On drug testing
Gov. Hutchinson has implemented a statewide mandatory drug test for every new applicant for a welfare program known as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).
The original bill, SB 600, was created and sponsored by 39 Arkansas senators and representatives, all but two of which were Republicans, and seven of which were members of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). ALEC is a notorious corporate bill mill that gives newly elected Republican legislators a free family vacation at selected resorts in exchange for sponsoring its cookie-cutter bills that favor corporate interests at the expense of taxpayers.
In a 2014 Time article, Darlenam Cunha wrote: "The [drug] testing is meant to assure taxpayers their money isn't being 'wasted' on the less desirable, those who would somehow manage to buy drugs with the assistance. But in Tennessee, where drug testing was enacted for welfare recipients last month (July 2014), only one person in the 800 who applied for help tested positive. In Florida, during the four months the state tested for drug use, only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive. Meanwhile, Florida has an illegal drug use rate of 8 percent, meaning far fewer people on services are using drugs than their better-off counterparts. The drug testing cost taxpayers more money than it saved, and was ruled unconstitutional last year."
In 2013, the U.S. District Court in Orlando struck down the Florida welfare drug-testing law as a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to protection against unreasonable searches.
For anyone who hasn't realized it yet, let me reiterate: The Republicans are the party of the very wealthy and big corporate interests, and this law testifies once again to their well-organized and well-funded class warfare against the poor and disenfranchised.
I urge any TANF applicant who is denied access to this program for refusing to answer drug-related questions to contact the Arkansas ACLU and consider filing suit against Blake Johnson, the bill's sponsor, Gov. Hutchinson and/or the state of Arkansas.
The state's other newspaper announced the Department of Workforce Services' launching of a drug-testing program for welfare recipients in Arkansas. The new law requires that funds bypass heads of households who test positive for drugs and then fail to meet the requirements of rehabilitation, all in an effort to keep aid from being spent on drugs. According to the legislation's co-sponsor, Rep. Robin Lundstrum, (R-Springdale), the goal is not to keep the "truly needy" from receiving assistance, but to stop aid from being paid directly to drug users. Lundstrum was quoted, "I want to see that money gets into the hands of the truly needy, get it to those kids, whoever is in charge needs to be drug free."
I agree with Lundstrum. Public assistance meant to help those in need should not be used to support a self-destructive habit. I applaud Lundstrum and other Republicans who do not simply promote the cessation of all public assistance. This shows that some of our current Republican leaders possess at least some measurable level of compassion, an attribute seemingly in short supply among today's conservatives.
While this all sounds good, there is a bigger picture to consider. The provisions of the new law allow tax revenue to be spent on identifying and labeling drug users, while simultaneously denying benefits that help the user pay for assistance in overcoming their addiction. So, once again we see modern day right-wing thinking at work. Spend money on identifying, labeling and punishing, but not on helping everyone who is in need. Lundstrum and her supporters want to help the children of those who may be addicted to drugs, but they also want to punish their parents. This proves that many conservatives refuse to see drug addiction for what it is: a sickness. For whatever reason, many on the political right are determined to keep drug dependence within the realm of criminal activity, as opposed to seeing it as a public health issue requiring understanding and compassion.
Another question comes to mind. What happens when the head of the household's failure to adhere to the stipulations of the new law results in eventual incarceration and the state must step in and assume the cost of caring for the children? Now we have a scenario where tax money is being spent on prosecuting and warehousing the drug-using head of the house, and providing care for the children through foster parenting and all the public services that typically accompany this approach. This is a far more costly route than simply trying to help the sick individual overcome their addiction in the first place. Again, this shows the conservative propensity to care more about punishment than compassion.
Bob Jones and Asa
I read Gov. Asa Hutchinson's biography that was online prior to the election. I noted that it omitted his time at Bob Jones University and that of his wife and brother. The school website is boastful of them as graduates.
I regard that as deceptive and an indicator of character weakness. It is well known that BJU taught racism, homophobia and was disparaging of women and their autonomy. Women who were raped were counseled that it was their fault because underlying sin in their lives brought it upon them. That they should ask their rapists for forgiveness!
My point: If Asa refuses to publicly admit marinating in such tripe and doesn't renounce its teachings, we citizens have reason to believe he still holds those values. Backing legislation by those of his party that codifies such garbage into law would indicate he still holds such values. Allowing such tripe to become law without his signature would seem to indicate he agrees with it or fears the tea party and fundamentalists among them. How should we regard him for that?
Asa is catering to Obama haters in changing the private option. He obviously had that intent while campaigning, but refused to say as much. The refusal to release the budget before election would have revealed his present efforts and that he feared the tea party.
We need some answers as to why Asa hid his BJU background and up-front admittance of adherence to its mess or renounce it publicly.
It warms the cockles of my heart to witness the exquisite balance that the Arkansas Times' writers strike between objectivity and bias. Of course, no one expects perfection from this gang, with the possible exception of Gene Lyons, whose yeoman efforts to canonize Bill Clinton continue apace and could bring him a Pulitzer Prize, perhaps after the current committee takes pity on him or dies.