Testing Welfare Recipients for Drugs

welfare drug testing marijuana budThe polling shows that just over 70% of people are for the idea of spending their tax dollars to drug test fellow citizens that accept welfare benefits. What this means is that it will be very difficult for serious members of either major political party to stand against this incredibly stupid idea. For sure this means that there is no chance that the Republicans will ever question the wisdom of this thinking. The reason?

Because Republicans have spent most of the last 100 years convincing hard working blue collar white people that it is the lazy “those people” that are living extravagantly on welfare programs. Increasing the feeling of victim hood among the middle to lower middle class whites that “those people” are getting over or away with something is the third leg in how Republicans get elected. The other two are Christian victimization, and bashing government shortcomings all of which there will be more about on this blog in the future.

Why Drug Testing Welfare Applicants is Stupid

There are really two reasons. The first I doubt Republicans care about. The second I would think Republicans and their fans would care about but they don’t. This will be one of perhaps hundreds of breaks in critical thinking that we will expose on this site.

Reason 1: Testing Is Unconstitutional

On January 1 2014 Federal Judge  Mary S. Scriven, of the Middle District of Florida appointed to the bench by President George Bush ruled that the Florida law requiring drug testing of welfare recipients is unconstitutional.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,”

That would be compelling on its own but it turns out that  In 2003, a federal court struck down a nearly identical Michigan law, which was never successfully appealed. It would seem the courts are pretty certain on this one.

Reason 2: Testing Cost Taxpayers More Than It Saves Them

Required drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits has ended up costing taxpayers in Florida more than it has saved them. Even better the law has failed to curb the number of prospective applicants trying to qualify for government assistance.

Some older numbers from Florida in 2012 indicate:

Of the 4,086 applicants who scheduled drug tests while the law was enforced, 108 people, or 2.6 percent, failed, most often testing positive for marijuana. About 40 people scheduled tests but canceled them, according to the Department of Children and Families, which oversees Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as the TANF program.

The numbers show that taxpayers spent $118,140 to reimburse people for drug test costs, at an average of $35 per screening.

The state’s net loss? $45,780.

Link to verification

Updated numbers from the same state agency:

Drug Testing Florida Recipients

  • 7,030 Passed Test
  • 32 Failed Test (Note: State reports now fewer failings than previously)
  • 1,597 Did Not Provide Results

This whole policy idea is based more on emotion than it is on facts. It is emotion that tells taxpayers that there are lazy people out there that are getting away with something. Nothing people dislike more than thinking that there are people that don’t have to wait in line, that there are people who got a better price on a house or car, or that people might have gotten paid more for doing the same work. For sure lower middle class voters hate the idea that they are working 40 hours a week while others sit around doing drugs living on tax money.

The truth for these people to learn is that really poor people are not out there doing tons of drugs, watching cable TV all day having simple easy lives.

Just good government conservatism you would think would make testing for drugs among the welfare recipients a bad idea. Why spend more money than it saves? Come on!


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