Michigan’s Welfare Drug Testing Finds Nothing

Last October, Michigan began conducting drug tests on its residents receiving welfare assistance. Gov. Rick Snyder and other supporters of this measure may be surprised to learn exactly how many recipients have tested positive: Zero.

That’s good news, right? Superficially, perhaps. In truth, this shows what opponents of this sort of drug screening anticipated — few, if any welfare recipients are using illicit drugs and the testing process would ultimately be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

And that is precisely the case in Michigan. Though the drug testing program is meant only as a trial, being conducted in just three counties, $300,000 has been set aside for funding through September. The actual cost will be made public by December.

Michigan is not alone in testing its welfare recipients for drugs. Thirteen states have legislation of this sort on the books, some of which require testing for applicants, not just recipients.

What have they found? Like the Great Lakes State, most found few if any assistance recipients testing positive. Oklahoma, for example, tested 1,328 people in 2015 and found 138 tested positive (the accuracy of these results have, it should be noted, been disputed by researchers).

In 2015, overall, a mere 321, of thousands tested, were found to be using illegal drugs. Several states found none at all. The various state drug testing programs used to make these discoveries this cost over $850,000 to taxpayers. Was this a good deal?

As Tennessee State Rep. Glen Casada argues, it certainly is. Between those who refused to take the test and the handful who failed it, “that’s 175 or 180 people no longer receiving taxpayer-funded support for illegal activities.”

Does Rep. Casada think drug dealers take EBT cards? Probably not, but he may be saying more with this statement than he realizes.

These drug testing programs are, arguably, premised on two major legacies crafted by Republican hero former President Ronald Reagan.

The first centers on his infamous War on Drugs — advertised as a concerted push to eradicate the flow and sell of dangerous substances on U.S. streets but, as even top authorities have admitted, this has been a major failure.

More importantly, this campaign cemented the viewpoint that drug users and addicts are simply criminals to be locked up and penalized as harshly as possible, rather than individuals who, more likely than not, need help and rehabilitation.

Similarly, former President Reagan, as champion of neoliberal economics, was also hugely successful in demonizing welfare recipients and, more broadly, the concept of social safety nets. In the mid-1970s, while still governor of California, Reagan popularized the phrase “welfare queen” — painting the picture of an able-bodied adult living well on the government’s dollar.

Though both of these notions have been largely debunked as ideological rhetoric, conservative politicians cling to them as if they are truth. That’s why welfare drug testing, backed by evidence or not, seems reasonable to these lawmakers and leaders.

In reality, these programs have but one purpose: To reduce the absolute number of welfare recipients. Because these lawmakers cannot outright abolish assistance programs (yet), they have to invent new barriers to access.

How many hundreds of people in need were excluded, ultimately?

Rather than seeking the cause of thousands of state residents needing financial help or finding other ways to shore up the state budget, conservative leaders in places like Kansas and Kentucky believe extracting bodily fluids for examination is the most reasonable course of action.

For a political ideology that frequently espouses, as former President Ronald Reagan did, the need for government to remove itself from Americans’ personal lives, violating individuals’ bodily dignity — whether in the form of restricting birth control or requiring drug testing for welfare recipients — comes oddly easily.

Photo Credit: ElMiguelacho / Thinkstock

107 comments

Danuta Watola
Danuta W7 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Peggy B
Peggy B7 months ago

A waste of taxpayer's money when it could have been used to feed people. Just because the GOP are heartless, stingy, uncharitable people as a rule. Ironically, there are more republicans on welfare than any other political group. They keep voting people in that keep their benefits low. The GOP also claim that welfare people have lower IQ's. Just goes over their heads.

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Ruth S
Ruth S7 months ago

Thanks.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly2 years ago

My mother was a Social Worker In the Inner Core of Milwaukee.I never aked how she got that job. It wouldn't happen today. My father died when he was 56. My mother 60 did childcare for a Doctor. We had no insurance.I was still in High School.She had lived through 2 world wars in as a 50% Jew in the 20th C. She knew how to be careful,frugal, honest, practical, could always make something out of nothing. So she went to homes and showed them how to make practical changes in their lives to save money. She could squeeze a nickel and make it into a quarter. Being on welfare or using food stamps isn't a crime. And we've been audited twice in the last ten years when we had the lowest earnings. 5 of those years he earned 0.But we spent 3 years paying back taxes. So if I get Medicare,now that I find out I was disabled from 1986 on, I don't feel like I owe anything. I vote, raised 3 lovely kids, tax payers. One owns a company here, who's watchword is Diversity. So he and his partner hired women and diverse colors from the start. My kids are half-breeds-so they are already a good start.Lol. My Daughter moved to Louisiana with her BF of 13 years (every time they graduated,they moved together and one or both worked full-time).She got an Ms. in Psych at San Francisco State and then followed him to San Luis Obismo to get his Bs at Cal Tech. We enjoyed them for a few years when they moved into the area and worked.Now he was offered free tuition and a stipend to pay for living costs through hi

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Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly2 years ago

Well, I have Medicare now that I'm 65.I suppose I still won't get opiates but now I can't use the Dr.s I used since... oh crap.

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Bernice Jones
Bernice Jones2 years ago

Lawmakers wanted to stop giving people welfare. So they thought drug testing would help. Being on welfare is not a crime. Welfare is the provision of a minimal level of well-being and social support for all citizens, sometimes referred to as public aid
Lets focus on getting rid of at least one thing that causes people to need the provisions and just maybe just maybe this will be a step in the right direction.

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Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly2 years ago

Why the surprise? Drug testing in this country is punitive. I moved from Calif. to Wash. I'm 65.We sold our house and moved to save money till my husband finds another job. Till then,I'm on Medicaid.I am a chronic pain sufferer with multiple causes for disability that have kept me at home since 1983. Nothing much helped with the pain till a Dr. gave me 8 Vicodin a day from 2009 on till 2015. Then we moved here and Medicaid won't pay for it here. If indeed,I'm an addict of long standing then making me go cold turkey would seem to be both unethical and illegal, wouldn't it? I finally went to a pain clinic.You can get opiates here if the approve it. They can also do pill counts at any time, rain tests, and write you up for having a bad attitude. The fact that the child interviewing me wanted to control me made me angry. I have a son older than this boy -this P.A. was not a doctor. He manspread and jiggled in front of me, looked at my symptoms,said,"oh.You have PTSD. That's a suicide sign.No opiates."
Games. Of course you found no one who was guilty. Guilt has to be manufactured.

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Helga Ganguly
Helga Ganguly2 years ago

Why the surprise? Drug testing in this country is punitive. I moved from Calif. to Wash. I'm 65.We sold our house and moved to save money till my husband finds another job. Till then,I'm on Medicaid.I am a chronic pain sufferer with multiple causes for disability that have kept me at home since 1983. Nothing much helped with the pain till a Dr. gave me 8 Vicodin a day from 2009 on till 2015. Then we moved here and Medicaid won't pay for it here. If indeed,I'm an addict of long standing then making me go cold turkey would seem to be both unethical and illegal, wouldn't it? I finally went to a pain clinic.You can get opiates here if the approve it. They can also do pill counts at any time, rain tests, and write you up for having a bad attitude. The fact that the child interviewing me wanted to control me made me angry. I have a son older than this boy -this P.A. was not a doctor. He manspread and jiggled in front of me, looked at my symptoms,said,"oh.You have PTSD. That's a suicide sign.No opiates."
Games. Of course you found no one who was guilty. Guilt has to be manufactured.

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Karen F.
Karen P2 years ago

I get where you're coming from David Anderson. Bloody nosy, sticky beaking, Nazi pigdogs!

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