12 August 2014

Drug Testing Confirms that Welfare Recipients are a Bunch of Drug-Addicted Slackers Looking for a Handout


1 out of 812 applicants tested positive for drugs in Tennessee.


After instituting dehumanizing drug-testing requirements to welfare recipients on July 1, just one person tested positive. That means that just 0.12% of all people applying for cash assistance in Tennessee have tested positive for drugs, compared to the 8% who have reported using drugs in the past month among the state's general population.

Now, Tennessee, go test your state legislators and mayors and city councilmen and judges and see how those numbers stack up.

In Tennessee and other states, suspicions that welfare recipients are a bunch of drug-addicted slackers were proven dead wrong.

(a nice graphic to put things in perspective)

In Utah, just 12 of 4,730 (0.25%) welfare applicants tested positive for drugs over the course of a year. 

In Florida, just 2.6% of applicants tested positive, costing the state much more than it saved. The program was thrown out in court last December as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

In Virginia, a similar drug testing program was scrapped after analysts found it would cost $1.5 million to implement and save just $229,000 from un-disbursed benefits.

Maine’s governor set out to prove welfare recipients in his state were using their benefits to buy booze and cigarettes at bars and strip clubs, but turned up nothing.

Requiring people to pee in a cup for no reason other than being poor and in need of assistance is demoralizing and won’t pass constitutional muster.

And test results thus far only confirm what researchers already knew: Welfare recipients are not rampant drug users, and most of those who do take drugs are not addicts. Those who do have substance abuse problems mostly drink alcohol. It's a tired stereotype perpetuated by those who wish to further drive a wedge between the haves and the have-nots and is rooted in racism.

But even if the tests were finding many more drug addicts, denying them benefits would still be a cruel, stupid policy. It's the children of poor drug users who stand to lose the most if the food stamps get cut.

Nevertheless, last year, House Republicans voted to require states to drug test food stamp applicants (in the same bill that also cut benefits by $40 billion, by the way).

I’ve always thought it made a lot more sense to test members of Congress than Welfare applicants. The taxpayer funded checks they cash are much bigger.

16 May 2014

On Donald Sterling

I’ve known many Donald Sterlings in my life. I bet you have too.

When they start sentences with “There’s not a racist bone in my body, but…” you can pretty much be guaranteed the rest of the sentence will be racist. Ever notice how people who truly aren’t racist don’t really have to spend a lot of time convincing people? 

I listen to Donald Sterling and I see the likes of Strom Thurmond and Jessie Helms and George Wallace, each of whom pointed to all the good they’d done for poor blacks in their states as a way to appease their racist attitudes and policies - in the same way plantation masters described their relationship with slaves as symbiotic, in the same way Donald Sterling talks about providing homes and cars and clothes for his players. You'll find various incarnations still lingering today in state houses and Congress halls and presiding over corporate board rooms.

Racists in the spotlight, like politicians and celebrities, are easy to see through.  Give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. Or just keep recording long enough. Just as burning crosses are easier to spot than glass ceilings, today’s racism may be less noticeable...but there's no shortage of it, mostly flying under the radar and occasionally rearing its ugly head for all to see, as it is now. Will it die off with the eighty-somethings? Even an idealist like me knows it’s naïve to think racism will ever be fully extinguished. But there’s reason to be optimistic that it will fade in time - as society evolves and the US becomes more multi-cultural.

I was born in the rural south at the height of the civil rights movement.  I grew up with racism all around me. Racism is always inexcusable. But to be honest, I shrugged off a lot of racist attitudes among the old timers from back in the day who never made it past the county line as them “just not knowing any better.” The same latitude can’t be given to a savvy businessman who lives in a world-class city and associates with fellow millionaires of all colors, even if he is eighty years old. 

What the audio tapes and subsequent interview with Anderson Cooper reveal is an old man completely out of touch with post-millennium America. Adaptability is the key to growing old gracefully and Donald Sterling epitomizes the opposite - a curmudgeonly old man, stuck in his ways, desperately trying to hold on to the day when white men held all the power and did whatever they pleased to whomever they wanted because they had enough money to settle out of court.  

But his dirty old tricks aren’t going to work this time. There still exist places in America where minorities have no voice.  The NBA is not one of them. Legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and current superstars like LeBron James wield tremendous influence and power. The league’s commissioner acted swiftly and decisively when he banned Mr. Sterling from the NBA for life. Adam Silver seems genuinely disgusted by Sterling’s remarks. But he’s also no dummy. He knows that the multi-billion-dollar empire could come crumbling to the ground in an instant if the league’s most high profile minority players stand in solidarity and walk away.

For most African-American players, I’m imagining, this moment is bigger than the Clippers, bigger than basketball. It’s about the weight they’ve inherited from generations prior. It’s about their fathers and grandfathers who bit their lips and walked away from the condescending boss man because they needed to put food on the table. It’s about not having the votes to unseat a Strom Thurmond or the clout to face down Bull Connors. It’s about a legacy of powerlessness … But right now, with a hugely popular and successful professional sports league as the backdrop, and the whole world watching, they hold the power. And they’re not about to squander the opportunity to make a statement.

Some white people may not understand the level of ire Sterling’s comments inspired. We’ve all heard the tapes. When it comes to racist tirades, I’ve heard much worse. So has every NBA player, I bet. If Mr. Sterling were a decent guy, I imagine the NBA front office and league players would be open to giving him a second chance… a hefty fine and a suspension probably, but not a lifetime ban. Who hasn’t said things they didn’t mean in the throes of an argument with a lover? Maybe dismiss it as the jealous rant of an old man whose mental faculties might be on the decline. But he’s not a decent guy. He’s a slum lord with a long history of racial discrimination. He’s the antithesis of what the NBA is trying to project. The tapes provided the league with the ammunition it needed to get rid of him, and they did.

Mr. Sterling will undoubtedly fight this to the bitter end. The matter could be tied up in litigation for years. If the courts inexplicably return the team to him or his estranged wife, we can surely expect much upheaval… probably a boycott by NBA players who would likely refuse to play in a league that includes Donald Sterling. It could be the end of the NBA as we know it. 

And I would support the players 100%.

Side note: Dear Lord, if I’m ever a billionaire, please grant me the wisdom to suspect that a girlfriend fifty years younger just might have ulterior motives.

09 April 2014

America is Beautiful in Many Languages

In 1971, when Coca-Cola launched its  "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" ad promoting peace and included a variety of races, it ignited an outpouring of protest among segregationists and war-mongers and isolationists and bigots - still clinging to the then not-so-distant past when “coloreds” used separate water fountains and Jim Crow ruled the day and races certainly did not intermingle in “perfect harmony” for all the world to see. And, oh, the audacity of a company as Americana as Coca-Cola promoting world peace during the Viet Nam war!

Fast forward to Super Bowl XLVIII and, well, I guess nothing much has changed.Promptly after Coca-Cola aired an ad with “America the Beautiful” sung in a number of languages, social media was littered with claims that the company was unpatriotic and plans to boycott its products.

Sadly, there exists a contingency of people still longing for the good old days when blacks rode in the back of the bus and gays stayed hidden in the closet and women in the kitchen and children were seen and not heard and everybody spoke proper English, y’all, and old white men ran the nation. Thank God those days are over because it’s most certainly not the America the beautiful in which I aspire to raise my mixed-race children. Its diversity, in my opinion, is what makes America beautiful.

What’s so scary about languages? English will always be the dominant language spoken in the USA. But, it’s certainly not the only one. Spend an afternoon at a café in SoHo or a tea house in the Castro and you’ll likely hear dozens of languages being spoken in the tables around you. Right here in America. That's really okay. Note: Chinatown is just as much a part of America as Lubbock, Texas.

There are supposedly 27 different languages represented at my daughters' elementary school - diversity that adds to the richness of their education and childhood and better prepares them to engage in the 21st Century multicultural world in which they live. So far, neither of my daughters has contracted any contagions as a result, nor are they leaning toward Socialism because they hear non-English words spoken every now and then.

America is a big ol’ country and there’s a place for everyone. I’m sure there are plenty of trailer parks or country clubs in sprawling suburbs where everyone looks, talks, thinks, loves and votes the same way. If that's your cup of tea, embrace it. Meanwhile, the rest of us can appreciate the inspirational message Coke was trying to send, even as we’re shocked, yet again, by the things that get labeled unpatriotic by some.