As I get older, I cannot help but notice how good ideas often seem to never get off the ground, but bad ideas proliferate. Such is the case with 12 states which have decided to join the 12 — including Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Florida — that have already mandated that welfare recipients undergo regular drug tests.
Drug testing bills have now been introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. This despite the fact that in Tennessee, only 37 of the 16,000 applicants tested positive for any kind of prohibited substance. That is a minuscule 0.23 percent.
As you might expect, proponents of the testing say 37 is a significant number. Republican State Representative Glen Casada proudly crowed:
“That’s 37 people who should not be receiving taxpayer subsidies, because they are not behaving as they are supposed to. If the taxpayers are going to support you there are certain criteria you need to adhere to. This is a good use of taxpayer money.”
Urinalysis tests are expensive. The average cost for a drug test ranges from $25 to $75, and since federal law does not allow the states to charge the welfare applicants, the state’s end up having to foot the bill for the program.
So far states with the drug testing mandate have only applied it to those receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits. But some states are considering testing food stamp recipients. Such a move would require a huge taxpayer subsidy of the drug testing expense, as some 46 million Americans currently receive food stamps.
Critics of the program say it is a waste of money and punishes those who are in need of help. Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee recently said:
“You are requiring more than 16,000 people to be screened for drug use based on the assumption that people who receive public assistance are more likely to use illegal drugs. “There’s no evidence to indicate that’s true.”
No evidence, but that won’t stop proponents from attempting to rub people’s noses in the dirt at a time in their lives when they are already struggling to merely survive.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org