Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is just full of original ideas, especially where it comes to cutting the state’s budget. He has proposed limiting the amount of time people can receive welfare benefits, and he wants to drug test potential recipients to, you know, weed out abuse of the system.
For someone who’s so hot to trot about spending cuts, Walker could stand to do some research. States that have drug tested welfare applicants have found that they spend more on the drug tests than they save preventing drug users from getting benefits. Florida, Virginia, and other states proved that trying to out drug users was more costly than not trying at all.
An article in The New York Times says that in Florida, 2.6 percent of welfare applicants tested positive for drugs. Florida has an overall drug use rate of 8 percent, which means that the number of needy who use drugs is below that of their more well-off counterparts. The total cost to the state was $118,140, which turned out to be more than the state saved on their drug test law.
Think Progress talked about Virginia scrapping their drug test law before it even passed. Administering the law carried a $1.5 million price tag, but would have netted savings of a whopping $229,000. Virginia was wise to reject it.
The Star-Tribune discussed Minnesota’s drug test law, with one expert saying he didn’t believe Minnesota actually thought they were saving taxpayers money. In Minnesota, like in Florida, a lower percentage of poor people receiving welfare benefits have drug convictions, as compared with the general population. Some believe the state’s move was a punitive measure more than anything.
Generally, the people behind drug test laws say they want to assure taxpayers that their hard-earned dollars aren’t going to support some coke-addicted welfare queen who has six children, drives a Cadillac, and sits on her duff all day snorting coke, eating junk food, and watching TV. What they really want to do, though, is find a morally acceptable way to slash poor people’s benefits.
This is not all, however. According to MSNBC, a federal judge struck down Florida’s drug testing law, saying it was in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The ruling, handed down last year by U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. Scriven, said:
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 could apply to other drug test laws, like the one Scott Walker wants to employ. So what is he doing? He’s doing what the rest of the GOP is doing: Trying to find any way he can to punish the poor for having the audacity to be poor, and look like the little guy’s savior while doing it. As with everywhere else, this effort will fail.