Monday, March 30, 2009

Drug testing for food stamps? How about no drug buying with welfare?

It is not unusual for companies to subject their employees to random drug testing, and most require it ahead of receiving worker's compensation benefits for injuries sustained on the job, so why not subject welfare recipients to the same? The idea is getting a legislative push in multiple states:
Want government assistance? Just say no to drugs.

Lawmakers in at least eight states want recipients of food stamps, unemployment benefits or welfare to submit to random drug testing. ...

"Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs," said Craig Blair, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature who has created a Web site — — that bears a bobble-headed likeness of himself advocating this position. "If so many jobs require random drug tests these days, why not these benefits?"

Blair is proposing the most comprehensive measure in the country, as it would apply to anyone applying for food stamps, unemployment compensation or the federal programs usually known as "welfare": Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Women, Infants and Children.

Lawmakers in other states are offering similar, but more modest proposals.

On Wednesday, the Kansas House of Representatives approved a measure mandating drug testing for the 14,000 or so people getting cash assistance from the state, which now goes before the state senate. In February, the Oklahoma Senate unanimously passed a measure that would require drug testing as a condition of receiving TANF benefits, and similar bills have been introduced in Missouri and Hawaii. A Florida senator has proposed a bill linking unemployment compensation to drug testing, and a member of Minnesota's House of Representatives has a bill requiring drug tests of people who get public assistance under a state program there.
With 80 million baby boomers hitting reaching retirement age over the next couple of decades, the 70 million Gen Xers following them are going to have a much heavier dependent-to-worker load than their parents did. With more than 40% of births in the US now being to non-Asian minorities (and the consequent rise in the number of children born out of wedlock and into poverty), the nation's per capita human capital is decreasing. The US continues to run a perpetual trade deficit that has probably only been temporarily reduced due to a sharp drop in oil prices, while the federal government plans on spending $4 trillion--nearly $2 trillion above and beyond what it takes in--in 2009 alone. The seeming capriciousness of governmental bailouts has prescient people previously ignored predicting a decade or more of malaise similar to what Japan experienced through the nineties and into the present.

These lawmakers are moving at the right time, under a collapsing sky. The time is ripe for the Republican party to reassert itself as the enforcer of green eye-shade conservatism.

How about this as an idea for a campaign ad that could be replicated by Congressional challengers across the country in the 2010 election cycle? A woman who looks like Roseanne comes into a convenience store yelling at her uncontrolled hellions, before going up to the counter to buy cigarettes, liquor, and lottery tickets with her food stamp card. A narrator along the lines of Robert Stack sternly says, "Ask [sitting Congressman] why he supports giving taxpayer money to the poor for the purchase of cigarettes and booze. Congressman, is this what you intended when you voted for last year's spending bill with its $3 billion increase in temporary welfare benefits, on top of the $20 billion we are already spending?"

It may come as a surprise that food stamp cards can be used for cash purposes. Since 2004, all 50 states and DC have participated in the EBT (electronic benefits transfer) program. Beneficiaries are given what is essentially a debit card that transfers funds from a federal account to retailers. Additionally, it may be used at ATMs. Recipients have two separate balances; one for food, restricted to items that are not supposed to be immediately consumable, and another that may be used on anything, including vices like those depicted in the hypothetical ad.

The amounts received for each balance are contingent upon state laws, and finding out total distributions at the state or federal levels is difficult (it has proven so for me, anyway). But I suspect few people realize welfare benefits can be used to buy Kools and Steel Reserve. Further, I imagine the vast majority of those who become aware of it happening will disapprove of it.


jesuswarehouse said...

For data, try:

U.S. Statistical Abstract:
Look under "State and Local Gov't Finances and Employment" for Federal Aid to State and Local Governments

I did not look very hard, but I did not see TANF totals at first glance in the Statistical Abstract.

If not there, you can check the Social Security Administration's Annual Statistical Supplement:
HOWEVER! I think the latest year that they have TANF data is just append the year you are interested in to that previous link:

For Food Stamp Program benefits:

Fat Knowledge said...

What happens if someone fails the test (and does this include alcohol and tobacco or just "drugs")? Then they lose their welfare benefits and are supposed to do what? What do you expect a drug addicted individual without welfare to do? Seems likely they will go steal to get their money. Then we catch them and they go to jail and we can pay $35,000 a year to incarcerate them. But then we are stopping criminals, so we shouldn't be worried about cost.

And instead of giving people and let them spend it how they think best, you want government to setup rules as to how they should be able to spend it? I thought Republicans were against those kind of things. If you have a plan to get people on welfare to drink, smoke and do less drugs, I am all for it, but I don't see what that is in this post.

And I wouldn't go with Rosanne if I were you. You want someone black, no, black is hip now, you want someone Hispanic. You go with Rosanne and all of a sudden white people start worrying that their crazy cousin is no longer going to get their welfare check and they will come to them for cash. And you certainly don't want anyone picturing Sarah Palin's daughter's baby daddy's mother.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

I agree with FA, ending welfare for drug addicts is not the most effective way to deal with this problem.

The ideal solution is to pay drug addicts welfare in exchange for either longterm contraception such as an IUD or to have their tubes tied; or get a vasectomy in the case of men.

Addicts will be less likely to riot due to a lack of funds because they will get welfare checks and they won't produce children.

Project Prevention has paid over a thousand drug addicted women to get their tubes tied and the courts have not (yet) stopped them. If the government won't do this then perhaps we should encourage nonCatholic Christian organizations to encourage drug addicts, prostitutes, etc, to get sterilized like Project Prevention does.

We could argue to Christian organizations that this would be the ideal way to reduce abortion.

Finally, a good way to get the ball rolling on voluntary eugenics would be to pay prisoners about to be released to get a vasectomy. This may be more popular initially because violent male criminals are not so popular. From there, once we get our foot in the door, we could argue for more voluntary eugenics programs such as welfare for sterilization.

Audacious Epigone said...


Wow, thanks for the digging. It is much appreciated.


I share your sentiments. I see potential testing for recipients like I see the EB-5 visa program--not the optimal approach I'd take if made king, but better than the current system.

I've been an advocate of sterility-for-welfare for as long as I can remember having a coherent worldview. Project Prevention is probably my favorite charity. I've donated to it for three years now.


Addicts would have an incentive to move somewhere else. So on a localized/state level, it would have a positive quality-of-life impact. I support it for the same reason I oppose gaming in my state and choose to live in an area of the metro area that has high property tax rates. But in my mind by far the most impactful variable is fertility, and I am in agreement with all UJ writes.

Also, if I saw convincing evidence that the threat of welfare removal did not effect deterence at all, I'd be more easily persuaded.

Re: Roseanne, I think a single black mother would be too blatantly politically incorrect to carry much in the way of public assent. Working-class whites are the easiest to pick on. But it would be working-class white families like the one depicted in the show that would stand to benefit the most. Machiavellian, I know...

Black Sea said...

Welfare Reform:

1. To receive welfare, you have to work for the state, doing whatever the state assigns you to do, however incompetently you actually do it. I know that this is not cost effective, in and of itself, but it would drive home the point that -- one way or another -- you're going to be working, and you might actually prefer finding your own job. Sweeping sidewalks, sorting through trash at the recycling center, cleaning out toilets in state office buildings, I don't so much care what the work is as much as the simple fact that is a part of the deal for welfare receipients.

2. No increase in benefits as a result of an increase in kids. A woman who goes on welfare must agree to be Norplanted, and must remain on Norplant for 18 months after getting off welfare if she is ever to be eligible for welfare again.

3. I like the idea of paying felons, drug addicts, and chronic state dependents cash money to get sterilized. This would certainly have an impact on long-term dependency.

4. While we're branching out a little, work is made mandatory for any prision inmates who want to watch TV, either in a common room or in their cell, who want recreational privileges, and who want to be considered for any form of early release. If you really don't want to work, you don't have to, but then you sit in your cell all day, and you serve your whole term. As with welfare receipients, it's important to make clear to not-very-bright people that, one way or another, unless you happen to win the lottery, you're going to be working in this life, and you might prefer to get out there on your own and do it, rather than being "encouraged" by the state.

Audacious Epigone said...

Black Sea,

Great four-point plan. I like the idea of a token economy operating in the prison system, in which everything but the most basic necessities (bland food and water, essentially) are 'purchased' with work credits and credits earned for good behavior. To the extent that it can be learned, such a system would inculcate in inmates the productive value of hard work.

Imee said...

Drug testing for stuff like food stamps isn't such a bad idea, but then again just because someone is on (or have occasionally used) drugs doesn't mean they should ever be deprived of any sort of help.

Anonymous said...

Ya'll people crazy. You all must make a million dollar a year. I know a least one of ya'll done tried drugs before or even dranked some liquor. Drug testing for food stamps is only going to make our society worst. If they don't get the money from the state then they will just come to your home and take what they need. You guys are talking about starving people. That's sad to say, but that's how republican works. They only care about their pockets and forget the next person. We are suppose to help each other not hurt one another.

Audacious Epigone said...


I should be sure you're a caricature, but given the way that some of my facebook friends TYPE (not just speak), I'm not so sure.

Janna said...

I don't think anyone's crazy here or whatever--we all have our opinions. For some of us, drug testing for stuff like Food Stamps is something seen as a good thing, others would see it as a burden for one reason or another.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to point out you are wrong about the EBT card. The cash option is for those using the card under other programs. If you are receiving food stamp funds you cannot use them to purchase lottery tickets and cigarettes. The card itself can be used for other programs and that is why it has a cash option, however, there is no way to use food stamps as cash. Most people wouldn't know and so they will take your word for granted.

Audacious Epigone said...


So the EBT card is essentially an all-purpose debit card for welfare benefits, including food stamps among other things? That makes sense, but the thrust remains the same--most people would be pissed off in realizing that welfare payments are able to be used to buy liquor and lottery tickets.

s said...

We have spent over 1.1 trillion on corporate welfare this year.Tax payers are giving bonuses to people who have already lost and mismanaged millions of dollars.Why not test them for drugs??????????? Compared to what we have given corporations Welfare is a drop on the bucket.Or do rich people have different rules than poor ones??????????

Anonymous said...

I think the idea is wonderful but, once thought through- most people are probably correct, drug dealers & addicts would begin to steal what they want & it would increase crime rates. I also don't see occasional drug users as a "good" thing...I mean, they don't deserve government help either. I think it is very unfair that people who make an attempt at bettering their lives and helping themselves cannot get help but a drug addict/ dealer can get TONS of help, just helping to keep their addictions going.

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea...I wonder how much resistance something like this could receive...Somebody above made a point about a possible increase in crime rates, but I don't think that fear would actually be strong enough to stop the legislation. I would even like to see this extended to immigrants. They are here on a contingency, and they should be held accountable for their actions. Even immigrants who are here on an eb5 investor visa should be tested, or at least their employees. I just don't think that anyone who is taking advantage of Government programs should get away with using illegal drugs.

Anonymous said...

Here is a serious issue that needs some serious attention. The food and water is poisoned. Why do you think people are getting cancer at such young ages? The water has sodium flouride in it which was used in the holocaust to dummy down the population.
The food has so many perservatives people are getting cancer from it. WHY pay for something that is going to kill you???? WHY????

One more point to make..... If we as civilians subject to this unconstitutional nonsense, then so should the congressmen and all politicians have to be drug tested. FAIR IS FAIR. YOU DON'T GET ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE AND THEN TURN YOUR BACK ON US. Wake up people this is 2011 and things will only get worse by implementing more money spending. They talk about cutting spending in all areas of the budget, but they just keep spending. Money is the root of all evil. If someone needs assistance, PLEASE help them out, no matter how ignorant you are. If you were in that persons shoes i'm sure you would feel the same way. Read between the lines and don't believe everything that is spoon fed to you by our corrupt gov. Look into 9/11 and you will find out the truth behind this whole paradigm.

Anonymous said...

I am a single parent of two. I have been on foodstamps off and on through the past ten years. I am not a drug user. I do not get child support. I have also been going to school to better myself in various programs. I asked at a foodstamp appointment if there was anyway that I could get welfare seeming I was in nursing school full time . I was told that I would need to volunteer at salvation army 40 hrs a week! So I said "WHAT!" " So you are telling me to quit school and volunteer at salvation army 40 hrs a week?" " Dont you think trying to better myself is more important, so that I may get off of all assistance and be self sufficient
?" Her reply " I dont make the rules"

I do think there is a problem with that! Nevertheless I managed to go to school and graduate with 2 kids fresh out of diapers, no child support, no family finances to lean on and no one but daycare to watch my kids. I had to pay someone to watch the kids 1-2 nights a week so I could work part time. after all I lived alone with them and it was not in the projects , although I tried for that too so I could get some type of help to better myself and the kids lives. What a joke the system can be! If I lived in the projects, drug user, or didnt want to better myself then I would get help...... Oh and I did tell the lady at that welfare appt this, her mouth just hung open.