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When North Carolina lawmakers passed a law last year mandating drug testing of public benefit recipients modeled (at least in part) on a law in Florida, civil liberties and anti-poverty advocates told them it was a bad and unconstitutional idea.

Today those advocates are feeling some vindication as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1tth Circuit stuck down Florida’s law. This is from the New York Times story:

The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled that the law, one of the strictest in the country, was an unreasonable search because Florida officials had failed to show a “substantial need” to test all people who applied for welfare benefits. Applicants were required to submit to urine tests, a measure that Mr. Scott said would protect children of welfare applicants by ensuring that their parents were not buying and using drugs.

“The state has not demonstrated a more prevalent, unique or different drug problem among TANF applicants than in the general population,” the panel said in its unanimous decision, using an acronym for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

North Carolina’s law is not identical, but the same basic logic ought to apply: If we’re going to start doing forced bodily searches of welfare recipients, there’s no logical reason the state shouldn’t be able to mandate such tests for all recipients of public benefits — from college students to Social Security beneficiaries.

let’s hope this decision heralds th beginning of the end for such invasive and ill-conceived programs.

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In case you missed it, be sure to check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which Chris explains what’s really at issue in the stalemated state budget negotiations. Most notable on the list: the remarkably regressive positions of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

“Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told WRAL-TV that any budget deal must not only include the Senate’s estimates of Medicaid costs but must also reduce the number of people who are covered by the program.

Berger said the Senate wanted ‘reductions in the welfare spending that is ongoing at the present time.’  Medicaid, the health care safety net for the most vulnerable people in North Carolina, is now welfare in Berger’s far-right view of the world.

The budget the Senate passed earlier this session would kick at least 5,200 aged, blind and disabled people off of Medicaid. More than 1,600 of them have Alzheimer’s or dementia and are in special care units, which to Berger must be a new fancy way of saying welfare.”

As Chris also notes, there is an easy way out of the mess: Read More

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The good folks at Think Progress published a story yesterday entitled “Your assumptions about welfare recipients are wrong.” It’s a myth-buster worth checking out as we contemplate the realities that confront so many of our fellow Americans — especially during the holiday season.

“The stereotype of the low-income people enrolled in government programs is that they spend the money on frivolities and are unwise with their budgets. But the data proves otherwise. Families who receive public benefits such as housing assistance, welfare cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security Income (SSI) for the disabled or low-income elderly have much smaller spending budgets than those who don’t receive benefits and spend a bigger portion on the basics such as food, housing, and transportation, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On average, families who are enrolled in these public programs spend less than half of what families who aren’t enrolled spend. They also put a bigger percentage of that money toward food, housing, and transportation, devoting 77 percent of their budgets to these necessities compared to about 65 percent for other families. Meanwhile, they spend less, on average, on some things thought to be luxuries like eating out and entertainment. A family that doesn’t get public benefits spends 4.5 percent of its budget on ‘food away from home,’ while a two-parent family who gets benefits spends 4 percent of its budget on eating out and a single parent spends 3.6 percent. ‘Food away from home spending was higher in both dollar amount and percent of total spending among families not receiving assistance,’ the report notes. Families who don’t need assistance also spend more on entertainment in both dollar and percentage terms and devote more of their budgets to ‘other’ expenses.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

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Aldona WosArt popePat McCrory 4How much lower can the performance of the folks running North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services sink? By all indications, DHHS now stands for Department of Hell for Hurting Souls.

The latest outrage, of course, is the decision to give life to the late night fantasies of the Randians in the Pope Empire by using the federal government shutdown as an excuse to close the last vestiges of North Carolina’s already pitiable “welfare” program: Work First. The program has already been allowed to wither to the point at which it serves only a tiny fragment of those who should be receiving assistance. It cost less than $5 million for the entire state in September — barely enough to renovate two dozen nice bathrooms.

And still, the McCrory/Pope/Wos triumvirate can’t be bothered to do what the leaders of every other state in the union have done — states who, by the way, almost all have much, much larger bills to pay — namely, to stick a crow bar in their precious rainy day fund and free up a few hundred thousand bucks for a few days.     

The decision, of course, comes on top of similar decisions to halt  payments for several other programs serving the most needy, including WIC (subsequently rescinded in the wake of widespread public outrage), vocational rehabilitation and the TEACH childcare program.

All in all, it is just one more  toxic brick in the reprehensible wall being constructed by the nation’s most extreme administration that continues to divide citizens from their government and the haves of society from the have nots. 

 

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On the heels of the legislature overriding his vetoes to an immigration bill and a bill that would drug test welfare recipients, Gov. Pat McCrory appeared before State Board of Education members to address the legislature’s actions and reveal his education policy agenda in the wake of the long legislative session.

After speaking of his disagreement with this morning’s overrides of his vetoes and his intention not to enforce drug testing welfare recipients until the legislature funds that mandate, McCrory turned his attention to education.

Once again, McCrory pointed to the high cost of the Medicaid program as the reason why teachers did not receive a raise this year.

McCrory admonished lawmakers for inserting education policy into the budget bill, and called for action right now with regard to higher pay for current master’s degree-seeking teachers.

“I asked my budget director if we can find revenue for teachers already in master’s degree programs to get the salary supplement. He said yes,” said McCrory. Read More