Over the last year, about a dozen governors across the U.S. have attempted to implement drug testing for welfare applicants. With pushback from the Obama administration and no response from the Trump administration, one governor has decided to ignore the federal government and proceed with this plan.
Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) announced on Monday that he is moving ahead with drug testing food stamp applicants. Despite an estimated 220 food stamp recipients, or 0.3%, of 67,000 users in the Badger State likely to test positive, Walker believes the $1 million program will help workers become drug-free and find jobs.
Wisconsin could become the first state in the country to institute these drug tests.
Wisconsin Not Waiting for Washington
In 2015, the state’s Republican-controlled state legislature approved a bill that would mandate able-bodied citizens to undergo a drug test when submitting an application to receive FoodShare benefits, Wisconsin’s version of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The policy slammed into a roadblock after the federal government blocked the rule change, deeming it to be “unconstitutional.” The Obama regime claimed that it broke federal guidelines that thwart states from inserting new eligibility criteria for food stamps.
When President Donald Trump won the election, Walker lobbied the federal government but did not receive any answers. Frustrated by the paucity of reply, Walker signed the policy change this week, and sent it back to the legislature for further review – lawmakers will have 120 days to assess the strategy.
Should participants without children fail the drug test, then they would be eligible for state-funded rehabilitation treatment.
The governor said in a statement:
“A key component of Wisconsin’s Workforce Agenda, which we unveiled last week, is removing barriers to employment. Employers have jobs available, but they need skilled workers who can pass a drug test. This rule change means people battling substance use disorders will be able to get the help they need to get healthy, and get back into the workforce.”
Walker added that this measure is a key part of his statewide battle against the opioid epidemic.
Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, is already warning that there will likely be a legal challenge. She told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“As this moves forward we anticipate that the issue will be litigated, making it an expensive idea for taxpayers from the Badger State.”
What Do Critics Say?
Dating back to the 1990s, the general consensus among the establishment has been that drug testing welfare users is ineffective and is a waste of taxpayer money.
In 2014, Time magazine published an extensive piece from a former food stamps recipient, arguing against the concept of drug testing welfare users. Darlena Cunha, a freelance writer for The Washington Post, wrote:
“People tend to forget that those using the programs are most likely also taxpayers, or were at some point. In 2010, nearly half of poor or near poor mothers on welfare were working at least part time. My husband and I, for instance, worked a combined 45 years, paying taxes, before he lost his job two weeks before I had premature twins, and had to apply for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. During the time we were on aid, I held a fulltime job, meaning I was paying into the system from which I was simultaneously benefiting.”
There are numbers to suggest that attempts to clamp down on welfare abusers may be a misallocation of resources. For instance, in Utah, just 2% of welfare applicants tested positive. Ditto for Florida. In Tennessee, the number was just 0.001%.
It should be noted that previous studies have found that one-fifth of all American welfare recipients have taken illicit drugs at least once during the year. For the most part, however, applicants and users of food stamps, anti-poverty programs, or welfare in general, have been clean.
To claim, however, that this is a right-wing crusade against the impoverished is a tad disingenuous. In many jurisdictions all over the world, governments have been incorporating drug testing into their welfare policies.
Earlier this year, for example, the Liberal government in Ontario imposed drug testing on welfare recipients. The Liberal government in Australia, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has been debating the matter for much of 2017. The UK maintained the directive for years before scrapping the measure over its futility.
Although the media are harping on the drug testing aspect, the real story may be the return of states’ rights in the era of President Trump. For the last 30 years, there has been a paucity of respect for the 10th Amendment, and states had to either bow down to Washington, or curtail their own ideas. Surprisingly, this concept of a centralized government is gradually dwindling, and that’s a good thing for the nation and the constitution.
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