Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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September 15, 2013

Taxpayers footing much of the bill for culture of drug addiction

— — Drug arrests pepper the daily headlines. Roundups, indictments, plea deals and convictions. Some go to jail for months, others spend years behind bars. And then there are those who are back on the streets in mere days or weeks with a slap on the wrist and a firm admonishment to become productive members of society.

If only that would happen.

We know the look — too slim, extremely haggard and empty eyes. Often, he or she is sporting a white wife-beater tank with scruffy jeans or a too-short denim skirt. Frequently there is a touch of pink — a signal that one is open for business, the prostitute business that is, along Route 52.

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The drug epidemic has led to serious ills in our community. Armed robberies and a multitude of breaking and enterings across the region. Extraordinary high rates of hepatitis B and C, along with ever-escalating rates of sexually transmitted diseases. And an ever-increasing number of children discovered in negligent and oftentimes horrific conditions.

As the good folks look on, those addicted to the pill or needle continue to rob, steal and cajole their way to a free check. They are out of work, conveniently disabled or just too stoned to work a 9-to-5.

Some say we should feel empathy — that we should give a hand up and a hand out to those in need. For those who really want help, this is true. We should find a means to assist them in battling their demons.

But what about those who have no desire to change? Those who are content with popping, snorting or injecting their favorite drug of choice, and whiling their lives away laying on a couch in a neglected home in between crime sprees and a once-a-month trip to the post office.

Is drug addiction reason and means for a free ride on the taxpayers’ dime?

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For decades there has been discussion of the culture of entitlement — generations of families who live on welfare, food stamps and other government aid. They don’t seek employment because they don’t want to work. Children grow up in these homes and learn the life of their parents and grandparents.

Some may argue these individuals lack the skills needed to find a job. While true that they may not have the education or training to become engineers or computer programmers, there are jobs available that require only basic fundamentals — effort, hard work and dependability. The problem is many lack the incentive to work eight hours a day when a government check is so easily available.

Compounding this problem is our compassion toward young mothers and children. It is a testament to our society that we want to give extra assistance to moms with infants and toddlers who do not have the financial means to take care of their children. We want to ensure they have adequate food, clothing and shelter. We want to give mothers the aid they need to get an education or job training.

But this compassionate aid is now abused. Our culture is so twisted that having children is an American right to a free check and a lifestyle supported by those working diligently for their hard-earned dollars?

When did having children become a profession supported by the government? How long do taxpayers continue to subsidize basic needs for those who have babies simply to get a check?

Do we keep the reward system in place? Or at some point do we say, “You’re off the dole. It’s time to get a job.”

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It seems some believe making mothers work a job outside the home is unfair or cruel. I find that ridiculous, especially since I know so many women who hold down employment and manage a household. These females don’t ask for welfare, instead they burn the candle at both ends in an attempt to provide for their families.

Sadly, much of those paychecks are eaten up by taxes that go to ... well, you know.

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Not all individuals who receive government assistance are addicted to drugs, nor do all addicts receive a check and commit crimes. That said, an argument can be made that the culture of entitlement and the culture of addiction are merging.

Those who doubt this need only look around to see the truth, the despair, the pain and the problem. The nightmare of drug addiction and our government’s enabling of this plague is in plain view.

The too-thin mom at the grocery store with dazed eyes, an unstable walk and four young kids. The dad driving an unregistered, unsafe car — swerving across the center line with a toddler in the back seat. The 18-year-old standing beside Route 52 with a cigarette in one hand, Mountain Dew can in the other and a baby bump evident for all to see.

We cannot continue to ignore this problem, or argue solutions based on deeply divided partisan lines. Drug addiction is slowly killing our once-proud culture, drowning our communities and people in despair, debt, disease and crime.

We are all paying for the drug epidemic — addicts as well as the unwilling participants, those who pay the taxes that feed the scrounge that is destroying our very way of life.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her at @BDTPerry.

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