insurance is not part of your compensation. It is not guaranteed and you do not pay income or FICA taxes on the amount. It is a cost of doing business.

    Specifically, the company pays for the first $x of wages. If you are a new company, you might pay 1% of those wages. High turnover, you are paying in more into the fund. Low turnover, you pay less. The percentage amount changes yearly with your experience rating.

    An employee leaves your company and files for unemployment benefits. The employer gets a letter from the state about the case. If you laid off the person due to the economy, you sign the letter. That’s the purpose of the insurance. If the person quits on you, you fight the claim. If you fired the person with cause and you have all the documentation, you fight the claim. Why? Because the cost of business will increase if you don’t.

    In reality, a lot of companies probably do not fight unemployment claims because of the hassle of doing so, or they feel sorry for the person or they have learned that the state is going to rule in favor of the employee, no matter what type of documentation you have on the person.

    And, if you are the small business owner or even an independent contractor, you may not get any unemployment benefits if your company fails due to the economy. You don’t pay into the system, you will not get anything out of the system. Again, the rules vary by state.

      While I appreciate your perspective, but I disagree. By your standard, not paying income tax and FICA, an employer who pays all or a portion of medical premium means that it is not part of compensation. It absolutely is part of my negotiated compensation. Unemployment Insurance is a cost of doing business but only by force!

      I’m not sure what you mean by “not guaranteed”. But was is guaranteed is that he State will come after the employer if they doesn’t pay the unemployment insurance premium.

      All of what you stated about the ability to collect unemployment is true, agreed!

        Hello again – I was referring to the concept of unemployment benefits as received by a person vs unemployment insurance taxes which are paid by the employer.

        Unemployment tax goes back into to 1930s and there is a federal portion as well as a state portion. As an employer, I pay the feds via one form and the state with another form. If an employee files for benefits, they go to the state office. The state contacts the employer who has to respond. It is a tax and it is forced upon the employer who will get in trouble if not paid. No one ever negotiates for the payment of the unemployment insurance premium. The only way I can impact the cost of unemployment insurance is to keep turnover low and contest the claims which should be contested.

        Health insurance is another animal and I would agree that health insurance can be part of a negotiated compensation package.

        By guaranteed, I meant that a person can file for unemployment benefits, but it can be denied for various reasons. In addition, the state may have rules one has to follow to continue to get the benefit such as be able to work, be looking for work and accepting a job under certain circumstances.

        The employer summary for the State of Oklahoma is 56 pages long. Check your state’s requirements – it will be interesting.

          Another Voice in reply to Liz. | September 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm

          Liz, Again exactly. As is the claim being paid in our business now. An employee approved by the W.C. Bd. to receive benefits because of a No Show/No Call now ex-employee who objected to a mandatory drug test in order to return to work in a job requiring being on a ladder and scaffolding. The only redeeming part it was a short term employment relation and in NYS you need not pay anymore in W.C. than in wages paid. The unemployment received is now being adjusted with welfare benefits because government wants to underwrite the cost of his drug habit rather than support his employers requirement to a safe job site.

Many employers use drug tests as part of their hiring process. This has become more common as the tests have become cheaper and easier to use (peer in cup, stick test strip in cup, observe results). The result of this is that those who use drugs have a more difficult time finding a job. The obvious solution is for the job seeker to not do drugs. If they are not willing to put their drug habit aside to support themselves then they have a priority issue. Why should the state support someone who is not doing everything they can to support themselves?

    Chem_Geek in reply to rustypaladin. | September 24, 2014 at 2:12 am

    Funny, the most recent job interview I had, I failed the drug test and had to jump through *many* hoops since I had had surgery a few months before and was still under a doctor’s care.

      this response is clearly bull.

      The drug test, in any nation is about illegal drugs. Even if you used something like Vicodin during the recovery phase of an operation, you would not be considered as a drug user.

then you are an idiot.
one drug abuser alone off the rolls would offset the costs of many tests.
stop enabling them.

I worked for an airline, got drug tested many times as condition of employment.
got injured on the job and eventually not allowed (no mater how hard I tried to fight it was told I could not) to work. worker comp company reqs me to piss test as condition of benefits.
why should taxpayers support a user?

If you’re applying for welfare – food stamps – unemployment benefits just liken it to applying for a regular type of job that pays you. You don’t have a problem taking a drug test when working for a living then why should you have a problem taking a test for NOT working for a living?!

Borrowed from another LI post: There’s nothing more offensive to me than an article that leaps off the cliff in the first sentence by dropping the “The Right” bomb.
Sorry, I refuse. Take it to HufPo.

So… Kemberlee… welcome to LI!

There is a basic difference between unemployment benefits and food stamps. Unemployment benefits are not means tested but food stamps are. Unemployment benefits are based on employment history. Should the two types of benefits be grouped together?

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Freddie Sykes. | September 23, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Historically, no. But more recently unemployment benefits have been extended and extended well beyond the bounds of the payroll deducted unemployment insurance. I’m unsure of the amount or percentage, but a lot of current paid out unemployment benefits, due to unpaid extensions, are essentially government handouts.

      Again, subject to differences between state laws, unemployment insurance premiums are paid 100% by the employer. It would be improper to pass that along to the employee.

      The amount of the premium is based on payroll. I just checked the state website and the rates sure have gone up since I last did the reporting. For my state, the first 18,200 of payroll is used. The new employer rate is 2.4% and the range was .2 to 7%

      In my state, if your company has a drug testing policy which is well documented and followed certain standards, then if you fire someone for failing a drug or alcohol test, the employment commission will deny unemployment benefits. Of course, you must have the program and the documentation and you must respond within the allowed number of days.

        Henry Hawkins in reply to Liz. | September 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm

        Thanks, Liz

        Do/can companies receive some sort of fed assistance with excessive unemployment costs?

          Unemployment tax is a cost of business, so you would be able to take the expense as a deduction to come up with your net taxable income.

          As noted below by Mizzy, if you pay on a timely basis, you may be able to get a break on the amount.

          But, if you are a small business with cash flow problems, you may not be able to take advantage and your overall costs keep going up.

          Henry Hawkins in reply to Henry Hawkins. | September 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm

          I knew that (business owner here). What I was referring to is that I swore I’d read that when the unemployment sign-ups went way up and when congress kept extending the benefit length that it quickly caused a deficit requiring federal help. A very fuzzy memory I’m not at all sure about. It might have been a state level sort of bailout of unemployment accounts.

          As per my memory, please note that my wife writes our address on my palm each morning.

          Don’t know about bailouts for unemployment, but then since I’ve been independent for a while, I haven’t had to worry about wages and payroll taxes and all that stuff.

          When I looked at the state website and saw some the changes in amounts, percentages, reporting and all that, I am so glad I am out of it.

          When talking about managerial accounting, I tend to overexplain. But there may be some people out there who are hearing about some of this stuff for the first time.

          What do you want to talk about next? The costs and problems with Worker’s Comp? How about the impact of moving minimum wage up to $15. Ouch, just thinking about developing a personnel budget is urting my brain!

          Freddie Sykes in reply to Henry Hawkins. | September 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

          The federal government loans the states funds when unemployment trusts run out. The states are required to repay these loans

        Another Voice in reply to Liz. | September 23, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        Addressing the extended federal U.I. funding for benefits in NYS which has one of the highest rates if not the highest in all the states, New York took the federal funds approved by Congress. Over the course of the past three years, an assessment bill is sent each July to the employer based on a rate per $1000.00 of reported annual calendar payroll, an Interest only payment on this debt. This is up and above the audited quarterly U.I. payroll calculation assessed the employer. When does NYS pay the principal? We’ll have to ask Andy Cuomo when he bails on NYS and heads off to do the same in Washington.

        Freddie Sykes in reply to Liz. | September 24, 2014 at 7:26 pm

        In most, if not all, states, people fired for cause are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

I just want to know that money they receive is going to go towards food, housing, clothing, etc. I hate it when people on welfare spend their money on drugs. We’re just enabling if a person does that.

Maybe ?????

From tweet sent 40 minutes ago:

Joy Keller ‏@JoyKeller1
Question: Does @KemberleeKaye a response to the commenters in this post?

Kemberlee Kaye @KemberleeKaye
To each individual one?

Joy Keller @JoyKeller1
The individuals can be counted as one strong voice against your opinion.

Kemberlee Kaye ‏@KemberleeKaye
Maybe. We will see.

    Joy in reply to Joy. | September 23, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    lol, I just did a thumbs down trying to reply to myself. What I wanted to add to my comment is this:

    I see that Miss “maybe” has not jumped in here so I’ll just say Ditto’s to
    Exiliado’s comment on: September 22, 2014 at 9:02 pm

      Liz in reply to Joy. | September 23, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      I think she did reply to our comments. Check out her latest post. This was her parting shot.

      “Psychology today has some sage advice when it comes to dealing with internet trolls, “(1) These trolls are some truly messed up people and (2) it is your suffering that brings them pleasure, so the best thing you can do is ignore them.”

      Ignore, I shall.”

      I know what posts I’ll be ignoring from now on.

The Federal unemployment rate is 6.2% of the first $7000 of wages, but employers are allowed a ‘credit’ of 5.4% if they pay their state UC tax on time.

Recently, however, employers have been made to pay an additional Federal UC tax.

Wisconsin law states that UC tax must be paid on the first $14000.
Seasonal employers (mine) pay up to 9.8% of the first $14000.00 of wages. So, 10 employees who make at least $14000.00 = $13720.00 in UC tax.

Seasonal employers pay more tax, because their employees do collect unemployment in the winter months, when the weather interferes with the possibility of performing any work (usually construction.)

    Another issue with unemployment insurance is that you are tracking per person per calendar year. So, in Mizzy’s example, if a person works for a half-year, gets laid off for a few month and then returns, the calculations are based on what you have paid in the calendar year. If your employee doesn’t return and you hire someone else, then the you are paying that first $14,000.

    High turnover can really hurt a company.

    Remember those politicians who forgot to pay social security and medicare on home workers. While scanning through the state materials, there was a line that an employer was “an employing unit if they paid $1,000 in wages in a calendar quarter for domestic services.” Hmm, I wonder how many people pay unemployment insurance taxes for the nanny? That makes it a good reason to go through an employment agency.

Whoa there!

Heresy! /sarc You’ll be drummed out of the Right for some of the things you said in that essay…

    Chem_Geek in reply to Chem_Geek. | September 24, 2014 at 1:55 am

    Having said that, stonerism should be banned. Stoners should be put into locked, inpatient “treatment” units indefinitely. Dealers should be shot. Stonerism is an attempt to enslave, poison, and destroy people, and they (stoners, dealers, and their syncophants and supporters) should be dealt with accordingly.

    And, before anyone bitches, I think alcohol and tobacco should be treated the same.

Too many people here and on the Right have too much arrogance and conceit and an entitlement attitude. They fail to remember, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” They – the PHB MBA 1%er CEO Managers and their syncophants – and you know who you are, you’re either cashing the checks or hoping for them – are saying in the Highest Capitalist Tradition, “Screw You I Got Mine!”

This is so much fun – Ms. Kaye writes an article which has lots of generalizations and offers no ideas for a solution. Readers react, disagree and offer ideas as well as personal stories on their lives. Ms. Kaye responds with a post on internet trolls and wow – one appears.

Note the increase in down votes, the cut and paste replies, the generalizations, the “screw you” comments. All these things add so much to the conversation, don’t they?

Last I heard, drugs cost $$$. So the person who has $$$ for drugs, needs gov’t assistance for rent, food?

Seems to me like drug use is ipso facto evidence of misappropriation of resources at the very least and where the user is unemployed with no legitimate means of support, evidence of theft or other illegal activities to acquire the resources to purchase $$$ drugs.

I’ve been hoping someone knowledgeable (Liz, maybe?) would talk about the vast number of employees who are not eligible for unemployment benefits – including the large number of “temporary” (wink wink) and “part time” (wink nudge) and “contract” (wink nod) employees who work for union shops like the USPS, various government agencies and private corporations.

We all know self employed people aren’t eligible but I think most people with old-fashioned employee status, or who are retired with pensions, don’t realize just how few people really get to collect unemployment benefits. And since the passage of Obamacare, the number of these kinds of jobs are the only ones being created outside of Oil country.

    It is easy to go online to check the rules for your state. It is usually under the”employment commission”. In my state, there is a guide for employers which defines lots of things – wages, what’s an employer, who is exempt and then many variations. I assume that over the years, states have modified the rules and that the rules will vary between states.

    If you are an employer, you really need to know the rules to ensure that you have paid what is required. Assume that the state will investigate a claim that someone was your employee. In Oklahoma, it will depend on the amount of wages paid within a specific time period. But, the list includes government agencies, Indian tribes as well as an individual who hires someone for domestic services.

    You may classify someone as temp, contract or part-time, but the state may disagree and they will look at the facts.

    For the employee, there are rules. You have to have earned a certain amount of money within a calendar quarter. You need to follow company rules and not be fired with cause. When you collect, you have to be looking for a job and accept work if offered. If you pick up extra money during a week, you have to report it and your benefits are reduced.

    For a “temp” employee – if I use a temp agency, the person is an employee of the agency, I don’t have to report those costs as wages. When the job is over, the temp can file for unemployment, but the agency is deemed the employer. If there is another job available and the person refuses to take it, then sorry, unemployment could be denied.

    I have an employee who is called up for military duty and I hire someone for a specific time as replacement. The person leaves before the time is up, the claim may be denied. The soldier returns and the temp leaves, they will be eligible for unemployment, but it will not be counted against the employer’s experience rating.

    There are lots of exemptions – if you quit for certain family situations such as domestic violence or needing to care for a disabled family member, you may be eligible for unemployment but again, the employer’s experience rating will not be dinged.

    But, this unemployment discussion shows that dealing with rules and regulations can be very time consuming. A large company will have Human Resources Department, but what about the small business owner who doesn’t have that level of expertise or staff. Now add worker’s comp, health, OSHA and many more rules and it is easy to understand why some people will close down their businesses instead of having to deal with one more rule.

Thanks for the detailed reply Liz.