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Monday, November 26, 2007
(8:32 PM) | Stephen:
Life Tip: Don't Get Born Poor

Concerned that your rights are being taken away by warrantless wiretapping and other "security" measures? You apparently aren't poor:
The Supreme Court rejected a challenge today to San Diego County's practice of routinely searching welfare applicants' homes without warrants and ruling out assistance for those who refuse to let them in.

The justices refused, without comment, to intervene in the case from San Diego County, where investigators from the District Attorney's Office show up unannounced at applicants' homes and conduct searches that include peeking into closets and cabinets. The visits do not require any suspicion of fraud and are intended to confirm that people are eligible for government aid.

Failure to submit to the searches, which can last an hour, disqualifies applicants from assistance.

The Fourth Amendment should supersede any desire to make sure that every damn nano-penny of government assistance is spent in exactly the correct, morally upright way. If the DA suspects a crime - even welfare fraud - then the DA should go get a warrant just like for any other crime.

There was some buzz recently - I'm too lazy to link it, so too bad - about why conservatives favor private charity over government assistance. One possible reason that was put forth is that they want to be able to control not only what their beneficiaries use the assistance for but also what they do or don't do in the other parts of their lives as well. So you get the soup kitchens that require hungry people to sit through a church service before they get to eat, for example. Having done that type of thing - and I'm profoundly regretful for it* - it now seems to me that if you can't get people to stick around after they've eaten, you're doing it wrong.

There's nothing wrong with governmental or private assistance requiring certain qualifications and even some behavior standards. But enforcing the regulations associated with welfare assistance needs to happen within the established laws of the USA. It is a sign of profound societal decay that a lousy couple hundred bucks a month justifies a violation of our constitutional rights.

*I don't regret trying to help; the meals served, the time spent in conversation, the nights spent out on the streets in Ocean Beach. I regret following the pattern of making hungry men and women act like they wanted to have a church service before they could eat a hot meal. And I freely admit that very few people would have bothered to stick around to listen to me preach after the meal, at least after hearing me once or twice. No college sophomore is a good preacher.

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