Punishing the poor without helping themDoes anyone see a...

Letters

December 13, 1996

Punishing the poor without helping them

Does anyone see a trend lately in how our elected officials are making public-policy decisions regarding poor families in Maryland?

First, the legislature passes and Gov. Parris Glendening signs legislation requiring welfare recipients to work.

The problem is, the jobs don't exist. To compound this problem, job training has been cut and welfare ''reform'' completely de-emphasizes education.

Second, the Joint Committee on Welfare Reform proposed to test all welfare applicants for drug use and refer them to treatment. The problem is, the treatment slots don't exist. There are waiting lists for every program.

In both cases, proponents believe that by making these requirements of welfare participants -- overwhelmingly women-headed households -- the jobs and treatment will be created.

These lawmakers do not have the will to create the solutions before making punitive and potentially life-threatening policies. This suggests that their backward decision-making is more political than in the best interest of poor families and our community.

Supporters of the drug testing proposal believe it will help the children. But if the children are in danger, there already exists a system to address it, Child Protective Services.

In a family with a substance abuse problem, if children are being abused or neglected, CPS should intervene regardless of the family's income.

Supporters also say that the new Medicaid managed care system will require substance abuse treatment to be provided. But managed care organizations are not required to provide residential treatment, nor are there minimum quality standards for treatment.

Maryland is in great need of addiction treatment services. There are currently fewer than 15,000 treatment slots in the state, and less than 5 percent are residential services. State spending on treatment has been reduced by 20 percent since 1991, most recently cut $500,000 in July.

The Coalition to Humanely Address Substance Abuse in Maryland (CHASAM) has been in existence for three years trying to convince lawmakers that investing in treatment is cost-effective and helps Marylanders turn their lives around.

Why should we assume that because the state will drug-test welfare applicants, funding for treatment will increase?

Lawmakers must start addressing poverty in terms of real solutions (as Oregon has, according to The Sun article Dec. 8), not punitive measures that only drive poor people deeper into poverty.

Robert V. Hess

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Action for the Homeless.

Pub Date: 12/13/96

Republicans want change and Ellen Sauerbrey

I read with interest Barry Rascovar's commentary, "Speak only ill of a fellow Republican," Dec. 8. He doth protesteth too much.

In 1994, Republicans wisely upset the status quo by nominating Del. Ellen Sauerbrey over Rep. Helen Bentley. They offered to Democrats and independents a candidate who in 16 years in the legislature never became a part of the government class.

She offered exciting new alternatives to cleaning up the mess created by years of poor policy implemented by Democrats and Republicans who got too comfortable in Annapolis and forgot the people.

Many Republicans are dismayed when they find their leaders in Annapolis working with the Democrats to maintain the status quo, which nearly all agree must be changed drastically to make Maryland competitive once again.

Thus, when Republicans in the legislature vote for stadium deals, light rail, gun control, higher taxes and budget-busting expenditures, many Republicans want change within the party establishment. These votes run directly counter to Republican philosophy.

When Anne Arundel County Executive John Gary implements a costly program to provide ''free'' cars to welfare recipients, and then accuses Mrs. Sauerbrey of going off the deep end, it is certainly legitimate for Republicans to protest.

When the chair of our state party is quoted in The Sun as basically endorsing the re-election of Democrat Louis Goldstein, Republicans have a right to be outraged.

Mrs. Sauerbrey has remained the gracious person she always has been throughout this struggle for the heart and soul of our party. Yet The Sun and others hold her to a seeming double-standard: praising establishment Republicans who have been hurting our party, while bashing Mrs. Sauerbrey.

It is sad to see the newspaper of H. L. Mencken become a part of the government class. We will continue this battle. Future generations depend on its outcome.

Daniel J. Earnshaw

Havre de Grace

Will funnier than he thinks

In what ways are George Will and Dave Barry alike? Both are published in The Sun, and both can be downright funny.

In the Nov. 28 edition of The Sun, Mr. Will wrote, "The 1930s were happy days for liberals because the Depression heightened Americans' feelings of dependency." Up until that sentence, one might have read the column thinking Mr. Will was being serious.

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