In an ostensible attempt to combat the increasing welfare state in America, the conservatives moved to begin drug testing applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The program was hailed by the right as the be all end all to those “lazy welfare recipients sitting at home and smoking their drugs all day. ”
Advocates of the legislation claim that they will save money by getting those “evil drug users off of the government teet, thereby reducing the expense of the welfare system. Sounds great doesn’t it?
Taxpayers should most assuredly not be shelling out money for people to sit at home and “smoke their drugs all day.” But is that really what happens?
The programs like TANF and Food Stamps are a kind gesture by the government to help people in need. However, like any government mandated kindness, the opportunity for abuse within the system is rife. Not only is abuse of the system common, but it is damning to those on the receiving end.
Third and fourth generation welfare recipients often find themselves trapped inside the system. If they attempt to get a job for minimum wage, they risk losing half of their income. Riding the check, has become a way of life and a trap for so many poverty-stricken people across the United States.
But do all these families on government assisted living program all just sit back and “smoke their drugs all day,” like the proponents of this legislation seem to think?
The data says “no.” In fact, the data shows that drug testing applicants to TANF costs taxpayers far more than the perceived benefits sought out in the first place.
According to state data gathered by ThinkProgress,
the seven states with existing programs — Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah — are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out very few drug users. The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent.
The most recent state to show the abject failure of mixing the War on Drugs with the Welfare State is Tennessee. After spending copious amounts of taxpayer dollars to catch TANF recipients in their ploy to use drugs while receiving aid to feed their children, they uncovered drug use in less the 0.2 percent of all applicants.
According to Think Progress:
The state implemented the testing regime in the summer of 2014, adding three questions about narcotics use to the application form for aid. Anyone who answers “yes” to any of the three drug questions must take a urine test or have their application thrown away immediately. Anyone who fails a urine test must complete drug treatment and pass a second test, or have their benefits cut off for six months.
In total, just 1.6 percent of the 28,559 people who applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits in the first year of testing answered one of the three screening questions positively. Out of the 468 people who peed in a state-funded cup, 11.7 percent flunked the test.
With 55 people testing positive for drugs out of an applicant pool of nearly 30,000, Tennessee’s testing system uncovered that a whopping 0.19 percent of those who applied for aid were drug users. Ultimately, 32 applicants were denied benefits for failing to complete the state’s mandatory drug rehab process for those who test positive.
That means a total of 32 Tennessee families were ultimately denied an average of $161 a month in benefits in accordance with the new law.
Now for the epic dose of statist logic: If there were no other costs associated with implementing this legislation, meaning if they paid for the cost of the actual drug test items only, the program cost more than double what it saved.
However, the costs are far more than just the drug test items. The state does not take into account the cost of staff to conduct the testing, the paperwork, the cost to notify the people or any of the other external costs of looking into people’s urine for evil traces of drugs.
What the Tennessee program, and all the other states with similar programs exhibit is the ill-conceived and half-cocked plans of the state wreaking havoc on the tax-payer.