How 'Bout Drug Tests for CEO's??? - Poor Parents on welfare in Florida Pass Drug Tests
The Florida law to drug test welfare applicants deconstructed By Tiny , daughter of Dee, poverty skolar, co-editor PoorNewsNetwork
When I heard about Florida’s new requirement of drug testing to qualify for the meager cash crumb known as welfare and the test "results" that were just released today--indicating that over 98% of folks on welfare passed the tests--I reflected on my childhood and young adult-hood in and out of houselessness and extreme poverty.
My mama and i sometimes made enough money for rent, food, toilet paper--and if we were lucky, toothpaste--in our underground micro-business--selling art on the street, unlicensed. Much of the time we didn’t. When weather or po'lice harassed, making it impossible to sell our products, welfare was our last option.
"You must be on drugs, how much cash do you have in your pocket?”
One of many disdainful welfare case workers wrapped her teeth around each word, creating spittle-filled bullets directed at me as she went over the 45th page of the welfare evaluation form I had to complete to determine whether I qualified for a $239.00 dollar a month cash grant which wouldn’t get us a room but might buy us some gas for our car to sleep in, do our wash, buy a few pairs of socks and a little food. “Two dollars and 10 cents,” I replied.
“Do you own any assets, car, boat, house?” she shot at me.
“Does a hand truck count?”
“Do you have any CD’s, 401k’s, Savings accounts, or trust funds?”
“I have a $ 1.00 lottery ticket".
“I bet you spend all of your money on drugs,”
She didn’t look up from the form as she made this final “assessment” of my life. “I don’t use any drugs or alcohol, I never have,” “Right. Ok so your next appointment is in two weeks. You need to bring back a letter from your landlord, three more proofs of residence, birth certificate, social security card, a valid picture ID, a utility bill and a letter from your case manager at the last shelter you were at--I cant help you with anything until you bring me these documents. Good-bye Ms Garcia. ” “But I have no money for food or soap or toothpaste or… rent…” But she was gone by this time, her heals making a deep clickety clack on the stone floors beneath her feet.
Who deserves a drug test? I remember those not-so distant days of hate and assumptions by welfare workers of me and my mama when I heard about the new law signed by Florida governor Rick Scott requiring drug testing for parents before they can qualify for welfare--drug testing that folks will have to pay for themselves--a test that runs approximately $42.00 dollars that will only be reimbursed once they pass the test, more money than we could have afforded even though we would have “passed the test”.
So who really deserves a drug test? Many of the expensively dressed “executives” I delivered cutesy art products to in San Francisco's financial district had chronic and serious drug or alcohol problems. Many had “bars” in their offices. Many were high while on the job. But why didn’t they have to pass a drug test before they received their multi-million dollar pay checks, 401k’s, trusts, pensions and retirement packages? Because, you are saying, they worked for their money and they got their jobs from “hard work” really? Really? The hard work of having race, gender, and/or class privilege? The hard work of having connections, people who know people, who know other people, who get you into good schools where you meet more people who have “start-up” money for new ideas and concepts and businesses and the latest, coolest social network start-ups?
There is no Free Money
To receive that little bit of budget crumb, which was originally ours--the indigenous peoples, African peoples, poor workers, migrant workers, etc.--in addition to the work of parenting which is a full-time job--all welfare recipients MUST work. We do bus cleaning, street cleaning, administration work, and food-serving to name a few of the jobs people on welfare do at below minimum wage to receive their cash grant check.
And unlike the work of corporations, we don’t hurt people, animals, land or air with our work, we don’t fund wars that kill innocent children in Afghanistan, Libya, or Haiti. We don’t sell or steal the seeds and plants of small farmers, we don’t promote fat-filled, unhealthy food on poor communities of color, we don’t poison the air and oceans and rivers with chemicals and toxins and we don’t steal water and land and try to sell it back to the indigenous people who have always stewarded and cared for it.
Deserving Vs Undeserving Poor. As I reflect on the violence of poverty in Amerikkka for poor people, families, children and elders, through acts of budget genocide like the virtual stoppage of the welfare crumbs in many cities like Oakland, Minneapolis and Portland, the upcoming proposed 700 million in federal cuts to welfare and hellthcare or the deep hate that informs the increasing criminalization of poor parents through laws like the one implemented in Florida, I am reminded about the deserving versus un-deserving poor herstory in Amerikkka, how welfare, medical and services were never meant for people like me and my single parent mama of color. Welfare codes and so-called scarcity model crumbs called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) were supposed to be only for widowed, white women of war heroes who because of the deep white supremacy that informs Everything in the US, were considered the “deserving poor”.
What people Should Have A Drug Test ? I have a new proposal. Now most of us allegedly drug-addicted bums/ aka parents in poverty trying to raise our children on subsistence crumbs, have passed the enforced drug tests. Maybe we could start requiring the people who are earning millions of dollars to destroy mother earth, steal our resources and /or sell us things we can't afford or don't need to take drug tests, i.e., require drug testing for CEO’s of Google, Chevron, Apple,Verizon, Comcast, Bechtel, Halliburton and beyond. It could be a condition of promotion and included in the drug test should be a humiliating evaluation appointment with the drug tester subjects the testee to a questionnaire about what they do and what they have done to society in the name of their job, the results of which would be released publicly. Perhaps society will then begin to realize who the real criminals, bums, lazy, drug users in our society really are.