Drug testing welfare recipients


So wadaya think, are Floridians superior to Michiganians? More honest, trustworthy, reliable, predominant in every way? How about people from Utah, Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, are they better than us?

A certain group in the Michigan legislature (Don’t need to tell you who, do I? Didn’t think so.), the same crowd who, after citing the state’s dire financial condition, cut aid to schools, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and revenue sharing to local government, yet somehow managed to find a half million bucks lying around for use in drug testing welfare recipients.

Apparently there is grave concern that those in the Orwellianly named Family Independence Program are living the high life (pun intended), partying down on the princely sum ($394 per month, average) they receive.

Now at this point you may be musing: “I wonder if any other states have attempted testing? If so, what were their results?” Good questions, both.

Florida tried it. They found 108 of 4,086 tested positive for drugs (mostly for marijuana). That’s a rate of 2.3 percent. It cost them $45,780 in testing bills. (Miami Herald)

Oklahoma caught 29 out of 1,300, 2.2 percent, $74,000. (Oklahoma Gazette)

Utah, 12 of 466, 2.6 percent, $31,566. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Missouri, 20 of 636, 3.1 percent, $500,000 total. (Kansas City Star)

The above expenses, exclusive of Missouri, are only for testing, not other expenditures, which are substantial. Employee salaries, administrative and legal fees (many such plans have been declared illegal) also raise the cost.

For example, Minnesota, only testing convicted drug users, found the outlays prohibitive. Rural Chisago county, with only one such offender, incurred a $1,500 charge for merely developing the protocol, not the actual test. (Minnesota Star Tribune)

The kicker to this whole fiasco is that welfare recipients are statistically more drug free than the population at large. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service discovered in a 2009 survey that 8.7 percent of the American population, age 12 and above, used illegal drugs.

So wadaya think, should we profit from the mistakes other states have already made, or drop half a million clams to bust a few dozen boo-blowers?

The final word goes to the incomparable Lady Day, Billie Holiday, who had it scoped out three quarters of a century ago – some people are determined to severely punish those who’ve committed the unpardonable sin of being poor.

“Yes, the strong gets more while the weak ones fade. Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade.” – God Bless the Child (1939)

Brian Johnson