You Wanna Drug Test Welfare Recipients? Start with Corporate Executives
Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn) has introduced legislation mandating random drug testing of 20 percent of recipients of Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). He’s named it the Welfare Integrity Act of 2013, proving once again that the GOP has a knack for crafting bullshit euphemisms.
“Currently the federal government enables drug abusers a safety-net by allowing them to participate in the TANF program. Instead of having to make the hard-choice between drugs and other essential needs, abusers are able to rely on their monthly check to help them pay their bills,” declared Fincher in a statement released yesterday. “By allowing random drug checks, we can ensure families who receive TANF benefits use them for their intended purpose of feeding, clothing and providing shelter for their children, while cutting the tie that enables drug abuse. It’s not unreasonable to ask folks to stay clean in order to receive federal assistance.”
It’s no secret that the GOP views the poor as drug addicts and alcoholics undeserving of the highly inadequate government assistance available to them. It’s this perception that equates poverty with criminality that’s partly responsible for the failure of drug testing legislation. You see, it’s unconstitutional to violate a person’s privacy without reasonable suspicion that they’ve done something wrong. Politicians like Finche believe that being poor is suspicion enough, which amounts to class discrimination. That’s why Fincher’s bill includes a clause requiring welfare recipients to sign “a waiver of constitutional rights with respect to testing” in order to receive their benefits (what a jerk!).
Keep in mind that there is no evidence that the poor are more inclined to use drugs than the wealthy nor are they the only group of Americans who receive government assistance. In fact, the poor receive pennies compared to the working, middle and upper classes. TANF benefits are below half the poverty line and few desperately needy families even receive them (thanks to welfare reform, but that’s a topic for another time).
So I have a proposal for Fincher and his GOP brethren. If you guys want to drug test recipients of government assistance then fine, have at it, starting with the folks receiving the most. In terms of social welfare, over 90 percent of benefits go to the elderly, disabled and working households. I dare you to propose a bill for drug-testing our grandparents and children with special needs….yeah, that’s what I thought.
But if you really want to stick it to those undeserving moochers, I say forget social welfare altogether and drug test corporate executives. After all, the government spent 50 percent more on corporate welfare than social welfare in 2006, with $59 billion going to traditional social welfare programs compared to $92 billion spent on corporate subsidies. On top of that, corporate welfare costed taxpayers another $100 billion in 2012 alone. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of government handouts to corporations.
So Mr. Fincher, if you’re so concerned about how government assistance is being spent, I suggest focusing your ire at the executives of Bank of America, Exxon Mobile, Walmart, General Electric, Chevron and the rest of their corporate ilk before bullying the most vulnerable among us to score cheap political points.