Well, Duh! Tennessee’s Drug Testing Of Welfare Recipients An Utter Failure


The idea that the poor are also junkies is a prevalent belief among the righties. This demonization of people, who are in need of financial help, is a coping mechanism. It helps conservatives deal with the reality of poverty and how the very policies they support have made it worse. Unfortunately for them, the myth of the welfare junkie is just that: a myth.

Several states, in the past few years, have implemented drug testing programs for welfare recipients and it has been shown to be a sheer waste of money and resources in every state. In fact, the rate of welfare recipients who tested positive for drug use is way below the national average of 9.4 percent.

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In Tennessee, 28,559 applied for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in 2014. That was after they went through a dual-testing process. TANF applicants must answer a questionnaire and if they answer “yes” to one of three questions about drug use, they must agree to a urine test or be immediately disqualified.

Fifty-five people who complied with the urinalysis tested positive for drug use. Of those, 32 turned out to be active drug users; that whittles it down to 0.19 percent who applied for the program were actually “druggies.”

They had a similar result last year  and you’d think they would learn from this and bag the program — probably not, though.

Tennessee had similar results last year.

Tennessee had similar results last year.

In financial terms, that worked out to about $200 per test.That doesn’t sound like much, does it? But it totals around $11,000.

That money could have been used to actually help those who need it. Instead, it goes to an “outside vendor” which does the actual testing. In Florida, it was shown that Governor Rick Scott had a financial interest in the “outside vendor” who did the drug tests for that state. It’s possible that similar situations appear in other states that drug test.

Overall, state drug testing has cost over $1 million. In every state, the results have been the same: almost zero.

That money is only the tip of the iceberg. There are the additional clerical and staff costs. All for a myth propagated by Republicans.

You want to examine welfare fraud? How about we take a look at corporate welfare? Government hand-outs and tax breaks to corporations amount to over $100 billion. Economist and former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich writes:

The oil, gas, and coal industries get billions in their own special tax breaks. Big Agribusiness gets farm subsides. Big Pharma gets their own subsidy in the form of a ban on government using its bargaining power under Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. And hedge-fund and private-equity managers get a special tax loophole that treats their income as capital gains, at a lower tax rate than ordinary income.

These overshadow the meager 12 percent of the budget which goes to help those in need. These people aren’t moochers — though, as always, there are exceptions — they are victims of circumstance. The economic woes that began under G.W. Bush ruined so many middle class families that the poverty rate went up to over 14 percent, with almost 47 million Americans living in poverty.

What is government for but to work for all Americans, to help every one of us be a contributing member of society? It’s time we stop treating the poor like pariahs and wasting public monies to do it.

Featured image via CPAML.org

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