Out of all of the ridiculous schemes pushed by the right in their continued attack on the poor, one of the most wasteful, yet most popular, is the idea of drug testing people who receive welfare benefits. One of the proponents of drug testing is recently announced presidential candidate Scott Walker.
Walker wants to drug test people before they receive food stamps, and he wants to do it so badly that he’s suing the federal government for the right to do so. Since attacking the poor is something that the folks over at Fox News love to do, Walker’s plan was the subject of conversation on Your World With Neil Cavuto, where Stuart Varney asked guests Marjorie Clifton and Lisa Boothe to weigh in.
Boothe, who has worked as a consultant on a number of Republican political campaigns, takes the standard right wing line. “Any cost associated with drug testing would be a drop in the bucket compared to the trillion dollars per year we spend on over 100 different anti-poverty programs,” she says. She’s right. It would be a “drop in the bucket.” But you’re still talking about a cost of millions of dollars if all states were to adopt drug testing for welfare recipients. And past experience has found that it’s simply not worth it.
States that have tried drug testing before have gotten results that would certainly surprise the average Fox watcher, since it’s likely that the “fair and balanced” network never mentioned those results. Think Progress reported last February that seven states that have tried drug testing for welfare benefits found the rate of those who tested positive was lower — sometimes much lower — than the rate of illicit drug use in the overall population. So it’s entirely likely that a state will wind up spending more on drug testing than it will save in welfare benefits.
Once in a while, you hear a bit of truth spoken on Fox News, and that happens in this case, when Varney asks Clifton to offer her thoughts. She mentions the fact that states that have tried drug testing have not found any savings in it. Then Clifton identifies herself as a Christian, before saying this:
How do we penalize drug addicts when we know that taking away things like food stamps might mean their children are kept from getting food? And how do we say carte blanche, cast judgment on anyone whose got any kind of drug addiction. We know things like human trafficking, and a lot of things that happen in youth environments, foster children, and things like that, where drugs are given involuntarily. It is very hard for me to think that it’s okay to say, carte blanche, anyone who is given a drug addict claim is withdrew food [sic]. We shouldn’t have hungry people in the U.S.
Clifton hits on an inconvenient fact that conservatives almost always ignore when talking about welfare or food stamps: many of the people who receive welfare benefits are children. It may sound good to say you want to deny benefits to someone with a drug problem. But in many cases, you’re also going to be punishing people who aren’t drug users, and who have no say in the matter: their children.
Here’s the video, via Media Matters:
Featured image via Occupy Democrats