I've heard many people talking about a law recently proposed in Kentucky. This bill would require Food Stamp recipients to pass a drug test before receiving public assistance. Personal note: I have never lived in Kentucky, been on drugs, or received food stamps - although I did receive Social Security benefits for a number of years and federal grants toward college tuition, I've never officially been on what most people consider welfare. I am not too proud to take assistance when it's needed, but I've always been able to stay away from food stamps - sometimes not by much.
I also care about a young homeless man that I know who cannot obtain assitance at all because of a mental illness that makes it impossible for him to make good choices consistently. He sleeps in one garage or another at night, and walks the streets by day - when he's not begging for help from his family and few remaining friends. Sometimes - especially in today's economy - it's not as easy to "just get a job and pay your own way."
So I'm trying to understand what people think this law will resolve. Will people get off drugs to obtain the food stamps they need to survive? Will it stop recipients from selling their food stamp cards for cash to buy drugs or other things that they want?
I think it's safe to assume that people who use drugs are most often metnally or emotionally compromised - maybe that's why they use illegal drugs, or maybe the drugs are the cause of their instability. Either way, they are clearly not able to make responsible decisions on a day-to-day basis.
I know from my own experience that if I go hungry even for a little while, it makes me cranky. Note: I have never experienced real hunger. Those of you who've seen me will testify that I don't appear to be anywhere near the zip code of hungry these days. But I do know when a child with very little impulse control gets hungry you better WATCH OUT!
If this law is passed, it's going to do more damage than good. It will, in essence, cause the crime rate in KY to skyrocket. People will steal to feed their families and themselves. They are already breaking the law, what's one or two more? There state is failing them by allowing them to go hungry. Is that going to help them get clean and make positive life changes? I doubt it very much. I think they will resort to stealing food or stealing merchandise to sell or trade for food and for their drug fix. They may prostitute themselves and steal from their own families to get what they think they need. They will do what they have to in order to "survive" and they will get to a point where it doesn't matter what they have to do to stop the hunger. It will reinforce their belief that the world is against them, that nobody cares, and that they have to take what they need to survive.
What about tightening up the current food stamp system as it is? How about only whole, healthy foods be allowed to be purchased. How about reducing the amount given and provide a list of soup kitchen and free food pantries along with them? Let's encourage fruits and vegetables and lean proteins like chicken and fish instead of treats and high-fat foods, or snacks that include food dyes and high amounts of sugar so that kids can actually focus and learn at school? There are lots of common-sense things that COULD work a lot better than letting people get hungry. And don't even get me started on how this country handles it's mentally ill citizens. So sad . . .
What do you think?