Wednesday, 23 October 2013
This one's doing the rounds, so as yesterday's blog was cancelled due to my better judgement, let's consider this whole topic.
Let's look at this logically.
The cost of testing has been conclusively demonstrated to cost multiple times any savings here. It has been tried. It has failed. The idea sounds half-reasonable until you look at the numbers, and the numbers don't work.
Similarly it has been proven time and time again that the cost of tracking down all forms of cheating on any welfare or benefit scheme always costs far more than the money spent on people who really shouldn't be receiving it.
In other words, it's cheaper to turn a blind eye to a few freeloaders than it is to prevent their fraud. Ask any accountant why you would spend more rather than less, or just figure it out for yourself.
But let's pretend this is not the case. Let's pretend you save money testing welfare recipients not only for drugs, but for all forms of "not playing by the rules", and for some reason it was saving the system money.
You stop giving them support.
What happens next?
If you think they are all going to suddenly snap to it, become fine upright citizens, get a job, pay the rent, feed the family and never be a problem again, you are living in cloud cuckoo land.
For a start, it's hard enough for people without these issues to get jobs. If you are a drug user, or simply a lazy bum, it's not only much harder to find employment, you won't keep it long. Some people are virtually unemployable. If you've ever worked alongside a person with drug problems, or with severe laziness, you know that not only do they do a bad job, they create problems for their co-workers. They could potentially be an actual danger to the public.
The next issue is that some of them have dependants. What happens to them if income is withdrawn? The children of these people already suffer, already get abused, already go without food. With no money coming in at all, it's going to get worse.
What you will have, quite quickly, are people who are either begging on the street, or committing crimes to stay alive. In winter in northern climes, homelessness alone can be deadly. It's very hard to pay rent on no money.
You don't need to feel any sympathy for the drug user or lazy bum, if you don't want to. What you do have to look at is the outcome of withdrawing their income. Logically. Not wishful thinking. Not what you would do if you were penniless, but what realistically will happen.
What usually happens is that they become ill, maybe they are already mentally ill, but never diagnosed. That can happen to poor people. There are many physical diseases that can afflict drug users and other desperate people, including HIV. And now we have a cheap drug on the street that rots your flesh off.
These people will require hospital treatment. It costs far, far more from the public purse to hospitalize or provide drugs for chronically ill people than it does to cover their rent and food. Ask that accountant about the best choice here again.
Again let's look at the children of these people. The foster care system in most countries is already overwhelmed, so that is not a viable solution. Plus, foster parents get paid a lot of money, far more than parents are ever given to support their own children. So it's cheaper to leave them with their parents.
Do you think children living with these parents do well in school? Do you think they are growing up with the best guidance, the best role models, the best care? How will they be when they are adults? The answer is not difficult. They will be another generation the same as their parents.
Are their chances better or worse if they are homeless, and starving? Perhaps, in this scenario starving them to death could cut costs. Is that the plan?
You will not find a single taxpayer who is happy about this entire situation. Some believe the solution is to provide more money to go into supporting people with problems. Some would like to provide nothing. But there's nobody who thinks it's just fine as it is.
And if we are talking about money, there is such a thing as investment. Investing in the next generation, investing in safer streets, investing in the general health of the public, these things tend to be a wise investment. Unfortunately, because results are not instant, it's not good for votes.
If you have no compassion, or limited compassion, or just take a different approach to compassion, that can be discussed as a separate issue, and of course it will be.
But when it comes to cold, hard cash, it does NOT help matters to withdraw public support from those whose ability to support themselves is compromised in this way. It costs more.