Bright New Idea: Drug Test Welfare Clients

Paul LePage, the Republican Governor of Maine and a Tea Party enthusiast, offered an exciting new idea last week: drug test applicants for welfare. Use drugs and no financial assistance. How cool is that, and this to be done randomly with little cost to the taxpayer. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before, I asked my cousin Hal, visiting from Tallahassee. Somebody already has, he snorted, Why would you say something that ridiculous? Because, I explained, Paul LePage and his Tea Party friends are firm defenders of the Constitution, of individual liberties and of states rights. Like the colonials of the Boston tea party in 1773, who didn’t have representation in Parliament when the Tea Act was passed, these modern patriots didn’t have representation in Congress or in state legislatures when financial assistance programs were passed. Now they’ve taken a brave stand against taxation of all kinds and in any form, with or without representation. Isn’t that to be praised? You’re so naive, Hal countered.  Republicans, led by the Tea Party, are pushing the very same ideas in every state in the union. They are pushing drug-testing just as they pushed the abolition of same day voter registration. Didn’t you notice that they had pulled that off in Maine and in a bunch of other states? I had not. They don’t care about individual states, he continued, and they don’t care about individual liberties; they push the same anti-democratic agenda everywhere. They hate unions. They hate government. They disapprove of state workers. They don’t want working people to vote. They don’t want tax money going to poor people. They make a mockery of the very Constitution they praise. That can’t be right, I protested, Governor LePage has proved himself a stalwart defender of Medicaid against blatant fraud by charlatans. Maine, you must have read, is peculiarly susceptible to Medicaid cheats. This was recently demonstrated by the camera work of James O’Keefe, a philosopher major at Rutgers and the founder of Project Veritas, whose videos are not only good, but foolproof. They either find criminality or vulnerability, every time, and nothing in between. Something is dreadfully wrong in the world each time O’Keefe shoots an image, even when the captured scene looks normal enough and even sweet. O’Keefe is a Andrew Brietbart associate. The two have overcome all of Plato’s doubts about the deceptiveness of images. They have proved that every evil plot written into a telescript comes true when filmed in the real world. How much more evidence do you need than that? They have found the mother lode truths of the field of Rhetoric: how to prove the rule by its exception; and, how to prove a general truth by a single example. LePage, like them, is surely an idealist, a virtual Don Quixote seeking restoration of the shining city on the hill. The Governor’s drug-testing task, I continued, is to stop spoiled poor people who would rather live freely on welfare in Maine than die in dignified poverty in New Hampshire. He doesn’t want them sneaking across the border to Kittery. The Governor’s trusted research arms, the Maine Hermitage Policy Center and Americans for Preposterousness-Maine, have discovered that people come to Maine to shop, first to Kittery, then to Freeport, and then to town halls for welfare benefits.  As Governor LePage aptly pointed out, every truck driver has to be drug tested. If it works for them, wouldn’t it be a great way of getting services to poor drug addicts who are too shy to seek help on their own?  Shoppers from the granite state, LePage insists, are not going to get their welfare in Maine. Hal, disgusted, called me uninformed. Didn’t I know that Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, and a fellow Tea Party devotee, had  successfully passed the same bill in Florida earlier this year, and that it had already been judged unconstitutional? No, I didn’t know. I was aware that Governor LePage and his wife were practically Floridians themselves and were rumored to have a nice little place in Ormond Beach which had come with an instate tuition benefit to Florida State University for their daughter. But truth be told, Hal was right. A Florida law had been signed by Governor Scott in May and had been in operation since July. According to the New York Times, other states are proposing bills to do the same thing. Governor LePage, it seems, is  not alone. He is either a friend of Rick’s or a fellow traveler deep into his tea cups. According to the Miami Times, the ACLU sued the state on behalf of Louis LeBron, “a thirty-five year old Navy Veteran and single father from Orlando who is completing his college degree.” While LeBron meets all the criteria for financial assistance, he refuses to take the drug test, which he would be required to pay for. Why should he pay for a drug test, he wanted to know, when there is no reason to think that he used drugs? Judge Mary Scriven, a federal judge in Orlando, agreed, and issued a temporary injunction against the state, finding that the law in all probability violated the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban against illegal search and seizure. I thanked Hal for bringing me up to date, and opined that Governor LePage probably didn’t know any of this, and would no doubt retract his proposal when he learned of Navy Veteran LeBron’s concerns and of Judge Scriven’s opinion. Want to bet on that? Hal retorted. I’ll bet you a fiver LePage not only goes after drug-testing for poor people, but also for new state employees. Rick Scott has already tried to do that in Florida, and failed. Plagiarists like LePage, Hal predicted, will not be far behind. Give him a year and he will propose all the recommended legislation in the Tea Party playbook. He suggested I take a look at Ohio. I took the bet and wished him well upon his return to Tallahassee. I heard from Hal again on November 9th, the day after the Election. He wanted to be the first to congratulate Maine voters on restoring same day voter registration. Hooray, Maine! How was I feeling? Cautiously optimistic. A big victory, but the Tea Party folks were already suggesting an identity card requirement as a substitute. The Republicans attributed their loss to the influence of outside money, not to the good sense and civic values of the electorate. Wow, they want to reinstate the poll tax! Don’t they know that the Poll Tax was ruled unconstitutional long ago? No, they don’t know, and they want the voter to pay the cost of the identification card. I know, Hal explained, the voter pay requirement is what makes it a poll tax. They’ll soon find out what states like Wisconsin and Georgia have done to beat the Poll Tax argument. What’s that? They require the state to give out free ID cards to registered voters, but they don’t advertise the service. That way, registered voters show up on election day without ID cards. Clever! You know, Hal says, this stuff is unpatriotic and undemocratic; you’d think the Tea Party Republicans hated America. I don’t think they do, I told him. We call our times an Age of Terrorism, and I guess it is, but it’s more fundamentally an age of out-of-control personal fear. Americans fear other Americans terribly. If you don’t look, think, and act like I do, you’re not a real American. The Tea Party doesn’t ask what they can do for their country. They tell the country what it must do to comfort them. What’s the result? You know what it is, national unity rent asunder. You make it sound like the Civil War hasn’t ended. And you make it sound like the Civil War is just starting. At least we can look forward to the next election. Yes, I agree. So work as hard as you can and make sure to vote. I surely will. I hope you do too. Will Callender November 20, 2011©

4 thoughts on “Bright New Idea: Drug Test Welfare Clients

Add yours

  1. Please, Turn the Page:

    1. You may not believe in Poetry,
    2. History, or Geometry— at least
    3. If there’s a ‘Triangle;’ however,
    4. It seems a risk that you don’t know
    5. That Art is something that can show
    6. You life without a dollar sign, that
    7. Life has Life sewn in each rhyme, and
    8. In a song, a book, and friend, where
    9 . Dollars would not flex–nor spend
    10. Themselves on things that harm—
    11. Like toxins used to fish and farm.
    12. Your job’s to help Maine’s people sow
    13. Their wonder, and help goodness grow!
    14. Each worker seeks a better place,
    15. And toils for love, and toils for grace,
    16. And cares for people rich and poor,
    17. And welcomes those with less–and more.
    18. The people, land, and their goodwill
    19. Ought make your heart and soul stand still,
    20. And marvel that you have the right
    21. To view with mercy all our plight,
    22. And come to see with transformed sight
    23. That freedom rings both day and night
    24 When you respect each person’s right
    25. To celebrate democracy.
    26. You must not lock the door to that,
    27. Or we shall take your key!

    1. A ritual tradition in Maine for 15 years, on Jan. 5, 2011, as requested by him, no poem was read at the inauguration of Governor Paul LePage.
    3. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, March 25, 1911 in NYC, resulted in 146 deaths of mostly women and young girls who were locked inside the upper floors of the factory where they were working. The tragedy inspired progressive new labor laws that greatly improved job safety.
    5. In March, 2011, a 36’ mural depicting people at work, in Maine, was spirited away from the Maine Department of Labor to an undisclosed location. Governor LePage claimed that the mural was one-sided because it portrayed only workers, and not ‘job creators.’
    9–12.Speaking about the dangers of environmental pollution and bisphenol (BSP), Governor Lepage said: “The only thing that I’ve heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.”
    23-25. “Kiss my butt.” was the response of Governor Paul LePage, when he refused an invitation to attend a Maine NAACP meeting in Jan., 2011. He added: “They are a special interest… End of story. And I’m not going to be held hostage by special interests.” Also, in November, 2011, Maine Republican Party attempts were made (but failed) that would have overturned an existing law that permitted Maine voters to vote and register on the same day; however, to continue to make it more challenging for people to participate in democratic processes a legislative session in 2012 will meet to determine if there will be a requirement for a valid photo I.D., in order to cast a ballot in future Maine elections.
    26-27. The People of Maine will have the opportunity to reconsider who they cast their vote for in the next gubernatorial election. The ‘key’ to the “way life should be, democratically speaking, will be determined by the people at that time.

    Sincerely, Unidentified Freedom Oasis, a concerned Maine Citizen, 2011

    1. Sherrie,

      Thank you so much for being such an attentive reader of my blog entries. While I’m just learning my way in the Blog form, your responses are most encouraging. I shall continue!

      I knew you were a Jazz Singer and an exquisite writer, but I didn’t know that you did poetry and loving satire. I can’t tell from this email whether you’ve posted this directly on-line as a comment to the piece I wrote. I don’t even know if the comment function will allow long comments. I sure hope that it does and that you do post this as a comment. What a wonderful addition to the Blog.

      Thanks again.


  2. Dear Will:

    Oh my! Your comments are welcome and warming in a sometimes icy world. Because I strive to express myself unselfconsciously, as much as possible, and wanting to tell things from the heart without fear of mean-spirited responses, I appreciate your support to be transparent. It’s risky, but worth it to try and speak openly and honestly. When I write I try not to imagine being a specimen in a cold, sterile lab, with little bits and pieces of my thinking carved into nearly atom-size bits, just the right size for scanning under an electron microscope, or swabbed gingerly with carefully applied strokes onto freshly made agar, in a Petri dish, waiting for someone to comment on how remarkably wrong, how unmistakably incoherent, or how blatantly stupid I am. I know that can happen; it is possible — and when I think of it, when I contemplate the possibility of someone being intentionally cruel I hold my head up, sing to myself, and pray for white light to surround me. I sing, or recite a special saying and look over my shoulder, bravely, like a lone girl whistling past a graveyard, past a very bleak looking graveyard whose trees are barren and cold, chilled to the core like the partially exposed but buried rectangles of honed granite, tipping this way and that like drunken sentinels guarding the dead, then spy the half-moon shaped stones, with their rivulets of frost on them, punched midway into the ground below leafless, skeletal branches, whose acorns have long been swept away by small critters and wind. There are names on them too, the stones, and sometimes mine is one of them; it is inevitable, after all.

    Regarding this forum, like you, I am entering in as a novice myself, so we have the chance to learn together, again. And, to address your recent query, it does appear that the ‘comment’ feature of the blog is working all right, for I did reply to you directly on the blog itself, and it looks like it took my entire poem, with footnotes. Also, in an error I’ve made it seems like I may have posted the poem more than once—apologies for that, if I did.

    As for ‘truth,’ I can’t explain why, precisely, but, when I feel and believe that I understand something deeply, and truthfully, it brings me to tears that are satisfyingly haunting, capturing me in its arms like an old friend, or an old melody that, as a very young child, either lulled me to sleep or woke me with a flickering brilliance, an unction, bathing me in something profoundly and beautifully fleeting, something that it’s hard to develop language around. It is difficult (and foolish too, perhaps) to try and describe those moments, when I remember them, with words that will never do justice to the sensations that come over me during those times. It was (and sometimes still is) a way of knowing truth without it having any shadow on it. It is the closest I get to wholesomeness, to fullness, to a connectedness and purpose within life’s magnificent and complex drama. Like Brigadoon, the brightened moments of Truth, of Solace and Understanding, come and go in time warps. Without warning, the bridge to truth fades away, a curtain falls on me, the veil thickens, the lights dim, and I fight to remember how to run the gauntlet of life, always tugging on my golden thread, like Ariadne, holding the cord close to me, fist curled tightly around it, praying all the time that the little sliver of remembering. and of knowing what is Good, and Merciful, and True, will not be lost to me as I wander through time, jumping over the pleats of it, heaving the weight of my mis-knowing against the edge of the outer rim of the caverns, of the caves, peering into the openings from above exhausted, collapsed, and nearly falling into the crevices below me, where puppeteers continuously march in front of those whose necks are chained and trained to believe what they are told, to believe what they are seeing. Then I remind myself that I don’t remember how, exactly, I ever got out of that dark place to begin with, even though I know I have to return, over and over, wondering each time if I will make it out again, each time trusting that I will remember that I am being lifted up even as I am descending, that the lower I go the more spiritual altitude I gain, that the more afraid I am the more courage I will experience, that I am not even dust, yet I am trying to carry someone on my shoulders (as someone once carried me), out to the light, where we can learn from and care for each other, or so I hope.

    Please be assured that I am not leaving your homage to Saramago by the wayside. He is a force, a man whose words create a vortex around me, spinning my thoughts until they’re as wispy as cotton candy that looks for a fresh paper cone to cling to. Attempting to speak to how I am connected to my own thinking, to truth, to other people and their values, and to life, in general, I am warming up. I am taking courage from you to listen carefully, reply carefully, and to gather goodness into little packets, into bite size rations, like holy wafers that will be needed on a rainy day, on a gray day, on a day or night when hope seems hard to find, to be shared with family, with neighbors, with friends. Respectfully, and with small steps, I do tip toe into Jose’s world, a world where clocks stop and start according to whim, names beget each other in the far back reaches of the name-keeper’s building, sighted people go blind without a single medical reason, and death is interrupted because he said it would be. I admire this sort of thinking and wonderment, and your thinking and wonderment, feeling at home with it even though I may be unprepared for what is ahead; regardless, it raises me up to be included in the discussion, and fills me with gratitude for your invitation to do so.

    I look forward to new contributions, especially for the excellence of their light and inspiration.

    Sincerely, and with hope, Sherrie
    PS I felt this post was too long, but Philip was insistent that I share it. If there are any complaints, I’ll have his email ready for anyone who wants it! 🙂

  3. Whoops. The puppeteers march ‘behind’ the prisoners, not in front of them; in my haste, I fell down on that one.

    It’s likely that I will continue to be sensational in the faux pas department. Visiting hours are unlimited there, so drop in anytime.

    Cheers, Sherrie

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