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  Monday January 26th, 2015    

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Legislation on welfare checks (04/24/2013)
By Frances Edstrom

Rep. Steve Drazkowski put forth a bill that would require welfare recipients to submit to drug testing. He was pilloried for the mere suggestion. According to the Star Tribune, “‘You should be ashamed’ for politicizing a program meant to help the state’s poorest children and their families, Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, told Drazkowski.”

I don’t know Drazkowski’s reasoning for the amendment, but at first blush, I have to disagree with Liebling. Requiring drug testing would have the effect of protecting the “state’s poorest children,” and giving them a chance.

Do we really live in Minnesota, in Winona, read the police blotter twice a week in this paper and not believe that drugs are a huge problem? If the adults in a child’s family are spending money on drugs and are addicted to drugs, and that family receives welfare money, how much of the welfare check do we think is going to be spent on the actual welfare of the child?

It’s not just a matter of the welfare check going to feed a drug habit. We should be angry about that abuse of the public trust. We should be more angry that parents who abuse drugs do horrible things to children. Child neglect is rampant among drug-using parents. How can a person care for a child when she’s high all the time? How can a parent be any sort of role model for his child when he brings home shoplifted goods to sell in exchange for drugs?

Often drug-addled adults can’t even care for themselves, and certainly can’t care for children in the manner we think of as normal. It may be normal in the household led by a drug addict to have unsavory characters hanging around their children on a daily basis. Sexual deviants, felons, drug dealers, pimps — are these the people we want funded by our welfare dollars? Are these the people we want in our children’s lives?

It’s no secret that drug abuse is the main reason for much of the case load at the county’s Human Services Department. Ask teachers which kids in their classes come from homes where drugs are a problem, and I bet they can tell you. They’re the kids who come to school hungry and unbathed, tired and labeled losers before they get out of kindergarten. They’re the kids who don’t know that people have fresh food in their refrigerators, cook it in healthy and tasty ways, sit down at a table to eat it, clean up after themselves, wash their hands, and refrain from using the “F” word. They don’t know that some houses have books and art in them. They don’t know that they should be dreaming about what they want to do when they grow up. They are the kids who assume they will live like their parents (if they know them both), which is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If drug tests are required in order to collect a welfare check, it is possible that our human services workers will be better able to identify families where drugs are a serious problem. It is possible that parents would try to stay clean, at least for a while. It is possible that drug addicted women may understand that pregnancy is a bad idea for them — an expense they can’t afford. It is possible that being a “baby mama” for some pimp or other low-life won’t be as attractive.

It’s worth a try.

Liebling was apparently so affronted by Drazkowski’s attempt to exert some control over the state’s welfare system that she “countered with an amendment to his amendment — calling for mandatory drug tests for state lawmakers, too. Those who failed the test wouldn’t get their paycheck from the taxpayers.”

If I may suggest a further amendment, perhaps IQ tests for legislators wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. It might weed out the cloudy thinkers who believe we are helping poor children by feeding their parents’ drug habits instead of their kids’ tummies. 


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