This was never about saving money:
Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.
“Many states are considering following Florida’s example, and the new data from the state shows they shouldn’t,” said Derek Newton, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state last year to stop the testing and recently obtained the documents. “Not only is it unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, but it doesn’t save money, as was proposed.”
This week, Georgia instituted a nearly identical law, with supporters saying it would foster greater personal responsibility and save money. As in Florida, the law is expected to draw a legal challenge. The Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Atlanta, said it expected to file a lawsuit once the law takes effect in the next several months. A number of other states are considering similar bills.
The Florida civil liberties group sued the state last year, arguing that the law constituted an “unreasonable search” by the government, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In issuing a temporary injunction in October, Judge Mary S. Scriven of Federal District Court scolded lawmakers and said the law “appears likely to be deemed a constitutional infringement.”
From July through October in Florida — the four months when testing took place before Judge Scriven’s order — 2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state obtained by the group. The most common reason was marijuana use. An additional 40 people canceled the tests without taking them.
Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, Mr. Newton said.
Just to put this in perspective, only 2.6% of the applicants used drugs, while the DOJ estimates that from 8-10.2 percent of the workforce is on drugs. In other words, far from being lazy shiftless drug addicts, they are, as a whole, cleaner than the general workforce. Which may seem odd to you, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. DRUGS COST MONEY. PEOPLE ON GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE DON’T HAVE… MONEY. This is not rocket surgery.
But none of this really matters, because this wasn’t about saving money, it was about shaming people. It was about continuing to stigmatize those who are down on their luck. It was about perpetuating the belief that our safety net is nothing more than a source of drug money for poor people, so people are less inclined to support these programs. And it was about neanderthal politicians catering to the know-nothings who vote Republican. For the cadre of cranky old white people forwarding chain emails and thinking they are clever saying “YOU HAVE TO ADMIT, IT’S TRUE” or the douchebags you went to High School with 30 years ago who just friended you on Facebook and post nonsense like this:
And when you point out this is all nonsense to those people who push that garbage, they’ll get mad at you and call you shrill or deny the facts and point to some anecdote somewhere about someone on welfare who cheated the system- as if that story overcomes the undeniable data you’ve just presented them. Colbert nailed it- the modern right and their followers don’t care about facts, they care about truthiness. They know what they know, and it comes from the gut.
This was never about money. This was about shaming people, humiliating people, making being poor worse than it already was, and giving the soulless goons like the types I mentioned above an opportunity to feel smug and good about themselves at the expense of others.
So I fully expect that every southern state with a Republican legislature will pass a bill like this in the next year or so.