The state of Florida has started requiring that recipients of welfare benefits in that state submit to drug testing before they are able to receive their entitlements. This law impacts new applicants for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, who incur the cost of these drug tests, and are reimbursed only if they pass.

Despite the fact that this new bill is questionable at best in its constitutionality, it is highly discriminatory, based on the presumption that poor people in need of benefits are likely to be drug users. This is purely a stereotype, as a 2001 pilot testing study in Florida found no significant difference in drug use among aid recipients. And in a state where the unemployment rate is among the highest in the country, the government is compromising the ability of families to survive by failing to provide a valid harm reduction model.

Consider the children who are impacted by this new law. If a parent is denied their welfare checks because of a failed drug test, which has now cost the family up to $70 of crucial funds, where will money for the child's food and clothing come from? For their educational materials? Under the law, a parent is supposed to be able to name another adult who can receive benefits on behalf of their child. But in an environment where support is low and resources are limited, this answer may become more of a problem than it is a solution.

It seems as if the agenda of this new law aims more to deter families from applying for benefits than it does to deter drug use. In the absence of a drug therapy or rehabilitation program to accompany the testing subjection, what choices will a despondent parent have to support their family and get back on their feet? If drug use was actually a critical concern of the Florida government, the position of these individuals would be considered before applying such a harsh invasion into their privacy.


Fan Moment

I met Van Jones today at an ice cream shop in Takoma Park. I was so star-struck, I even told him: "I blog about you all the time!" He was genuinely engaging, asking me questions and chatting about green jobs networking, urban agriculture, blogging, and the tea party. He was humble, inspiring, and funny to boot. Keep on fighting the good fight, Van! You've certainly got a fan in me.


Our Families are Fine, Thanks

Sidetracking slightly from its primary mission of denying civil rights for gay people in Iowa, THE FAMiLY LEADER, a powerful Christian fundamentalist group based in that state has begun to focus its influence on the 2012 presidential election. TFL has asked that republican candidates sign a pledge condemning divorcees, gays, Muslims, single parents, and [until the edited version was released] African Americans in order to receive monetary support from the organization. True to form, republican candidates inspired by white bread religious extremism, mixed with a little outright bigotry and elitism, were enthusiastic about the opportunity to prove how truly American they are: white, straight, and married for better or worse.
In the original document, which claims to uphold "human rights, racial justice, and gender equality," the following language can be found:
  • "Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American Families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of USA's first African American President." (This statement was removed from the pledge, due to obvious controversy, AFTER Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum had already signed it.)
  • Pornography, sexual promiscuity, the notion that homosexuality is innate, and non-wed cohabitant couples are just as much a danger to the integrity of marriage as is spousal abuse.
  • The document calls for a "rejection" of Sharia Islam
  • It also calls for the "fierce" defense of the First Amendment's rights of religious liberty (But not for Islam??)
  • And of course, it calls for support for DOMA: Marriage is between one man and one woman etc. etc.
Wow. Dictating what a "family" should look like... Religious Intolerance... The intimation that slavery had ANY benefit to children and families?? This type of ignorance, hatefulness, and big-brother-type interference into our personal lives should not be allowable in a free society, let alone endorsed by our so-called political leaders. And by republicans, no less, who argue that government is already too involved in our lives. I guess telling us what kind of family lives we should be leading is ok, but telling us to buy health insurance isn't. Gotta love conservative hypocrisy.