Friday, January 22, 2016

Why Limit Drug Testing To Poor Welfare Recipients?

       Lynn DiSanto's arguments favoring mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients are
Assuming The Worst About The Poor?
empty and lacking in research.  
DiSanto is a SD state rep from Rapid City who's the prime sponsor of a bill (HB 1076) that would require "drug testing for certain assistance applicants."  The mandatory drug test would apply to those recieving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and/or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as "food stamps").  The bill's requirement that the tested individual "shall pay the cost of the drug test" seems a bit weird.  These folks are already strapped for cash and these tests can cost up to 30 bucks.  Will they get reimbursed if they pass the test?  Doesn't look like it.  It's also unclear from the bill if the applicants are supposed to pay for the administrative costs of the tests.  If it's we taxpayers that are picking that up, then we need to know how much it will add to South Dakota's budget--a fact that I haven't seen mentioned in any of the discussion on this issue.  
     At some point a cost-benefit analysis needs to be applied to this bill before it gets consideration.  About a year ago Forbes investigated this and concluded that the entire process is a "sham" that amounts to "political pandering."   You can find a ream of similar conclusions by googling around, an exercise that doesn't seem likely to find a single supportive analysis of the subject.  The most common beef is that it doesn't save money and adds much in the way of legal costs where it has been challenged.  Time magazine calls it a "waste of taxpayer money.Do we really need this here?  It would be nice if DiSanto could explain why she thinks South Dakota's experience will differ from what's happened in other states.  
     In the meantime, I'd like to know why others who receive public assistance aren't being required by this bill to be tested for drugs.  Is there something sacred about, say, a proposed business getting public money from the Governor's Office of Economic Development that exempts the principals of that business from drug testing?  There's an inherent odor of discrimination against
Test 'Em All
Or Don't Test Any
(photo from
poor people in this bill.  DiSanto claims to have some insight into the process because she once was on public assistance, which doesn't make much sense to me because she herself is an example of how welfare is an economically and socially positive enterprise.  I was among the poorest of the poor when my family arrived at Ellis Island in 1950 along with a boatload of other postwar European refugees. We received assistance from social welfare agencies and our home church (Greek Orthodox) for a few years until we got on our feet and became living exponents of the American dream.  Visualizing my parents being forced to provide urine samples before getting our assistance is demeaning and obnoxious.  We have a presumption of innocence in this country, which implicitly extends to a presumption of good faith. We can do better than suspecting the worst about those who need some help.  



  1. Well said. You might add that if we want to drug test people who collect money from the government but don't do much, we should begin with the Legislature.

  2. Maybe her next proposal will include a wall. Preferably for herself.

  3. Oh, if only our legislators would focus on important issues instead of garbage like this! Or is it an epic case of "garbage in=garbage out"??

  4. You are correct. South Dakota legislators are just raking in the cash while only working 40 days a year.....

  5. I agree with drug testing of welfare recipients. We as tax payers do not need to help people buy illegal drugs with our money as many of them do. Also if they fail once they should be removed from the system and not allowed to reapply. I worked for the VA seeing much drug abuse by people receiving government assistance.

  6. Why shouldn't farmers be included in the drug testing? Probably more farmers on drugs than the welfare recipients,

  7. I swan it's a wonderful when SD returns portions of the largesse it mooches from the rest of the country by passing laws that lead to law suits the state routinely loses. (sarcasm)

  8. So far, studies have shown that less than 1% of welfare recipients testing positive for drugs. If you're going to test everyone who gets government assistance, let's go for all the farmers who get subsidies, all politicians (that's our taxpayer dollars at work, folks!), especially the ones who keep coming up with new bills that (if passed) will only bring more lawsuits, spending our tax dollars for nothing.

  9. I have to add, I am deeply disturbed at the idea of conflating welfare with VA services. VA services are only part of the contract which the United States (each and every one of us citizens) makes with each and every person in the armed forces: they risk their lives, their health, and their sanity, and in return they are provided with loans for college and housing, and healthcare. It is completely irrelevant whether or not they have addiction issues (most of which were probably triggered by their experiences in the service). They are absolutely entitled to health care at our expense. We owe them that, no matter what.