I keep seeing a post or posts on Facebook and Twitter supporting drug testing of welfare recipients as a prerequisite to their receiving any money. At first blush, this seems an entirely reasonable position to take. No one in their right mind wants to see tax dollars used to support a drug or alcohol habit, and requiring testing would, if this were the only issue, be a reasonable and viable way to prevent that happening. Unfortunately, the mere use of drugs and alcohol by people on welfare is not the only issue involved. It is not even the most important one.
So far, in virtually every state that such laws have been enacted, the cost to the state of the drug testing has exceeded the amount of money saved by denying benefits to those who tested positive. The reason? You have to test everyone, but the percentage of welfare applicants testing positive for drug use is actually less than the national average for all citizens. In other words, we are spending money to solve a problem that doesn't actually exist.
We do this a lot—usually at the behest of a Republican ideologue who is busy spending our money needlessly when he is not otherwise engaged in accusing the Democrats of spending our money needlessly. The upshot is that we deny benefits and assistance to people who actually could use it in order to provide a windfall to people who were already doing pretty well for themselves.
In the case of drug testing welfare applicants, the only people to benefit from these laws are the labs who provide the testing. In Florida, one of the primary labs providing such testing is owned by the wife of the governor. Pretty sure she doesn't need the money to feed her children, so—you know—FAIL!
I wonder how the folks who support this kind of draconian legislation think that it will work. The irony is that it only works at all if you stop thinking before your thinking comes to a kind of logical conclusion. I imagine it would actually look something like this:
- If you take away a crack whore's welfare money, she will not stop buying crack. What she will actually stop buying is food for her children because, you know—crack helps you get through times of no money better than money helps you get through times of no crack, and being stoned makes it easier to tolerate the crying of hungry babies, whereas withdrawal from crack will make you want to throw your well-fed babies out the window.
- When the crack babies begin to starve, they will be taken away from their mothers and placed in shelters and foster homes where the burden of feeding them will fall on different programs from the ones that were feeding them before. The cost of feeding them will not change very much, although if it does change it will probably go up because shelters and foster homes cost more than actual parents. When you look at the crack babies' former program expenditures, however, it will appear as though there have been some savings even though there has only been a transfer of costs from one program to another.
- Notwithstanding that there are no actual savings, the apparent savings will be transferred to rich people in the form of tax cuts in the sincere, if misguided, hope that they will use the money to create jobs for the rest of us.
- The wealthy, who have already created all the jobs they plan to—none, will actually use the money to buy champagne, cocaine, and prostitutes. (If you think about it, this is the fairest possible outcome. I mean why should poor people get to luxuriate in the care-free indulgences of addiction, when that kind of happy leisure ought to be reserved for the rich who truly deserve it?)
- And so we come full circle. The effect of our enlightened new laws will be:
- slight increase in the cost of feeding crack babies as foster homes and shelters get more money to feed children than do their parents
- reduced tax revenues and increasing deficits because the wealthy are contributing less and the poor are costing more
- increased demand for and therefore higher prices for drugs because the rich don't care how much they pay for coke if the money is coming from poor children
- increase in crime rates to pay for higher priced drugs because you still gotta smoke that shit no matter what it costs
So maybe it wouldn't look just like that, but I bet I'm closer to reality than you are. All I'm saying is you have to think about this stuff before you spout it on Facebook because there are a lot of people there who will take what you say at face value if the first sentence makes even a little sense. Why? Because that's almost always as far as they are going to read.