War On the Poor: The Invention of Issues

There’s two issues that seem to be always in and out of the public discourse regarding accountability.  They’re both relatively simple on the face of it, but if you take a second look, there’s a bit more nuance than first meets the eye.

The first issue is voter identification.  The Department of Justice ordered the state of Texas to stop implementing a new voter identification law until the federal court system can weigh in on the matter.  At first glance, the whole idea that you show photo identification makes sense.  You have to do so to board a plane, you have to do so to even rent a movie (for those people who do not have Netflix as of yet).  But the fact of the matter is that the state of Texas has not demonstrated that there’s actually a problem with voting fraud.  The state attorney general has only been able to prosecute fifty cases during his tenure, and that’s out of tens of millions of votes cast.  Republicans publicly proclaim that this is about transparency and fairness in voting; it is  anything but.  Many black and Latino voters in Texas and elsewhere sometimes have a harder time of obtaining a government issued photo ID.  Many counties in Texas don’t even have a single facility where one can apply, meaning that people have to travel long distances to do so.  As the law would disproportionately affect minorities, effectively stripping them of their right to vote, all the while, there’s no demonstrated problem to be rectified, simply amounts to voter suppression of minorities, which is in direct contravention to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The second issue is the matter of drug testing welfare recipients.  Another southern state, Florida, has taken the lead in implementing drug testing for welfare recipients.  Florida is fighting this through the federal court system, and is currently appealing the decision of a lower court.  Some of the same themes emerge with this issue as with voter ID.  There hasn’t been a demonstrated need for the testing, as the drug use rate of welfare recipients seems to actually be below the national average.  The program cost the state of Virginia $1.3 million to implement, and it ended up saving the state only $229,000.  And if you’re concerned about taxpayer money making its way into the hands of drug users, then why not drug test the governor and legislators as well?

The laws that advance these positions appear to be well-intentioned.  They are in fact and in practice not.  The further right the GOP goes, the further they move from the middle, who demand not picking fights with those that are least able to fight back, but jobs.  But, given today’s current political climate, I wouldn’t expect anything less than fear and hate mongering out of the far right these days.  It’s what they’re best at.

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