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Est. April 5, 2002
March 03, 2016 - Issue 643

A Drug-Testing That
We Can Get Behind:
Test Them All


"Drug testing is a favorite make-work program
of the powers that be, and has been for decades.
How else to punish the most vulnerable citizens?
It’s bad enough to have to depend on food stamps,
but to humiliate them further by drug-testing
them is the icing on the cake."

Finally, amid all of the frenzy to drug test everyone in sight in the U.S., someone in the halls of power has come up with an idea that has been expressed in Solidarity America in the recent past.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee member, was incensed last week, when the Republican who heads the subcommittee revealed a measure that would pave the way for states to drug-test low-income Americans before they can be enrolled in the food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). States cannot do that now.

Drug testing is a favorite make-work program of the powers that be, and has been for decades. How else to punish the most vulnerable citizens? It’s bad enough to have to depend on food stamps, but to humiliate them further by drug-testing them is the icing on the cake. And, it provides the corporations and the labs that do the work of analysis with lots of contracts. The more classifications of Americans who are tested, the more work there is to be done.

DeLauro’s question to the rest of the subcommittee was: Why stop with recipients of the SNAP benefits? Why not drug-test everyone who receives a subsidy from the U.S. Department of Agriculture? That would include a large number of farmers and the managers of farm cooperatives and lots more, like big-name entertainers and sports figures, who like the tax breaks and subsidies that come with owning all or part of a “farm.” And, it would cover those who get money from the USDA, not just subsidies, but from any program, such as crop insurance.

Many rich people in our capitalist economy really enjoy the extra money that flows from USDA subsidies and tax deductions, some of which are what could be called “socialist light,” in any analysis of the programs. Investing in a farm or other agricultural enterprise is one sure way to protect wealth and watch it grow. An example of that is, a few years ago, the USDA put out a map of its subsidies around the country and the areas that received them were illustrated in red. One of the reddest places in the country was Manhattan, a place where there are few farms, to be sure, but those are the places where there are wealthy citizens who have invested in agriculture as a smart way to increase their wealth and protect what they already have.

How about drug testing those folks? After all, they are receiving subsidies and other freebies that are directly from the taxpayers. Why should we not be assured that our money is not going to someone who is using illegal drugs? It is the rationale of the Republicans and some Democrats who want to be sure that SNAP money is not being used for drug buys.

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., a member of the congressional Tea Party Caucus, as well as chairman of the subcommittee, tried to put a righteous spin on his drug testing proposal, by saying that people should not use SNAP money to support their drug habit.

The punitive nature of Aderholt’s proposal is out there for all to see, because, at a time when underemployment is the rule (even though the unemployment rate is dropping) and families are trying to make it on low-wage jobs, he and his GOP colleagues would drop them from the rolls of SNAP participants and leave those families to fend for themselves. Could he not know that there are millions who go to bed hungry most nights and millions who are food insecure? He has said that he just wants to save money in the federal budget, and the way he does it is to go after social programs and the food stamp program is a big one. Never think that Aderholt or his party would go after the bloated military and defense budget, because that’s where the really big money is and some of that money eventually finds its way back to the politicians who support the bloat.

But Aderholt does mention that the thrust of his proposal is to encourage those who test positive for drugs and are removed from SNAP rolls to get help and, when they can test drug-free, can get back on the food stamp rolls. Obviously, he never has had much contact with the programs and those who work in them, that they are overwhelmed and that there are never enough programs to treat all of those who need their help. Money for more programs will never be forthcoming from Aderholt or those, regardless of party, who believe as he does: First, punish those drug users by cutting off their means of eating a modest diet (which is all SNAP provides) and turn them out to fend for themselves. Saying the words “treatment” and “get back into the program” does not make those things happen.

Untold numbers of people with drug problems seek help, but can’t find it. When they need help today, they might be told that their name on a list might get them started in a program in two or three months. This is especially destructive when time is crucial, when for example, there are veterans who have drug problems and are homeless. Veterans are people who are damned with heavy praise by the “patriotic” Americans like Aderholt and so many in Congress and in all of the state legislatures. Yet, they are left to fend for themselves. If veterans ever get food stamps, which politician would deny him or her food stamps, if they tested positive for drug use?

DeLauro’s suggestion that all recipients of USDA subsidies, insurances, and tax breaks is a good one, as it surely would reach deep into the middle class and, even, into the ranks of the wealthy. And, to drug test them, the principals involved should be drug tested, not some lawyer or shill for the corporation which action usually protects the subsidy recipients. The person who finally benefits should be the one who is drug tested.

The good congresswoman, however, does not go far enough. As we have suggested in the past, why not drug test politicians, as well, especially the ones who wish to humiliate SNAP recipients and use the money they save to buy more weaponry and military hardware. They are paid by the same people who are providing the funds for food stamps and other social welfare programs, so why not drug test them first? If the general public were polled, it’s a good bet that they would opt to support food stamps and other social programs, rather than further expand the military and defense, the budget of which is bankrupting the nation. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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