Whither the Welfare Druggies? Baxley-Supported Law Fails to Prove Stereotype

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Florida made national news when Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a drug testing requirement for recipients of welfare, now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF. It had passed on a largely party line vote (78-38) with Republican leaders and legislators defending the requirement like this:

[Gov. Scott said] it is “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction … It’s the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs,”

and

“Drug-free workplace works. Accountability works. It helps people stay on track. We don’t know who we might provide an intervention for and a redirection,” [R-District 24 (Ocala) Rep. Dennis] Baxley said. “We are becoming enablers and participants in this sick little relationship about substance abuse rather than confronting it. This is not about trying to discipline somebody or keep somebody off benefits. This is about trying to get at the real core problem in that family.”

Exposed to such warm sentiments for poor and struggling welfare druggies, you are forgiven for taking a moment to pause your reading for the necessary purpose of retching. Hearing such heartfelt concern, you may be surprised to know that no funding was made available for drug rehab for those testing positive. In fact

Getting treatment is already difficult, [Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association executive director Mark] Fontaine said. Many programs have waiting lists for low-income mothers with children. “They will not be able to access treatment because there is no treatment,” Fontaine said.

These Republican comments were more candid:

When folks are receiving assistance on your dime and my dime and they’re using the money to go smoke doobies or get doped up or take crack, then that demonstrates to me that they don’t want to help themselves,” said Rep. Brad Drake [R-District 5 (DeFuniak Springs)].

and

“I believe in the golden rule,” said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, according to the Florida Independent. “He who has the gold makes the rules, and the rule should be: If you’re taking public assistance, you will not use drugs.”

(So that’s why Republicans seem to ignore The Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Republicans learned it the Thrasher way, he who has the gold makes the rules. Now it all makes sense!)

To be fair, drug testing is permissible under federal law. And drug testing welfare recipients is a popular notion according to a Rasmussen survey. To also be fair, ‘welfare is bankrupting the USA’ is probably a popular notion, too, as well as ‘widespread welfare fraud’ – the proverbial and fictitious welfare queen driving in her Cadillac to pick up her check.

Something often forgotten is the reason that we elect leaders. It is so that they will lead. What people want may not be best – see lynch mobs. And drug testing welfare recipients. Leaders are supposed to lead the people away from unproductive, insulting, bias-based wastes of time, energy and resources.

Well, the early results are in as DCF has administered about 1,000 tests statewide. There were 20 failures. That’s right, 2% have tested positive for drug use. Those who fail must pay for their own test, but those who pass get reimbursed by the state.

Let’s realize that each test costs money. DCF employees need to process the results. And let’s not forget that TANF applicants must accomplish what’s needed. There is a lot of effort going into this exercise which seems unable to validate its usefulness. In brief, this is a total freaking waste of time.

DCF admits that applications are down about 15% and they can only speculate about the reasons. One possible explanation is that welfare druggies are staying away. An even more remote possibility is that so many folks are getting jobs. (Stop laughing at my dark humor. )

However, the most compelling reason for these negligible results could be found in the objective, historical record whose value Republicans have a dementia-like penchant for repeatedly denying. Let’s journey back, baaack, baaacckkk, baaaacccckkkk.

In 1998, the newly Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles ordered an 18-month pilot drug-screening program for new applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that provides an average of $240 a month in cash assistance for low-income families with dependent children. The study, produced by Florida State University, drug-tested applicants in Jacksonville and two other Panhandle areas, and concluded that the cost of testing all 30,000 recipients a year — at $89 per-screening in 2001 dollars — was $2.7 million. Today [2011], there are 100,000 recipients of cash assistance, and 3 million recipients of food stamps.

and

The ACLU of Florida … cites a 2001 Florida pilot study that looked at drug use among welfare recipients. [ACLU’s Berek] Newton said the study was stopped after only a year because it failed. The study found drug use among welfare recipients was equal or less than the general public’s drug use, Newton said. The ACLU said the study found the drug testing program would cost more to run than the state could possibly save by eliminating drug users on welfare.

By the way, ACLU is planning to litigate this, too, since it is not based on any probable cause … unless you count prejudice. Be sure to add the cost of defending this useless, stinking turd-pile of a law to the state’s tab for lacking any real leadership.

To conclude, a drug habit requires money. People qualifying for welfare are utterly destitute because utter destitution is required under our reformed welfare system. Further, welfare benefits are so miniscule, it is sinful. If you have to support a habit, perhaps by selling drugs for example, then practically speaking, you probably don’t need welfare. How difficult was that?

Suspend this asinine rule, Gov. Scott, and save Florida and its citizens from needless expense and embarrassment.