mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Contempt For Poor People”: Scott Walker Wants To Drug Test Food Stamp Recipients. That Shows Why He’ll Never Be President

Sixteen years ago, George W. Bush presented to America his vision of “compassionate conservatism,” and in response he received an absolute torrent of glowing articles in the media calling him a “different kind of Republican” — conservative, to be sure, but not so mean about it.

Well those days are long past. In the 2016 GOP primaries, it’s compassionless conservatism that’s in fashion.

Or at least that’s what Scott Walker seems to think, because among other things, he is hell-bent on making sure that anyone who gets food stamps in Wisconsin has to endure the humiliation of submitting to a drug test. First the Wisconsin legislature sent him a bill providing that the state could test food stamp recipients if it had a reasonable suspicion they were on drugs; he used his line-item veto to strike the words “reasonable suspicion,” so the state could test any (or all) recipients it wanted. And now, because federal law doesn’t actually allow drug testing for food stamp recipients, Walker is suing the federal government on the grounds that food stamps are “welfare,” and welfare recipients can be tested.

This is why Scott Walker is never going to be president of the United States.

First, some context. The drug testing programs for welfare recipients are usually justified by saying they’ll save money by rooting out all the junkies on the dole, but in practice they’ve been almost comically ineffective. In state after state, testing programs have found that welfare recipients use drugs at lower rates than the general population, finding only a tiny number of welfare recipients who test positive.

But this hasn’t discouraged politicians like Walker, any more than the abysmal failure of abstinence-only sex education discourages them from continuing to advocate it. The test is the point, not the result. Walker isn’t trying to solve a practical problem here. He wants to test food stamp recipients as a way of expressing moral condemnation. You can get this benefit, he’s saying, but we want to give you a little humiliation so you know that because you sought the government’s help, we think you’re a rotten person.

To be clear, there is no inherent connection between drug use and food stamps. There’s a logical reason to drug test people who have other’s lives in their hands, like airline pilots. You can make a case that employers should force ordinary employees to test for drugs, since workers who are high on the job would be less productive (though whether that actually works is a matter of some dispute). But what exactly is the rationale behind forcing people on food stamps to pee into a cup? It seems to be that we don’t want to give government benefits to someone who is so morally compromised as to smoke a joint. But you’ll notice that neither Walker nor any other Republican is proposing to drug test, say, people who use the mortgage interest deduction and thereby have the taxpayers subsidize their housing.

What does this have to do with Walker’s chances of winning a general election? What George W. Bush understood is that the Republican Party is generally considered to be somewhat, well, mean. It’s not welcoming, and it spends a lot of energy looking for people on whom it can pour its contempt. You can argue that this is an inaccurate representation of the party’s true nature, but it is nevertheless what many, if not most, voters believe.

So when Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative” and did things like objecting to a Republican plan in Congress by saying, “I don’t think they ought to balance their budget on the backs of the poor,” he wasn’t actually trying to get the votes of poor people and the minorities with whom he posed for innumerable pictures. He was sending a message to moderate voters, one that said: See, I’m different. I’m a nice guy. The fact that there was almost no substance to “compassionate conservatism” didn’t really matter in the context of the campaign. It was about his attitude.

And Scott Walker’s attitude is nothing like George W. Bush’s. He practically oozes malice, for anyone and everyone who might oppose him, or just be the wrong kind of person.

Proposing to force people who have fallen on hard times to submit to useless drug tests has an obvious appeal for a certain portion of the Republican base: it shows that you’re tough, and that you have contempt for poor people. But I doubt that Walker is too worried about how moderate general election voters might view something like that. As Ed Kilgore has noted, Walker’s theory of the general election is a decades-old conservative idea that if you motivate Republicans enough with a pure right-wing message, there will be so many hidden conservatives coming out of the woodwork that you won’t need moderates to win.

This theory persists because of its obvious appeal to hard-core conservatives. It says that they’re right about everything, and compromise is not only unnecessary but counterproductive. So the path to victory is to become even more conservative and even more uncompromising.

The trouble is that this theory has no evidence to support it. Its adherents, of whom Scott Walker is now the most prominent, believe that the reason Mitt Romney and John McCain lost is that they didn’t move far enough to the right (or that they were the wrong nominees in the first place). And they learned nothing from the one Republican in the last two decades who actually won the White House.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 16, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Compassionate Conservatism, George W Bush, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Crossing A Constitutional Line”: Will The Supreme Court Let Florida Drug-Test All Its Government Employees?

It might seem reasonable that Florida’s governor Rick Scott wants to ensure all state agencies are drug-free workplaces; after all, why would you want your taxpayer money going to support the habit of some stoned, slothful bureaucrat? But what is the state really asking for when it demands that each public servant pee in a cup?

When Governor Scott issued an executive order for mandatory drug testing across the state’s entire public workforce in March 2011, the political logic seemed straightforward: “the State, as an employer, has an obligation to maintain discipline, health, and safety in the workplace.” But underlying that seeming moral obligation are some questionable social assumptions. What does a positive test mean when your economic fate hinges on the result? What kind of “discipline” is maintained by subjugating bodily privacy in the name of “public safety”?

Today the Supreme Court is weighing the constitutional question the policy has evoked: When your boss is the state, can the “drug-free workplace” be a Fourth Amendment free zone?

The Supreme Court is considering whether to take up Scott v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council (AFSCME) 79, to review whether the state can legitimately administer “drug testing in the absence of reasonable suspicion of drug use,” based on the state’s interest in ensuring a drug-free workplace for 85,000 state employees and applicants for state jobs.

Scott’s Supreme Court petition attempts to revive the issue following a series of lower-court defeats. AFSCME, representing tens of thousands of public servants, filed a legal challenge in May 2011 contending that the testing violated Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches, and that the state had offered no real safety-related reason for such a broad testing requirement. The union argues in its brief, “allowing the state to define its interests at such a high level of generality would create an exception that swallows the rule.”

The federal district court ruled in 2012 that the executive order was an unconstitutional violation of workers’ privacy and the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed that decision. However, while the state has since suspended the policy (and a similar statute passed by the legislature has also been halted), it has been remanded to the lower court for further litigation to rework the mandate. The administration is now trying to revamp the mandate to apply to a narrower set of jobs—mirroring existing policies targeted to safety-related positions, like corrections officers.

The Supreme Court will conference on whether to take up the case or just let the lower-court sausage-making proceed. For now, the main outcome is the Eleventh Circuit’s decision that the original order was unacceptably broad, amounting to, in the words of the court, “a drug testing policy of far greater scope than any ever sanctioned by the Supreme Court or by any of the courts of appeals.”

Labor advocates don’t necessarily object to drug test policies for certain jobs based on specific work-related safety concerns. Rather, AFSCME objects to the sweeping mandate of drug testing the whole workforce and prospective future employees, screening the bodies of school bus drivers and museum ticket vendors alike, for anything from a meth habit to an occasional joint.

In its defense of the policy, the state points out that drug testing is already common in private sector workplaces. But civil libertarians note that the state, unlike a private firm, is bound by Fourth Amendment restrictions on unreasonable government searches.

On top of its crusade for a drug-free state payroll, Florida has also sought to clean up its welfare rolls with a policy of mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants. The law, enacted by the legislature in 2011, was ultimately struck down in federal court. But it also sparked a national outrage (and some notable satire), because it invoked the classic Reaganite trope of public aid recipients as undeserving miscreants looking to “game the system.” The stereotype has historically been reflected in the image of black “welfare queen,” or more recently, in the underworked, overpaid state bureaucrat. Nationwide, lawmakers have glommed onto this convenient political logic of drug-screening people involved with public assistance programs, with recent proposals for mandatory testing in Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington and other states.

Whether the urinalysis dragnet targets people seeking government support or those delivering public services, the presumptions underlying mandatory testing feed into the oppressive stigma of being tied to the public system, which in turn stokes public mistrust and backlash against government itself.

Shalini Goel Agarwal, an ACLU of Florida attorney who is working on the case, says that for welfare recipients, blanket drug-testing reflects “an assumption that if they’re relying on public benefits, must be because those folks are at fault in some way, it’s because they’re using drugs…. The facts don’t seem to bear out the stereotype, but there is this kind of villainization that’s going on.”

But despite Scott’s arbitrary drug-test mandate, Agarwal says, “The Fourth Amendment applies just as surely to poor people and just as surely to state employees as it does to anybody else.”

Historically, drug testing in both public and private workplaces has been controversial, not only because of its physical intrusiveness, but because it is often just inaccurate. Civil liberties groups point out the risk of botched results and false positives. Moreover, arbitrary surveillance of workers’ behavior through invasive tests can have a toxic impact on the workplace social environment.

In some cases, the data debunks the political rhetoric it was supposed to bolster. Advocates cite research data on welfare applicants suggesting that impoverished people actually live pretty clean: only about 2.5 percent of the applicants tested had positive results, compared to a rate of about 9 percent for the general population. Similarly, testing of employees and applicants at the state Departments of Transportation, Juvenile Justice, and Corrections showed positive results ranging from less than one percent to about 2.5 percent.

But whatever the data say, labor advocates argue that the state has crossed a constitutional line in both privacy and labor rights in its workplaces.

Many of the legal challenges to drug-test policies, Agarwal notes, have been led by unions, because “individual employees are scared to come forward, they’re scared for their own job security, they’re scared what’s going to happen to them and their families, and so they don’t come forward. And the only way effectively to get at this issue and to challenge the employers head on is to do it through the union.”

While labor has effectively resisted Florida’s effort to track drug use in its workforce, the draconian testing policy has exposed the government’s problem with data abuse. The behavioral policing of workers and the poor tells us little about their social values, but reveals much about how supposed “public safety” interests at the center of power can become a tool for invading bodily privacy at the social margins.

 

By: Michelle Chen, The Nation, April 18, 2014

April 21, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No One Cares About Crazy People”: Documents Reveal Scott Walker’s Racist, Offensive Staff

A day before Republican Scott Walker was elected governor of Wisconsin, law enforcement authorities served search warrants at his office in Milwaukee (where he served as county executive), his campaign office and the houses of his top aides.

After assuming office in 2011, Walker pushed through his conservative platform, which included limiting public sector unions and implementing broad tax cuts. As Walker’s policies gained him national attention from the Republican Party, questions about his campaign were pushed to the back burner.

Until now.

On Wednesday, the first documents giving context to the investigation into Governor Walker were made public. They haven’t explicitly linked Walker to illegal activities, but they have provided a behind-the-scenes look at the offensive conduct of the governor’s staff.

Perhaps most shockingly, the documents show that Walker staffers traded emails making fun of horrific conditions at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Facility. News reports at the time showed workers there filed false claims to hide mistakes, and let a patient with a history of violence and sexual assault move around the facility unsupervised. Staffers weren’t worried this would hurt Walker in the polls, however. “[N]o one cares about crazy people,” one staffer wrote to another.

The mentally ill weren’t the only minority group used as a punchline by Walker’s aides.

Kelly Rindfleisch, Walker’s former deputy chief of staff, received an email that compared welfare recipients to dogs. The paradoxically ungrammatical email explained that dogs should be allowed to receive welfare because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who the r [sic] Daddys [sic] are.” Rindfleisch responded: “That’s so hilarious and so true.”

Other top aides to Walker also shared their offensive sentiments.

Thomas Nardelli, Walker’s former chief of staff, forwarded a chain email that makes light of a “nightmare.” In the nightmare, someone wakes up to discover he is “black, Jewish, disabled, HIV positive, and gay.” The joke ends when the person in the nightmare realizes he is a Democrat — the worst affliction of those described in the email.

Ironically, Scott Walker was concerned about county employees with a “varied lifestyle.”  A doctor who was previously an underwear model received scrutiny from Walker’s administration, for example.

The doctor, who worked at the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, had her past career as a thong model discovered after Nardelli “MySpaced” her. Nardelli wrote to Walker that it was recently discovered the doctor “has a checkered past and has done some modeling work.” Nardelli continued: “It isn’t pornographic, but it is quite suggestive (I’m told — I don’t know her name). He [sic] apparently models thongs and wasn’t forthright in sharing that with staff prior to her hire as an hourly paid MD.”

“Get rid of the MD asap,” Walker wrote back.

And finally, the emails suggest that Walker knew his staff was breaking the law during his gubernatorial campaign. An investigator for the Milwaukee County district attorney testified before a secret hearing that email evidence proves Walker knew staff members were using personal computers and a secret WiFi network, while being paid by the county.

They set up the secret network so they could work on their personal laptops to plan his campaign for governor — all while being paid by taxpayers as staffers to the county executive.

Cynthia Archer, Walker’s administration director, said in an email that she uses her “private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW [Scott Walker] and Nardelli.”

 

By: Ben Feuerherd, The National Memo, February 21, 2014

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Mental Health, Racism, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Could Line Florida Gov Rick Scott’s Pockets

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the law requiring welfare recipients to pass annual drug tests to collect benefits, he justified the likely unconstitutional law by saying it would save the state money by keeping drug users from using public money to subsidize their drug habits. Drug use, Scott claimed, was higher among welfare recipients than among the rest of the population.

Preliminary results from the state’s first round of testing, however, has seemingly proven both of those claims false. Only 2 percent of welfare recipients failed drug tests, meaning the state must reimburse the cost of the $30 drug tests to the 96 percent of recipients who passed drug tests (two percent did not take the tests). After reimbursements, the state’s savings will be almost negligible, the Tampa Tribune reports:

Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.

That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month’s worth of rejected applicants.

Net savings to the state: $3,400 to $5,000 annually on one month’s worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800 to $60,000 for a program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.

While the state will save little, if any, money on the drug testing racket, Scott’s family could stand to gain financially. A former health care executive, Scott founded Solantic Corp., a chain of walk-in health care clinics that provides, among other services, drug tests. Scott maintains that he has no involvement in the company, but he does have $62 million worth of the company’s shares contained in a blind trust under his wife’s name. Though there is no conflict under Florida law unless the company deals with the governor’s office directly, the company, and thus Scott’s investment, could benefit from the increased traffic from drug tests.

Meanwhile, the state’s already-small annual savings could be wiped out entirely by the cost of implementing the program and issuing the reimbursements. And as Derek Newton, the spokesman for the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Tribune, the cost of the program could skyrocket if the state has to defend it in court. The ACLU is still considering a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality, Newton said.

If the ACLU or anyone else were to challenge the law, the lawsuit would likely succeed. As UCLA law professor Adam Winkler wrote after Scott signed the law, “Random drug-testing is what is known as a ‘suspicion-less search,’” and outside of a few limited instances, courts have “generally frowned upon” drug testing that occurs at random and without probable cause. “Indeed, courts have stuck down policies just like the ones put in place by Florida,” Winkler wrote, citing two cases to back up the claim.

As for Scott’s second claim, that drug use is higher among welfare recipients, the test results also show that to be false. While only 2 percent of welfare recipients failed drug tests, a 2008 study by the Office of National Drug Control Policy found that approximately 8 percent of Floridians age 12 and up had used illegal drugs in the last month, and 9.69 percent had smoked marijuana in the last year.

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, August 24, 2011

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, GOP, Gov Rick Scott, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicare Fraud, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: