Drug testing welfare recipients is the flavor of the month among reality-challenged governors, who are, of course, mostly Republicans. There are 12 states that currently carry out this demeaning and degrading procedure, and another 12 are considering implementation. Florida, which had a drug-testing requirement for people on welfare, was forced to shut it down after four months by a federal judge. Of the 4,086 people tested during that period, 2.6% tested positive. That’s fewer than 10 people.
Assuming that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs than others is just one extension of the conservative belief that if you are in need of welfare from the state, there’s something wrong with you. People on welfare, goes the thinking, are inherently lazy losers who are simply looking for a handout from the government. They are subhuman, and therefore we can do things to them that we wouldn’t consider doing to others. There aren’t any serious proposals out there to drug test political candidates.
Drug testing is not just insulting and demeaning, it also flies in the face of American jurisprudence, the foundation of which is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Conservatives want welfare recipients to prove their innocence before receiving aid. And how can we look ourselves in the mirror and punish the already down and out for using drugs when they point to George Bush or Barack Obama or any of a number of other successful individuals who have admitted using drugs?
Forcing welfare recipients to undergo drug tests is just one more in a very long line of bad ideas from conservatives. Hopefully, court challenges like the one in Florida will work to end this practice nationwide in the near future.