Saturday, May 4, 2013

Drug Test the Politicians Running Tennessee

Stone-hearted Republicans love making poor folks stand in lines and jump through hoops.

So much so the Republican majority in Tennessee passed a law in 2012 -- sparing no expense on the taxpayer’s dime -- to drug test poor families applying for, on average, $164 a month of temporary assistance to pay for food, shelter, utilities and other family expenses. State officials have until 2014 to implement the law.

If you listen to the intolerant conservatives who run the Capitol, you would hear accusations implying that people who’ve lost their job through no fault of their own and now draw some government assistance are a bunch of do-nothing dope fiends and moochers.

Arizona has had a similar drug test-for-benefits law on the books for three years. According to The Tennessean, Arizona taxpayers have spent thousands of tax dollars administering thousands of drug tests and caught exactly one drug abuser -- ONE -- who was receiving welfare.

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

In Tennessee, existing rules governing the service already require families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to keep their children in school and participate in a work-training program.

Still the state estimates enrollment in the program will drop and we will successfully deprive thousands of poor families who’ve fallen on hard times a sum total of $1.3 million annually for food and shelter with these new hurdles.

As Arizona’s record shows, a scant few applicants will be rejected because of drugs. But others, single mothers who live in the country and can’t afford to travel to the city for testing or dads who have lost their jobs and can’t afford $50 for a drug test to prove their children are worthy, will be affected too.

So do the Republicans who control Tennessee apply these rigorous, multi-layered mandates to all cash payments footed by taxpayers?

Not hardly.

WPLN reports Tennessee taxpayers are currently forking over $720,000 -- A MONTH -- as part of a near $100 million handout to the Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation of Clarksville, which earlier this year, fired 300 employees, almost its entire staff, at its silicon-production facility.

Having laid off a vast majority of its in-state workforce, Michigan-based Hemlock Semiconductor, owned in part by the Dow Corning Corporation, clearly hasn’t lived up the agreement made with the taxpayers of Tennessee.

But millions worth of Tennessee’s tax dollars keep flowing to Michigan anyway.

An article on in March says the total loss of tax dollars could reach $300 million factoring in state and local tax deferments and there's been "no effort from (Tennessee Republicans) to get taxpayers’ cash back."
Perhaps a drug test for the governor and legislators who keep signing off on the millions worth of corporate welfare checks would be appropriate.

This year Democrats in the state Senate proposed a measure that would introduce “claw back” provisions so CEOs and corporate executives who take our money but fail the test of job creation would have to give back the tax incentives they took to get started.

The proposal was signed into law, but not before it was watered down to the point where the claw back mandate was removed.

Republicans have shown they are steadfastly committed to maintaining a different set of rules for working people and the rich.

To quote America’s most trusted newsman, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, "Why is it that if you take advantage of a corporate tax break you're a smart businessman, but if you take advantage of something so you don't go hungry, you're a moocher?"

Democrats believe fiercely in accountability and spending our tax dollars efficiently -- but that does not begin and end with programs that benefit the poor, working and middle class families.

Republicans conversely have shown a commitment to accountability for everyone, but themselves, their campaign donors and big corporations.

If they believe a single parent should have to take a drug test to get $165 for their children, surely we can create a “jobs test” for CEOs and corporate special interests drawing $720,000 a month.


In March, Hemlock announced the January layoffs were permanent, which begs the question: where is our monthly $720,000 check going?

Coincidentally, Dow Corning, one of Hemlock’s corporate parents, announced on its website in December -- a month before firing 300 Tennesseans at its Clarksville plant -- that it was expanding one of its factories for more silcone production.

Not in Clarksville,Tenn. Not even in Michigan. This “multi-million” dollar manufacturing investment was in Songjiang, China.

As our millions worth of tax dollars pad their corporate parent’s profits, they cut American jobs and invest in China.

When conservatives tell you they are “pro-business” remind them, those businesses should be creating jobs in Tennessee.

Thanks to KnoxViews for inspiring this post.