This morning's Charleston Gazette-Mail is reporting that the legislature is looking at drug testing for welfare recipients:
The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee advanced legislation (SB 6) Tuesday that would mandate drug testing for about 2,000 adults who receive welfare benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in West Virginia.
This is becoming an annual event for the legislature. I last wrote about it 11 months ago (here) and cited data that demonstrates that this has been a very expensive program with poor results in other states:
According to state data gathered by ThinkProgress, the seven states with existing programs — Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah — are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out very few drug users. The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent. Meanwhile, they’ve collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and millions more may have to be spent in coming years.
I am sure that the local "newspapers" will be jumping all over this piece of legislation because:
- Despite the fact that this will be a very expensive government program with limited results, it attacks a state safety net which, for the "locals," makes it worth every penny.
- It appeals to the prejudices of some of its readership base. (Or should I say "It appeals to the base prejudices of some of its readership"?) Once this is covered, be sure to take a few minutes to read the online reader comments.
- Most importantly, there's this:
“It’s a way to reach people who need help,” said Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, who heads the health committee. “It’s a compassionate approach. A lot of times they don’t seek help on their own."
(It's a nice rationalization and it's not too condescending, Ryan.) This can't miss getting local coverage -- it's coming out of local media favorite Ryan Fern's committee.
I just had a thought. If this or a similar program goes into effect, why don't we extend the mandatory drug testing to include the WV legislature. Hey, it won't cost much more once the mechanism is in place and I think the results might be interesting, you know, for comparison purposes.