Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Readers slammed us for slamming Rep. Rickey Hardy’s embrace of what we’re officially dubbing ‘the piss poor proposal.’

We gave state Rep. Rickey Hardy, D-Lafayette, a drubbing last week in Pooyie! — labeling him that week’s Couillon with a capital C — for supporting a proposed bill to require recipients of state welfare to undergo drug tests. The bill by Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, failed in last year’s session and, we hope, will meet the same fate this year.

We still believe Rickey Hardy is a straight shooter and gives an honest damn about doing right by his constituents. But we believe his support for this slab of putrid red meat is misguided.
LaBruzzo’s bill, behind which Hardy unfortunately — again, in our view — has thrown not only his support but now his co-sponsorship, smacks of “welfare queens” and Willie Horton: ad hominem skullduggery designed to play to the prejudices and fears of white people for the cynical purpose of gaining electoral advantage. LaBruzzo represents a part of eastern Jefferson Parish that once sent former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke to the state House of Representatives; a bill requiring welfare recipients to pee in a cup is manna for those knuckle-draggers. How such legislation will play in Hardy’s District 44 — a poor and working-class, majority black district — remains to be seen.

Our response in last week’s Pooyie was visceral. We were PO’d that a state rep whom we have supported and whom we personally like would wed himself to such legislation. Our readers, on the other hand — at least those moved enough to post comments on our website — cheered the bill and let us know in no uncertain terms how adequately full of crap The Independent Weekly is.
So, let’s go at this from another angle: economics and reality.

The reality is, there’s no credible evidence that welfare recipients have a higher rate of drug use/abuse than the general public.

Michigan instituted a pilot program of mandatory drug testing in three state welfare offices a decade ago. Of the 250 women tested, 21 tested positive for illegal substances and all but three tested positive for marijuana only. Michigan soon abandoned the program.

Consider the cost of “catching” these pot heads using the Michigan numbers. A drug test costs about $42. Michigan’s pilot program cost $10,500 to test 250 people, so the cost of catching the 21 scofflaws was $500 apiece. This is why many corporations have abandoned or never embraced drug testing — the cost per positive result is staggering.

With Louisiana facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, is this cost worth it? And what do we do with those who test positive? Cut them — and, more important, their children — off the public dole?

Pay thousands of dollars for treatment to address what is most likely an “addiction” to pot?

Louisiana actually passed a law in 1997 requiring drug testing for welfare, but a task force appointed to implement the law found that limited testing based on a questionnaire used to identify likely drug users would be more cost-effective. And then, well, what ever happened to that?

If we want to address a drug more likely to be ravaging the poor, look to alcohol. But, that’s legal and has some deep-pocketed interests behind it. Not so the stoner lobby.

And why just welfare recipients? Embedded in this is the tacit belief that the poor possess less moral character than the rest of us, that they are more susceptible to the allure of illegal drugs or lean on dope to escape their economic reality. Not buying that.

And why not test everyone who receives government funds? Because welfare recipients, unlike public servants, are lazy? That’s the implication.

Even with his meager state salary, LaBruzzo is pulling down more than the “welfare queens” he’s targeting with this bill.

How about Joey Durel? He gets public dollars and, come to think of it, cracks a lot of jokes and seems generally pleased with himself.

LaBruzzo’s bill smacks of ‘welfare queens’ and Willie Horton: ad hominem skullduggery designed to play to the prejudices and fears of white people.

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