RICH JAMES: Whatever happened to GOP's compassion?

2014-03-09T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Whatever happened to GOP's compassion?By Rich James nwitimes.com
March 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

What is it with Indiana Republicans and their belief that this state can act independently of the federal government?

We’ve seen it as the state not only has stiff-armed the Affordable Care Act but also refused to expand Medicaid, leaving hundreds of thousands without health care.

We’ve seen it as the Legislature recently approved a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage even though federal courts have ruled such actions to be unconstitutional.

And we are seeing a second rebuke of the feds as the legislature is in the midst of mandating drug tests for some welfare recipients. And, yes, federal courts have ruled that unconstitutional as well.

What’s particularly troubling is that those on the receiving end of the Republican wrath are the down-trodden and those who have to struggle for social acceptance.

You’ve got to wonder why.

As introduced, the welfare bill would have required each of the state’s 27,000 recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to undergo drug tests.

For financial rather than compassionate reasons, the bill was changed in the Senate.

As it stands now, just those welfare recipients with a prior drug-related criminal conviction would have to take a drug test.

And, as the bill stands, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients with a prior drug conviction who twice test positive for drugs would lose their benefit unless they enroll in a drug treatment program.

Can you imagine a woman, who probably has a child, being able to afford a drug-treatment program with the $85 monthly check?

The House bill to require all recipients to be drug tested would have cost the state as much as $1.1 million a year but would have saved just $315,000 by eliminating those who tested positive from the program. There is no financial estimate on the scaled-back program.

But we are talking only about misdemeanor convictions. Federal law bars a person convicted of a felony drug crime from receiving TANF for 10 years.

State Sen. Mike Young, an Indianapolis Republican, said the goal of the legislation is to encourage Hoosiers with drug problems to get assistance. And what the heck, if the person didn’t get help, the state would save a few bucks.

In a perfect world, Young might be right.

But this is a very imperfect world made up of the haves and the have-nots.

The Republican Party – in Indiana and the nation – is so divided that the internal quest for control outweighs the people it should be serving.

And Republicans wonder after every election why they can’t get the votes of the poor, minorities and gays.

Whatever happened to the party of Lincoln that was so compassionate that it brought an end to slavery?

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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