This is a graphic that has been going around Facebook. It shows the results of a Florida program that requires welfare recipients to pass a drug screening in order to qualify for benefits. According to the graphic, 98% of those tested passed. The program cost taxpayers $ 178 million. The big tax savings to the state of throwing the drug users off welfare was $60,000.
The graphic made me wonder: If we were to require drug testing of wealthy people in order to qualify for oil subsidies, or a lower tax rate on capital gains than earned income, what would the graphic look like? What percentage would fail the test and what would the savings look like? Is it possible that a larger percentage of capital gains beneficiaries might be using drugs (cocaine on their yachts) than single mothers with minimum wage jobs do? Is is possible that because of the amount of income involved that the tax savings might actually outweigh the program cost?
I was recently reading the book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg. Borg spoke about the purity code that operated in Jesus's time (which Jesus violated and protested by eating with tax collectors and the unclean). The purity code went beyond a few rituals. It provided an entire social and political system based on the notion of pure and impure, clean and unclean.
According to one purity map of the time, priests and Levites (both hereditary classes) come first, followed by “Israelites,” followed by “converts” (Jewish persons who were not Jewish by birth). Further down the list are “bastards,” followed by those with damaged testicles and those without a penis. Women who were made unclean monthly were low on the social scale. Behavior also played a role and certain occupations, such as tax collecting, made one an outcast.
So by now you're probably wondering what all of this ancient history has to do with Florida drug testing. It is this. To quote Borg:
"The purity contrast also was associated with economic class. To be sure, being rich did not automatically put one on the pure side (and first-century Judaism could speak of rich people who were wicked), but being abjectly poor almost certainly made one impure."
When I read this line it occurred to me that our society still operates on this type of a purity code. Being wealthy does not automatically make a person "pure" but it gives the person the assumption of purity. A rich person is assumed to be clean, well mannered, smart and moral until proven otherwise. A poor person, on the other hand, lives with the assumption of "impurity." His is assumed to be unintelligent, less capable, unclean and less moral until proven otherwise.
So why doesn't anyone suggest drug testing in order to qualify for oil subsidies? How far would such an idea go if someone proposed it? What types of government funding and services should you have to prove you are moral and ethical to get?
"Author Laura Lee may have well written the Brokelyn manifesto, the recession-victims’ King James Bible and the brokester I Ching all wrapped into one. Her new book, Broke is Beautiful, is a vast, thoughtful and intensely researched tome on the value of living the cash-strapped life."-Tim Donnelly, Brokelyn
"Laura Lee gives readers a good array of thoughts and wisdom and makes for a very entertaining and fun read. 'Broke is Beautiful' is a choice and highly recommended read which shouldn't be missed for those who want to live well when they have got nothing in the wallet."-Midwest Book Review
"If you're feeling down about the state of your exchequer, pick up this cheery little book...guaranteed to make you feel better about life in 'times like these.'"-Salem MacNee, Charlotte Observer
"It's not a how-to book, but more of a philosophical study, pointing out that most creative people aren't incredibly wealthy, and that happiness isn't tied to material goods."-The Detroit News
"Lee wants people who read her book to re-envision the economic culture, look past the mentality of buying and selling and find ways to enjoy life even if you don't win the lottery tomorrow."-Bill Lynch, Charleston Gazette
Broke is Beautiful is not only book, but also a philosophy of life. Being broke is not abnormal. Being rich on the other hand is freakish. While there is lots of propaganda out there in favor of wealth, little is written about the advantages of being bust out beggard and bankrupt. And broke, my friends, is beautiful! True security comes from the knowledge that you can survive in an insecure world. That is the knowledge that is gained through hard times and hard knocks. It helps if you can look on your brokeness as a way to lighten your load and a chance to test your creativity and resourcefulness. Where once the broke person felt isolated in an affluent society, today everyone is counting his pennies. Being broke is the new black! I invite you to join me in discovering new ways to think about money.