Right Wingers like to talk about all of the people they know who know someone who knows someone who collects welfare and food stamps yet always has money for his drugs. To hear them talk you would expect to go to the waiting room at your local Social Services office and see a bunch of glassy-eyed junkies on the nod. That is not the case, and I should know. I have been in that lobby locally when visiting the county complex and what I mostly see are young families and older people, none of who appear to be high on anything. Many just look plain embarrassed to have to be there. Still the TEApubs would like to add another indignity to that of having to apply for help in the first place — they want applicants to also pee in a cup to prove that they aren’t spending all of that free money on drugs.
They tout the huge savings to the system if they make people prove that they are not using illicit drugs, the theory being that EVERYONE on welfare is also a drug user. So far it has saved nothing in any state that has adopted this degrading practice, and in fact it has cost more than it has saved and uncovered almost no gaming of the system.
In Utah they don’t even test everyone, they have applicants take a written test designed to identify “probable” drug users and then those who “fail” are required to take the drug test.According the The Kansas City Star who recently ran this Associated Press story, Utah found 466 out of 4,730 applicants that the test identified as suspicious, out of those 466 they caught exactly 12 people who tested positive. That comes to 0.25 % who tested positive at a cost of $31,000 or $2,583.33 per person caught. But that is not the end of it, when an applicant tests positive he is not disqualified, he is placed in a rehab program, of course at the expense of the state. In other words this cost cutting measure actually adds to the cost of welfare in Utah.
Other states have seen similar results, in Florida where they saw their law shot down by a Federal Appeals court in February, they found that 2 % of welfare recipients tested positive compared to a statewide 8% who use illicit drugs. There too, the law was touted as a big money saver while it actually did little more than cause them to break even after administrative costs and reimbursing all of those who had to pay $30 for a drug test that they did not want in the first place.
Several states are currently considering such laws which will do nothing other than further demean those who are the least among us. No one gets up one day and says “hey, why am I going to work, I can go on welfare and live a life of luxurious leisure.” That is not what life on welfare is like. It is getting by with the bare necessities and nothing more. It is embarrassing to have to ask for it and embarrassing to have to tell people you are receiving it, so why heap more indignation on them in a futile attempt to find something that is so rare that it costs more to find it than will be saved by finding it?