published Monday, May 7th, 2012

Welfare misuse and drugs

For years now, it has been common for employers to require drug tests of new employees and occasional random tests even of longtime workers.

The purpose of the tests should be obvious: Drug-using employees are likely to be less reliable and may wind up costing a company far more than their employment is worth. Businesses don't want to take that risk.

If that is a sensible and not especially controversial practice in the private sector, it would seem to make even more sense where recipients of government benefits are concerned. After all, government pays those benefits with money taken involuntarily from taxpayers. That makes careful stewardship of those dollars a moral imperative. There is plainly nothing moral about squandering benefits on people who are using or even addicted to illegal drugs.

And so it is entirely reasonable that Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill linking welfare benefits to drug tests for recipients who are suspected of using marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines or opiates.

Florida has had success with a similar effort. The law directly prevented dozens of drug abusers from getting welfare benefits, and roughly 1,600 more were denied cash benefits when they applied for the money but refused to be tested. A few of those may simply have objected to the drug testing, but many undoubtedly knew the test would show they were drug abusers.

Encouragingly, the welfare rolls in Florida fell by more than one-tenth after the law was enacted there. Is that entire reduction due to the drug-testing law? Almost certainly not, but it would be silly to assume the law played little or no role.

Multigenerational dependence on welfare is a serious enough problem in the United States already. We should not add to that the subsidizing of the lifestyles of drug abusers. That does neither them nor taxpayers any good.

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It only makes sense if you are presuming that being on welfare means you are a drug user.

The reality is such testing costs more money than if you gave out the money to everybody that fails. Just like the drug war costs more money than supplying people with drugs would cost. Sorry, but that Florida law? A failure. Around two percent of applicants failed. 108 people. 4000 were tested. Total cost of the tests? 45,000 more than they would have paid in benefits. Why did you leave those numbers off? Is it because they didn't fit your narrative? Not that you gave a source for your numbers, but here are some links

nd no, your inferences about applicants avoiding it because of the tests don't measure up, just check the pattern after a judge blocked it.

Conservatives are big on accounting, so big they spend a quarter to make sure somebody doesn't misspend a single dime, then decide that an invasive abridgement of liberties will protect our freedoms by costing more money than it saves?

But hey, why don't we drug test our politicians first?

May 7, 2012 at 12:56 a.m.
EaTn said...

As a liberal I think drug testing for welfare receipents may have some merit, but I'm not sure testing all is the solution. There's no doubt that some will use the money to buy drugs, but as has been pointed out is the cost of creating another arm of the govt worth it? I think the first step would be to target those who have been arrested for drug abuse.

May 7, 2012 at 7:40 a.m.
joneses said...

And this is exactly what the liberal/dummycrats want in America. The end result is we will all live in poverty with the exception of the ruling class that will include the likes of obastard, pelosi, kennedys, reids, gores, clintons and the rest of the ones that have chosen to rape the taxpayers of their money so they can live a lavish life style while demonizing us for wanting the same thing.

France, 5/7/12

President Nicolas Sarkozy lost to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, who had criticized the country's austerity program and wants to boost government spending.

If there is a continued backlash against austerity policies, Hollande would face additional pressure to boost spending sharply. That could lead to further downgrades of France's credit rating and kick off a fresh wave of crisis fears, destabilizing global markets.

May 7, 2012 at 7:58 a.m.
EaTn said...

joneses,,,,, the voters in France may have seen that the austerity program was not touching the wealthy like those further down the line, which is what has happened here with the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Unless pain is felt by all it will not work.

May 7, 2012 at 8:45 a.m.
conservative said...

"Florida has had success with a similar effort. The law directly prevented dozens of drug abusers from getting welfare benefits, and roughly 1,600 more were denied cash benefits when they applied for the money but refused to be tested. A few of those may simply have objected to the drug testing, but many undoubtedly knew the test would show they were drug abusers."

Exactly right!!! That 1,600 who were denied other people's money saved the taxpayer $320,000 per month ( $3,840,000 a yr ) if the welfare check were as little as $200 per month. That's a lot of money where I come from.

The $30 cost of the drug test is a bargain!

May 7, 2012 at 8:59 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Good post, hwnb. Unfortunately your logic and common sense are completely lost on the reaon-deprived haters who post here. Conservatives are so good at coming up with ways to save small amounts of money here and there by continuing to stick the dagger to the have-nots as they keep coddling and sucking up to the fat, excuse me, the "job creators." They want to tax those who don't have money to tax in the first place, take away or drastically reduce unemployment benefits, take away the funding for Planned Parenthood, and now this preposterous idea of drug testing those on welfare. Sure, there are some few who abuse any program but the money that would be spent to carry out the drug testing would far exceed the little bit of money that might be saved in identifying and casting out the few abusers (as you pointed out).

Today's conservatives spend so much time and energy hating and devising ways to punish anyone who does not fit their model of the perfect conservative citizen- either a member of the one percent or striving to be one of them - that they cannot think outside of their narrow little austerity box and come up with something on a grand scale that would truly be constructive.

May 7, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Let's inflate your figures even more, con-man, just to make the "savings" sound better to you. Let's say that the government denies money to another 10% recipients, just for good measure, to save even more money. What do you think is going to become of those people not getting welfare? Do you think they're going to become model citizens overnight, decide they need to clean up their act, work 2 and 3 jobs (that don't exist today), go back to school, learn a trade, become the next rags-to-riches story? Or do you think they're just going to conveniently die and get out of the way to make room for your perfect breed of money-making American? What will happen is that the vast majority will resort to crime, become homeless and live on the streets, have to be institutionalized, or end up in prison. Regardless of what happens to them it will be ugly and the taxpayers will end up paying for them in the long run. You cannot just cut funding in an area that affects people so severely and look at the money you save as a positive. You have to look at the big picture and the consequences of your actions. You conservatives are always failing to look at the big picture. You just want to cut spending and think that that alone is going to make everything right. Ain't gonna happen that way.

May 7, 2012 at 12:18 p.m.
jesse said...

i'm a retired driver from shaw dalton ,ga. and had to submit to random drug screens for 15 yrs.! never was a prob. for me! if you ain't smokin or snortin you ain't got a prob. if you are on the fed.dole and not doin drugs! no hassle! now as to the cost effectiveness of this? THATS a whole new can of worms!

May 7, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Every congressman and senator is getting government money, not to mention great perks. If we're gonna drug screen welfare recipients, then everyone in the White House should be tested first and foremost. They make decisions that affect an entire nation and should therefore be held to an even higher standard. I'm willing to bet there's a much higher incidence of coke use among those guys than there are welfare recipients on meth, crack or whatever.

All of you folks who are so eager to pee in a cup, why don't we have one huge pee-in-a-cup party and everyone who fails, just lock 'em up, throw away the key, and don't spend any money on their upkeep as they rot behind bars. That should solve our problems.

May 7, 2012 at 1:42 p.m.
acerigger said...

ACLU-Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg sent a letter last week to Haslam, a Republican, to veto the GOP-sponsored bill, which mandates “suspicion-based” drug testing for applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families if they fail a psychological screening test.

It raises “serious constitution concerns,” the ACLU contends.

“This bill is the latest in a series of attacks the legislature has waged on civil liberties this session,” Weinberg said in a news release. “Presuming that ... applicants are more likely to use drugs than scholarship applicants, farmers, legislators or anyone else receiving government funds is not only an insulting stereotype contradicted by actual research, it’s constitutionally suspect.”

I believe that in Fla.reimbursements have cost MORE than the cost of benefits,plus there's the extra added attraction that the clinics which do the testing are owned by the Governors' wife. Who'd a thunk it? Wonder who'll get that money in Tn.? Any guesses?

May 7, 2012 at 3:17 p.m.
jesse said...

if you are getting a fed. well fare check,food stamps, a fed.grant or any other federal FREE MONEY then you should be subject to a random drug screen! the transportation ind. ,due to the perceived threat to hi-way safety has been subject to these screens for 20 years! why not screen aid recipients to insure they are not using aid money to feed their drug habit? sounds like a no brainer to me!

May 7, 2012 at 3:18 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

I think anyone that runs for public office should be tested. Regularly and randomly.

May 7, 2012 at 4:11 p.m.
Rtazmann said...

If they are going to have drug tests thru out the U.S. everyone should have to be subjected to it,,,not just to the poor and disavantaged,,from the White House down to the prisons..throwing good money to the drug problems has been a failure for 50 years,,,it's time to change directions and come up with something more cost effective and something more realistic to deal with it,,,,face it,, what has been done and being done is not working..

May 7, 2012 at 5:01 p.m.
ceeweed said...

How about them fat people getting food stamps? That is an abuse of the system right there...All these scholarly law makers in Nashville sure make me beam with pride!...It's like Darwin's Theory in reverse...Oops! Sorry, not allowed to mention Darwin...Drug and alcohol addictions are diseases, one does not have to look very far to see those suffering...Let's not help "those" people at all, Instead, let's keep building more jails and prisons. There is only one catch, we taxpayers will have to pay for them...Let's put this issue behind us and get on with the "No Food Stamps For Fatties" campaign. Poor people should not be fat, it only makes sense!

May 7, 2012 at 7:02 p.m.
01centare said...

What's really hypocritical and laughable are all those politicians in support of drug testing actually exempted themselves from being tested from drugs under this law.

And the Florida politician who first sponsored this bill has a big stake in the very lab that does the drug testing. He originally owned it or was some top head in the company. Then he signed everything over to this wife to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Plus, the drug testing won't prevent the individual from receiving aide. In Florida they assign the benefits to a family member as caretaker. You're all being had by these greedy lawmakers. They're laughing all the way to the bank and getting richer.

May 7, 2012 at 8:22 p.m.
chet123 said...


May 8, 2012 at 1:29 p.m.
chet123 said...


May 8, 2012 at 1:32 p.m.

ceeweed, obesity in people getting food stamps has numerous causes, from lack of education as to a healthy diet, to some other disability, to bad food (ie, unhealthy) being cheaper than good food.

Go to an organic market. That food is costly.

May 9, 2012 at 11:29 a.m.
LaurynGraf said...

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December 17, 2013 at 11:12 p.m.
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