LAKE MISANTHROPE, WISCONSIN — Tyler Williams is a 38-year-old software engineer who has been receiving SNAP benefits in his home state of Wisconsin for about six months. Williams lost his job when the company he worked for decided they could maximize their margins more effectively by offshoring his job. Williams told us that since part of Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress’s welfare reforms in the 1990’s included work requirements, he’s been sending proof of his job search into the state every week, ensuring he gets the $125 a week he feels his family needs to help cover the gap his savings — which is nearly gone — can’t cover.
Williams says he doesn’t “have time or the money” to use recreational drugs like marijuana, and so he says he is “positively livid” about the governor of his state, Scott Walker (R), pushing for drug testing people like Tyler and others. He told us Walker “clearly has never known what it’s like to be gainfully employed and have that income ripped out from under you” or “to be born into poverty with no visible ladders out.”
“If he wants me to take a pee test to make sure I’m not buying drugs I can’t afford with my SNAP benefits,” Williams told our reporter, “that’s fine by me. I’ll drug test for him. I’ll drug test all over his smug fucking face.”
Mr. Williams said that he finds it “tremendously insulting” and that lawmakers get far more money from taxpayers than welfare recipients do, and are never subjected to a drug test screening.
“So let me get this straight, if you run for office and are elected,” Tyler asked rhetorically, “you get to take money from the taxpayers and no one cares what you smoke, snort, or ingest. But if you happen to be out of work and desperate to find work, you’re subhuman and have to pee in a cup to get a pittance? How the hell do these people consider themselves Christian, or even charitable.”
Tyler says that perceived hypocrisy is what makes him so infuriated. He said that he’s “truly baffled” that conservatives think like they do, and that as long as the politicians they vote for hurt poor people most, they “don’t give a rat’s ass how hypocritical they are.” Mr. Williams said it’s “completely unfair my kinds could go hungry for no fault of their own” while “greedy politicians take lobbyist checks and taxpayer money and you know a good chunk of them take drugs or drink heavily.”
“It’s just galling to people like me,” Tyler said, “because I was in the workforce for a 15 years. I put in my time. I helped the economy. I bought a house, shopped local, supported my neighborhood. I did everything right and my company decided treating me like a member of a first world country was bullshit and they cut me loose. Now I have to prove I don’t smoke weed so I can get less than $600 a month in assistance, while still proving that I’m working or trying to work?”
Williams said that in his opinion he sees “less work” being done by politicians in exchange for tax dollars than those who are on SNAP benefits put in.
“These people act as if good paying jobs grow on trees,” Tyler said, “and they pretend as if it’s not hard damn work just finding a job. It’s probably because they’ve never been in this spot, like I am. I used to sometimes think people who got themselves into a place where they needed help were maybe a little lazy, or at least willing to give up trying. But if there’s one person like me, who genuinely got shafted by one employer and just hasn’t found a job to replace that income yet, then I know there are probably millions more like me. We’re not lazy; we’re unlucky.”
Tyler stopped, and thought for a few moments.
“And I’ll gladly piss in Scott Walker’s face to prove it,” he said.
Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.