What’s one focus of GOP state legislators throughout the county, including here in Oklahoma, as a new U.S. Congressional Budget Office report released last week outlined massive wealth disparity between the nation’s richest residents and everyone else?
That GOP focus is to drug test welfare recipients and deny them benefits.
Now that’s the essence of “class warfare,” a term Republicans like to use in an attempt to demonize anyone who thinks the wealthy should pay more in taxes or the government should do more to create job and educational opportunities.
The CBO reported last week that the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans doubled their incomes over the last three decades. According to an article in the New York Times:
In its report, the budget office found that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income. For others in the top 20 percent of the population, average real after-tax household income grew by 65 percent.
By contrast, the budget office said, for the poorest fifth of the population, average real after-tax household income rose 18 percent.
Note the “275 percent” number. That type of massive shift in wealth is simply not sustainable. What if the trend holds for another three decades? How could democracy even exist in such an environment?
Of course, the wealth disparity issue is not a revelation. Economists have been pointing out the shift in wealth and how lower taxes on the wealthy have contributed to budget deficits for years, but the CBO is a neutral organization and the report carries more weight than a report issued by a think tank.
The report validates one of the main arguments of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, which is that 99 percent of Americans are facing varying forms of economic injustice.
Meanwhile, a federal judge has blocked a Florida law that requires anyone applying for welfare benefits to be drug tested on the basis that it violates the unreasonable search and seizure clause in the U.S. Constitution. Under the law, if those people applying for assistance test positive for drugs, they are denied benefits. The law was championed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott. A similar Michigan law was also blocked a few years ago.
It’s doubtful lawmakers from states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, Alabama and Louisiana will drop their plans to pass similar laws given the Florida decision. An earlier Time Magazine article pointed out:
Mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants is becoming a popular idea across the U.S. Many states – including Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Louisiana – are considering adopting laws like Florida’s. At the federal level, Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, has introduced the Drug Free Families Act of 2011, which would require all 50 states to drug-test welfare applicants.
The idea of drug testing welfare recipients is just the perpetuation of the “welfare queen” myth once used by former President Ronald Reagan in a presidential campaign. Studies and statistics just don’t bear out that welfare recipients commonly use government money to purchase illegal drugs. There isn’t a problem, and the Florida law, before it was blocked, didn’t save the state much money.
In Oklahoma, two state representatives have said they plan to push for a drug-testing law here next legislative session.
The discrepancy between GOP silence and inaction on growing wealthy disparity, which is steadily damaging and failing our country, and its push to deny even meager assistance to the country’s poorest citizens, is the type of real class warfare being waged in this country right now by those who do the bidding of oligarchs.