In case you haven't heard, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday, December 3rd, that would allow for the suspicion-based drug testing of welfare recipients. There has long existed a narrative in this country that those on welfare exploit the system, are lazy, and do drugs. This is just the latest chapter in war on the poor.
Now the bill was already passed by the Michigan State Senate last march. So that means if Governor Rick Snyder decides to sign this bill, that would allocate half a million tax payer dollars to pay for this drug testing.
One of the sponsors of this legislation, Representative Jeff Farrington of Utica, is quoted by MLive as saying the following: "I think people want to make sure that we give a hand up to those in need, but they're tired of giving their tax dollars to people who waste it on drugs."
He goes on to say "that's no blanket statement, as far as people on welfare being on drugs, but people at least want to see what the numbers are."
Well I agree with Mr. Farrington, let's look at some numbers. Ignoring the fact that Michigan already had a welfare drug testing law in 1999 that was struck down as unconstitutional for a minute - 11 states have enacted similar laws since 2011.
Taking Tennessee as an example, there they enacted a drug testing law where out of 812 applicants they only found one individual who tested positive. Those results were only from a single month, but in Utah only 12 people tested positive after a full year of drug testing. The price tag in Utah was $30,000 to weed out just those 12 people.
Instead of going on a witch hunt to find welfare queens, that by in large do not exist -- Representative Farrington might want to consider spending our money on strengthening our social safety net. According to the Michigan League For public policy, nearly one in seven Michigan families struggle with food insecurity. Maybe we can spend half a million dollars helping them instead of stigmatizing the poor. Just food for thought.