William Crandell: What’s next in the war on the poor?Published 8:57am Thursday, May 2, 2013
By William Crandell
Recently the Republicans in the State House introduced legislation that would allow for the drug testing of state aid recipients, launching yet another attack on the poor of this state instead of addressing the real issues such as high unemployment, lack of proper health care and lack of education funding. This new bill is nothing more than a distraction and another blatant attempt to utilize stereotypical outrage towards the poor and punish the so called “welfare queens” here in Michigan.
Much like the Florida drug testing welfare law that was recently struck down by a federal appeals court this new law seeks to eliminate benefits for recipients who fail a drug screening regardless if that aid is supporting a family.
Even though the Florida law was only in effect for a few months, 98 percent of those tested passed and the law ended up costing more to enforce than it saved the state by throwing people off assistance. In Michigan this new law would require state workers if they suspect drug use to have the recipient tested but caseworkers have already expressed that they feel they have not received the proper training to make such a decision and worry that it will violate a citizen’s right to privacy.
Another recent attack on the poor is state Rep. Al Pscholka’s Parental Responsibility Act that suspends the benefits of families if their children are truant from school. The PRA is another misguided and flagrant attempt by the GOP to throw families off welfare and demonstrates a willingness to use any excuse to do so. Should a younger sibling have to go hungry or risk the possibility of not having any heat because their older brother doesn’t want to go to school?
These state laws are being passed at a time when the effects of the recent sequester are just starting to take their toll. Berrien County currently has an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent and the sequester cuts have slashed long term unemployment funds for our county by 32,388. In Cass County they have an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent and are losing 6,277.
Overall Michigan will be losing 2.2 million in long term unemployment benefits and families are going to need government assistance but all the GOP are concerned with is whether or not recipients are smoking pot.
At a time when Michigan should be working together to fix our problems, the Republicans are doing everything they can to deny benefits and remove any kind of safety net.
Being poor in America should not be treated like a crime and those suffering from its affects should not have to feel shame.
These new laws will open up avenues to punish children because their parents make bad life choices and will lead to more crimes such as prostitution and drug addiction.
This law is an excellent example of the GOP’s lack of understanding of the issues and demonstrates their elitist attitude toward the less fortunate.
William Crandell is a community activist and active member of the Michigan Education Association and Michigan Democratic Party. He is also a member of the South County Democratic Club where he has served as their communications director and as the chairperson of the SCDC Blue Tiger Community Action Committee.