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07 January 2012

Now Vitter Wants to Drug Test Welfare Recipients to Save Tax Dollars

Dear Fellow Non-Pols (FYI: Citizens, not politicians),

I received another update from Sen. David Vitter. This time he thinks it would be a good idea to start drug testing welfare recipients, now, as a basic concept this sounds like something that makes sense. What you're not being told is where the money for the drug testing would come from and which drug testing companies would profit from states requiring drug testing for welfare. In one scenario, the money might come from the welfare funds themselves, which amounts to less aid to less people. In another scenario, the drug testing could be paid for through a raise in taxes, which means citizens might be paying for more bureaucracy.

Creating a new requirement for recipients and then creating another invasive function for the government is NOT actually a fix for the issue of "government waste and fraud." In fact, the suggestion is purely designed to increase "waste and fraud." It is a typically Vitter move and it mimics the attitude of the "professionals" within our entire political system:
1.) Blame the Poor (let'em eat cake)
2.) Work the Shit out of the Middle Class ("work or become poor")
3.) Corporate Welfare for the Rich (plus, Coddle the Ubër Wealthy)

If Vitter really wanted to save tax payer dollars, he'd want to confirm whether or not there is a problem with welfare recipients and drugs.

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients (FL Case Study)
Let's take Florida (a state whose recent history is filled with "government waste and fraud") as our case study in implementing a drug testing requirement on welfare recipients (2% tested positive, 2% didn't test, 96% tested negative for drug use). So, Gov. Rick Scott's claim that welfare recipients are more likely to use drugs than non-welfare recipients really is meant to point the "government waste and fraud" finger at the impoverished who have the gall and audacity to seek government assistance. Fortunately, Judge Mary Scriven "issued a temporary injunction" that the governor plans to appeal. Apparently, Judge Scriven was concerned about the violation of privacy, illegal search and seizure, and the targeting of one class of people receiving government aid (recipients of other government funds--scholarships, contracts, etc.--are not required to drug test). And, as expected, Gov. Rick Scott, continues to claim the law is meant "to help children and get parents back to work..."

Remember earlier, when I mentioned a couple of ways to pay for this program? Well, Gov. Rick Scott decision was to make the applicants pay for the testing, if they passed the drug test the government would reimburse them. So, the 96% of applicants who paid an average of $30 per drug test were supposed to be reimbursed that money. Basically, the Florida government paid for pointless drug testing. Let's dig a little further; let's check out his information on the State of Florida's official website. Remember a few sentences ago, when I mentioned other recipients of Florida govie funds aren't required to drug test? Well, according to the Govenor's website, agencies falling under the Governor's "purview" are/will be subjected to drug testing. Take a look at Gov. Rick Scott's Executive Order No. 11-58 (pdf).

What would Gov. Scott have to gain from pushing forward legislation that targets the poor as well as government employees and also benefits drug testing facilities, labs, and product lines through guaranteed government funds?

Scott and Solantic.
From the Tampa Bay Times: "A few days before he took office in January, Scott moved his shares in Solantic Corp., a chain of 32 urgent care centers, to the Frances Annette Scott Revocable Trust. Scott co-founded Solantic in 2001 and was involved in its operation until last year. His wife's trust now holds enough stock in the private company to control it."

From Wikipedia: "Solantic, based in Jacksonville, Florida was co-founded in 2001 by [Rick] Scott and Karen Bowling...Solantic opened its first urgent care center in 2002. It provides urgent care services, immunizations, physicals, drug screening, and care for injured workers. The corporation attracts patients who do not have insurance, cannot get appointments with their primary care physicians, or do not have primary care physicians. Solantic is intended to be an alternative to the emergency room care that these types of patients often seek, or for not seeing a doctor at all...In 2006, Scott said that his plans for Solantic were to establish a national brand of medical clinics. In August 2007, the company received a $40 million investment from a private equity firm and said that it expected to open 35 clinics by the end of 2009, with annual revenues of $100 million once all these clinics were open, compared to $20 million at the time. As of March 2009, Solantic had 24 centers, all located in Florida....Solantic was the target of an employment discrimination suit, which allegedly claimed that from a Scott-directed policy to not hire elderly or overweight applicants, preferring 'mainstream' candidates. It was settled for an undisclosed sum on May 23, 2007."

Who is Karen Bowling and what is she doing now? From the Florida Governor's website: "Karen E. Bowling, 56, of Jacksonville, is the deputy chief administrative officer for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. She succeeds Emily Smith and is appointed for a term beginning August 30, 2011, and ending May 31, 2014...Previously, Bowling was chief executive officer of Solantic Walk-In Urgent Care from 2001 to 2011. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Electric Authority, the Florida State College at Jacksonville Foundation, Associated Industries of Florida and Crime Stoppers of North Florida. She is also on the advisory board for the Jacksonville Humane Society. She received an associate degree from Florida State College at Jacksonville and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida."

Does Mayor Brown know of Bowling's long time connections and business relationship with the governor? Is her position yet another example of the corrupt crony capitalism that continues to plague our nation?

Let us recap: Governor Scott moved his shares of Solantic to a trust in his wife's name. His former co-founder is now "deputy chief administrative officer for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown". Executive Order 11-58 requires government agencies under the "purview" of the governor's office to begin drug testing new hires and conducting random drug screenings of previously hired, while also requiring drug testing of welfare recipients (who, as it turns out, aren't actually using drugs at a higher average than non-recipients).

With an appeal promised and the injunction only a temporary reprieve, it seems this issue is not resolved. Which also means that the governor is prepared to spend even more tax dollars fighting for a "law" based on erroneous numbers and rife with class discrimination. So much for helping children and parents.

With out further ado: Vitter. Senator Vitter has now hopped on the Gov. Scott band wagon, as you can see in the letter below. What is ridiculous is that Vitter wants to do this on the national level...right, because it's worked so well for Florida...only, that's what proponents argue, "it worked great for Florida." As you can see from the numerous links above, that attitude is a fallacy. Yet, when the corporate elite and political elite (i.e., rich) decide to target the impoverished (i.e., unwealthy citizens) facts seldom come into play, generally they toss about unfounded accusations and unsubstantiated blame in order to instigate and hate monger.

Dear Friend,
As we face a national debt that recently zoomed past $15 trillion, I think we can all agree that reducing wasteful spending should be one of our very highest priorities. That’s something I’ve always fought for as I’ve represented you in Washington.
One step we can take to combat government waste and fraud is requiring drug testing for recipients of federal welfare benefits. Regular, random screenings would push addicts to seek the help they desperately need and would prevent your hard-earned tax dollars from being used in wasteful, destructive ways..
Even the strongest supporters of welfare would have to agree that government programs should not encourage lifelong dependency, and that the children and families associated with addiction would benefit from ending this cycle of destruction.
I recently wrote an op-ed for U.S. News and World Report in support of this policy position. Click here to read the full article, and let me know your thoughts by contacting me through my web site at www.vitter.senate.gov.
David Vitter Signature
David Vitter
United States Senator

So, in his traditional style of unfailing incompetency, Vitter has once again proposed a "solution" that solves nothing, creates more problems, and ultimately serves to further stigmatize the impoverished. Good job asshole!

From U.S. News: Vitter's opinion on Drug Testing Welfare Recipients. By the way, Vitter doesn't just want to drug test welfare recipients, he also wants to cut funding to federal assistance programs. He also admittedly paid for a prostitute (a crime) and has never been "punished" because the prosecutor never brought charges. And, for one last piece of reading amusement, Vitter was deemed "one of the most corrupt members of congress."

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