See the opposing argument here.

When one first hears about the idea of testing welfare recipients to make sure that they are not using drugs, the idea seems to be sound. Of course we do not want welfare money going toward the purchase of drugs when it should be going only to necessary and useful things. As with almost any political idea, however, these policies need to be executed. Political intentions are not realized in an ideal world. With welfare testing, the cold reality is that the costs and barriers of following through on the policy trump the benefits. One of the main reasons for this is the sheer cost of it.

Right now, in American politics, money is obviously quite tight—and welfare testing is incredibly expensive. It involves overseeing every individual who participates in the welfare system. It also involves synchronizing this with other large systems of government data, such as crime history, type of welfare received, etc. A governmental entity then has to come up with an effective means of testing people. And finally, the most difficult part is the actual execution of this testing. It is certainly not easy to come up with an effective way to test so many welfare recipients in the state—especially when many welfare recipients come from rural backgrounds.

Expense, however, is not the only problem with the idea of testing welfare recipients. It also adds an extra obstacle to what welfare is designed to do. Welfare is designed to be something that helps those who need it the most and those who are in a temporary emergency. No one is saying that the current welfare system does this as well as it should, but adding a drug-testing requirement is taking a step in the wrong direction. About twenty percent of individuals on welfare are only on it for less than seven months. Typically people in those situations as well as long term welfare recipients can be described as low mobility. Requiring those with limited mobility to travel to an area that has a drug-testing site (not to mention the nightmare that causes for individuals living in rural areas) and take time out of their day is placing a burden on them that may help to keep them in the same impoverished situation. This is the absolute last thing any welfare policy should be doing. Many people may think that asking them to travel may not be a big burden—but that is really a sign of the life situation you are in. Without a car, working a job (yes, many welfare recipients do have jobs), with kids, and all the other things that one often has to attend to, requiring drug testing is a burden that can further trap someone in a specific life situation.

All of this is coupled with the finding that the rate of drug users among those who receive welfare is equal to or less than the rest of the adult population. In Minnesota, they’re attempting to institute such a policy but they found that only 0.4 percent of welfare users were also drug users, as opposed to 1.2 percent of the adult population. This means that the state is spending large quantities of money searching for a problem that doesn’t actually exist. When it comes to drug testing welfare recipients, the cost is too high, and problem isn’t real, and the intentions are off. It may be good politics, but it’s bad policy.


Tags: , ,