Requiring drug testing for welfare recipients may seem like a good idea on the surface, but in reality it is deeply immoral.
If Governor Scott Walker is successful in his efforts, Wisconsin will become the first state in the nation to require able-bodied adults to pass a drug test before receiving food stamps. A similar plan in Florida has been deemed unconstitutional, and federal rules have prevented the implementation of Governor Walker’s plan for over two years. Still, the governor is moving forward with his plan.
Requiring those applying for food stamps to pass a drug test is a deprives some of the most vulnerable members of society from support that would ease the burdens of poverty, while simultaneously using emotionally-charged anti-drug rhetoric to garner support for the plan from the masses.
Many Americans don’t need to hear anything more than “drug user applying for food stamps” to have their minds made up about the ‘type’ of people whose access to welfare is being threatened. Conservative Americans have been peddling narratives about racial minorities addicted to crack wanting to take from a system to which they have given nothing. Governor Walker knows that this is how many of his constituents think. He is aware that it will be much easier for him to get away with making it harder for impoverished Americans to put food on the table (if they even have a table, much less a home, to eat at) if he can play to the prejudices of many of his constituents.
Testing people for drugs will be an added cost that the government will need to account for. According to the Chicago Tribune, Governor Walker estimates that 220 of the program’s 67,400 applicants will test positive for drugs. Paying to administer and process drug tests for tens of thousands of people will almost certainly require more wasteful government spending than simply helping an extra two-hundred people pay for their food. It is evident that prejudice is winning out over the supposed desire Governor Walker has to serve and help his constituents. This plan will hurt more people than it will help, and the government will not save any money in the process.
The idea of people using their indispensable income on illicit drugs and then expecting the government to fill in the gaps for them so that they can afford food is frustrating. The reality of welfare programs is that there will always be those who benefit from the system in ways that are unfair to everybody else. This is a very real problem, and welfare programs should always be scrutinized for ways to minimize such inefficiency; however, some of the applicants for food stamps in Wisconsin are going to be those who suffer from drug addictions.
Addiction is a disease, not a personality trait, and depriving addicts of government help on the basis of a disease that they have is not an ethical or humane way of treating human beings. Of course, there are problems with letting drug addicts become too dependent on the government. However, there are always going to be drug addicts. Denying people assistance with fulfilling their basic needs because of conservative fantasies of a utopia, in which everybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and support themselves regardless of their personal backgrounds, is a naïve and ultimately cruel way of legislating.
Like most other government welfare programs, the existing food stamp program in Wisconsin needs improvement. However, mandatory drug testing is not the answer. Scott Walker’s food stamp plan will target a vulnerable segment of Wisconsin while pandering to the misguided biases of many others. Governor Walker’s plan attempts to take the moral high ground by using an oversimplified ‘drugs are evil’ argument that plays right into people’s prejudices, but in reality is nothing more than an immoral affront on the lives of struggling Americans.