It must be fair at this point to say that nobody is surprised that the state of the economy has not turned around. The national unemployment rate at the end of last month was 9.1 percent. Things are not getting better in the short term, and that is simply the reality of the situation.
Many of us at Lawrence are fortunate enough to not feel the effects of this situation in a very direct manner, but many Americans are not so lucky. The truly fear-inspiring part of this situation lies in the fact that as the financial state of our nation’s population declines, the safety nets that were put in place for a rainy day seem to be decaying with them.
I can only imagine that there must be a massive degree of embarrassment that accompanies accepting and living off of a welfare check. It is the nature of the American people to wish to support themselves, and few things can strip someone’s pride in the way an inability to provide for themselves and their families can.
This is why the welfare system in our country needs to be regulated by people who hold a better understanding of what it truly means to not make ends meet, people whose opinions of cultures that they don’t live within aren’t governed solely by stereotypes and bias.
This year alone, 36 states have attempted to introduce legislation that would mandate a drug screening through a urine test as a qualification for individuals filing for welfare. If this action strikes you as adding insult to injury, I sympathize with your opinion. This is simply unnecessary.
This proposed legislation stems from the argument that welfare money must be regulated in a manner such that it cannot be used to finance any sort of illegal activity — most prevalently, drug use.
Obviously this is a sound argument on the surface — nobody would disagree with that premise — but further analysis of these proposed legislations show that the beliefs behind them lie in outdated and biased moralities.
Drug testing for welfare is completely unwarranted. This is not to say that I support the spending of federal dollars on narcotics, but more so that I recognize this screening as a gratuitous process.
Many states already have laws in place that prevent welfare from being paid to an individual who lost their job due to a drug-related crime. More states still refuse to pay welfare to any individual who has been convicted of a drug-related criminal offense.
To put into perspective exactly how counterintuitive this process is, consider this: In the state of Florida, the average person on welfare receives $253 a month. In order to receive this paycheck, these individuals must pay for a drug test, which costs $40. It simply does not make sense from any angle.
The root of the problem here lies in a social disconnect. Poverty is a vast and rapidly-growing problem in our nation, and unfortunately, it is one that is still widely misunderstood. We must learn to let go of our preconceived notions regarding the impoverished before we can make any social progression toward rectifying the economic crisis in this country.
The longer we allow our legislation to be influenced by stereotypes of the group it relates to, the less we will progress. Otherwise, all we are doing is perpetuating falsehoods about those in need.