Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dystopian views

I've been having a chat with my brother-in-law via e-mail. He used to be an EMT til he blew out his back -- twice. He finally had to quit, though. But he still remembers with a good deal of outrage the things he saw on that job. And I guess I remember the things I saw at my job as a legal services lawyer. It's kind of funny how close we are on so many details and yet we wind up on opposite sides in the final analysis. I am reminded of the recent research that seems to show that people's tendency toward liberal or conservative (though neither of us in quite so neat in our political slotting) seems to be pretty much biologically based, not a product of rationality or philosophy.

At any rate, John thinks it would be an excellent solution to the problem of the "welfare lifestyle" to link eligibility for benefits to a system that both tests for drugs and is tied to a job application tracking system. If somebody applied for a job, was offered the job and turned it down, they would be ineligible for benefits. If they tested positive for drugs, they would be ineligible, of course.

I can see right away how this would twist in the real world. Number one, it does not touch alcoholism. Number two, people would immediately begin learning how to "game" the drug testing, and paying each other to take the urine and blood tests for them. There would be this whole black market for test takers, I imagine if the system were not tied to fingerprints right away.

But what are you going to do to support the children of the drug-addicted parent? Are you just going to let them wander the streets begging for food? This is where the whole plan runs off the rails. Because you have the innocent children squeezed in all this. So you get programs like food stamps and WIC, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, etc.

The other thing that just grabbed me was the thought about what if your turned down a job offer, and that blocked you from all welfare programs? If it was just set up like that, with no nuances, it could be such a cruel system that could be so abused by employers! If there were really dangerous jobs, like a coal mine that had no safety precautions, totally unregulated -- you'd be crazy to accept the job -- a death sentence! And yet, if there were no other jobs open to you in your area, and you turned down that job, you would be totally screwed in terms of welfare benefits for you and your family! Talk about a captive labor market!

You don't think business would take advantage of a change in the law like that?

Image of 1984 cover art from http://spacekimono.wordpress.com/about/ blog post about author George Orwell.

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