Should welfare recipients be required to prove that they are not doing drugs in order to receive financial benefits for themselves and their families? A new bill being debated in Missouri may require just that.
The Missouri State Senate is set to consider a bill that would allow welfare program administrators to order drug tests, a practice that a leading anti-poverty group has denounced as costly and counterproductive.
The bill, which passed the House in late January, says administrators can require a drug test if they suspect drug use by a recipient of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, known as TANF, the welfare program that primarily assists single women and their children.
The bill was modified Feb. 7 by a Senate committee to say that the benefits will be distributed to a third party to allocate the family expenses to help the children, as long as a recipient who tests positive agrees to participate in a drug rehabilitation program.
The House version removed the parent’s portion of the money for a year. Such proposed laws are popular within the states but none has passed constitutional muster.
Currently in Missouri, families of three can receive no more than $292 a month from TANF, which provides job opportunities and minimal, time-limited amounts of money.
“Taxpayers feel strongly that they do not want their hard-earned dollars being used to subsidize illegal activities,” bill sponsor Missouri Rep. Ellen Brandom was quoted as saying in an article by the Missouri News Horizon.
On Feb. 3 analysts at CLASP–the Center for Law and Social Policy)–a Washington, D.C.-based anti-poverty group, reissued an updated report from 2009 outlining their opposition to drug testing for TANF recipients.
The authors rebut the idea that drug testing would save tax dollars. They says the tests–which don’t identify alcohol or prescription drug use–would each cost between $35 to $76 and secondary testing would be needed to rule out false positives.
These are the types of red meat conservative pandering acts that are meant solely to degrade the poor and enthuse Republican voters. Much like the fabled welfare queens of the 80′s, the mythic woman who had child after child to up her payment while driving around in a Cadillac, the Republican party continues to evoke the image of the lazy, unworthy poor who are stealing your hard earned money so they don’t have to work.
State after state claims deficits and budget shortfalls, yet if given the chance the GOP proves yet again that they are more than willing to spend between $70 and $150 to attempt to rule out making a payment of at most less than $300. Even if the testing were constitutional, it shows that the true focus of the party is to find ways to make cuts to the lowest class.
On the bright side, with the way the GOP is dismantling health care, drug testing may be the closest some of these people will come to ever receiving medical care. It’s Republican priorities at their finest.