America has a hideous relationship with poverty and how we treat poor people. Evidence of this can be found in both political parties and Bill Clinton’s role in creating what is the welfare system today most certainly cannot be forgotten. Republicans, however, love trying to convince their base that there is a substantial portion of the population that receives government aid but doesn’t actually need it. They’ve built an entire discourse around the politics of poverty which includes stereotypes about welfare recipients as lazy abusers of the system who need to be policed at all times. And now, they’ve taken their dangerous “personal responsibility” narrative to new heights with their latest measure in Wisconsin. On Thursday, the state’s budget committee approved Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to require drug testing for Medicaid recipients. This makes Wisconsin the first state in the country to have such a law.
The committee also approved of Walker’s proposals to require drug tests for adults without dependents who receive food stamps and are applying for coverage with the state’s BadgerCare program, which aims to insure people ineligible for Medicaid, and his proposal to expand the state’s food stamp work requirement to include individuals with children—but only to certain regions of the state at first, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Here we go again. More ridiculous punishments for poor people. According to Republicans, if you are poor and require government assistance, the government is thereby entitled to treat you like a child. Actually, no, not even a child. This is being treated like someone who has committed a crime and is now subject to random to drug testing. Why? Just because they can. And how exactly will they determine who gets tested? Will it be little old ladies with walkers? Veterans in wheelchairs? Let’s be clear—this is intended to impact people of color. But, here’s the critically important thing about drug testing people who receive public benefits. It has been proven time and time again that it does not work. At all. It’s a huge waste of time and money and it appears to be illegal. In 2014, courts in Florida found that drug testing welfare recipients without suspicion was a violation of their constitutional protection against unreasonable government searches.
A 2015 analysis from ThinkProgress found that tested welfare recipients used drugs at lower rates than the general population.
Being poor is not a crime. But being this stupid and careless should be. This is ineffective, a waste of money and does nothing but stigmatizes the poor. Scott Walker and everyone who voted to pass this proposal are the real criminals.