Recently, a few of the folks on whose eff-lists Yours Truly may appear on the effbook have indicated their affinity for groups like: “If I have to take a drug test to qualify for a job, you should have to take a drug test to qualify for Welfare”. This really makes me angry. I know there will be people who comment here, perhaps not in favour of this precise sentiment, but certainly in favour of shrinking the social safety nets we have in this country, in favour of non-governmental, non-tax-based programmes to address social issues. I respect your opinion, and staunchly disagree.
But what makes me mad about this particular sentiment is multifold.
First, welfare is not a job. It should not be compared to a job. It should not, in my opinion, be considered income. Welfare ought to be considered support for those incapable of supporting themselves, whether that is in the raw form of dirty government money, food stamps, subsidised housing, what have you. It is not a job. It is a system by which we, as humans, provide for those other humans who can not provide for themselves.
Second, failing a drug test presents a liability for your employer. Which is why they don’t want to hire a junkie. Many of the people who are on welfare would probably fail that drug test, and *that is why they are on welfare*. Because our mental health system has failed them, because our addictions programmes have failed them, because our legal system has failed them, and because our society has failed them. It’s pretty tough, f’rinstance, to ‘get over’ alcoholism or other substance addictions if you can’t get in to a detox program because the hospitals don’t offer them, the closest one is two hours away, and after five days of detox you’re tossed back out on the street and left to your own recognizance to get your arse to treatment. Which is also not available to you.
Third, yes, I understand that some of you are bitter that weed isn’t legal and you take umbrage with the idea that your prospective employers oughtn’t have the right to be proscriptive with the way you choose to live your life. And fair enough. You have the power, here. You can choose not to apply to work for someone (say, the government) who does mandatory drug testing, or you can choose to quit doing drugs while you work for them. It’s pretty simple, really.
I have a few friends who seem to think that the world owes them something, who really seem to believe that it’s !Not Fair! that they are not living the kind of life they would like to live. But at the same time they are unwilling to do something about it, so their bitching and moaning really amounts to a hill of beans. More to the point, as far as I’m concerned, they can hold their hand out and wait for the world to give them what they want, and poop in their other hand, and see which hand fills up first. Which is, of course, just a really fancy way of saying ‘grow up and face the truth; no one deserves a free ride’.
And welfare, my friend, is not a free ride. There are those who seriously have a hate-on for the idea that there are people out there who “don’t have to work; they get their house and their daycare paid for and so all they do all day is sit around and do drugs and spend their food money on beer and my tax dollars pay their rent”. I kind of feel bad for the folks who say those kinds of things, because I don’t think many of them have ever lived in poverty.
And yeah, I’ll concede that the welfare system in this country could really be a lot better managed and delivered. I think it is ridiculous every time I hear someone say “I’m going to leave home and live on the dole and then I won’t have to do anything with my life but watch TV and eat take-away”. I mean, first, what a horrible life. Second, good luck being able to afford TV and take-away. Third, you’re part of the problem.
But, back to my original point. If you are suggesting rescinding Welfare for addicts, do you think people decide to become addicts so they can live in the lap of luxury on Welfare? Do you think the life of an addict living on Welfare is so much better than yours, now that you’ve had to give up dope to be gainfully employed? I mean, feel free to start selling your body on the streets so you can earn enough money for a bag so you can deal with having to sell your body on the streets so you can earn enough money for a bag.
So, my problem is this: people who say things like “if I have to take a drug test to get a job; then people should have to take a drug test to get welfare” either don’t grok Welfare and what it’s *supposed* to be for, or they don’t grok addiction, or they think they’re being cute.