Thursday, June 14, 2012

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

"Prove you aren't on drugs, or we won't help you."

Conservatives are filled with good intentions that are put forth with ill-conceived notions that have not been fully thought out, and that lack any foundation in fact.  Thinking that you can save money by eliminating drug users from the welfare rolls is a great talking point, when addressing republicans.  However, following through with such a plan requires you to ignore what happens when such a plan is actually implemented.  It also requires you to ignore why we provide aid to begin with.

First, it is important to understand why aid is so important.  When we give someone food stamps or welfare, we aren't paying them to do nothing.  We are providing minimal assistance to those who can't afford basic life sustaining resources, to keep them from stealing what they need.  We provide minimal sustenance so that we can be safe from them.  Believe it or not, people won't just sit around and wait to starve to death.  They can and will take part in some criminal action, to see to it that their basic needs are met.  Those on welfare or other aid packages are there because they lack options.  Oftentimes they are felons who can't find a job, single mothers without viable transportation or accessible childcare, or they are mentally or physically challenged.  Removing aid from them, simply because you don't approve of their lifestyle choices, isn't going to magically make them employable.  It will simply send them into criminal enterprises.

Second, it is of the utmost importance to see actual results of implementing such measures, like the state of Florida did.  Since the beginning of July, Florida has been testing welfare recipients with a $30 test, wherein, a whopping 2% came back positive.  So 98% of Florida welfare recipients received a test, that there was ZERO reason to administer.  Over 40 million Americans receive welfare or food stamps.  Drug testing each one would cost $1.2 billion, and at a 2% failure rate, such a program would COST the nation money, not save it.

Lastly, these tests are not fool-proof.  Passing a drug test is as easy as drinking a cleansing tea, and failing one is as easy as eating a poppy seed muffin.  Imagine now being a single mother of three, who's husband was killed without life insurance, who relies solely on welfare and food stamps to feed her kids and keep a roof over their head, who's just been told that she won't receive any government aid for 12 months...all because she ate a lemon poppy seed muffin and tested positive for opiate consumption?  How much of an appeal process is she entitled to?  How much will that cost?

The only conclusion that a rational person can reach is that stunts like this are a waste of time and resources trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist, with money we don't have, all to save money that we won't.  Slogan-isms make lousy legislation.