Well, the Vermont legislature certainly has its work cut out for it this year, what with critical water quality issues, healthcare to resolve, carbon to battle, budget constraints, and the innumerable human crises that accompany cutbacks in social services.
But Franklin County’s Republican senator Norm McAllister has drug-testing of social service benefits recipients on his personal “to do” list.
That’s right, Mr. McAllister has just figured out how to increase the cost and bureaucracy in Montpelier, while taking a self-righteous whack at the folks least likely to protest.
He certainly isn’t the first “R” to champion this demeaning and wasteful measure. The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that
“at least twenty eight states (have) proposed drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients”
‘Trouble is that, like the Vermont gun lobby is fond of arguing on their own issue, there appears to be no real problem here. In fact, drug use among the need class is statistically much lower than among those who can go it alone. Poor folks are just plain POOR.
Since Tennessee launched their own drug testing program in July, how many folks do you think they caught red-handed? One.
That’s right; just one lonely offender out of 800 screenings.
Other states have had similar results.
Utah spent more than $30,000 in the year that turned up just 12 drug users.
All over the country, states are discovering that what McAllister proposes isn’t just mean-spirited, its downright uneconomical; and the revelations knock stereotypes of welfare recipients into a cocked hat.
Those who get public assistance spend less than half of what families who aren’t enrolled spend and still put a larger share of those small budgets toward basics like food, housing, and transportation…Welfare recipients may be spending so much less in part because the benefits have become so meager. Virtually all of them are worth less now than in 1996. And many families who should be eligible aren’t even getting them. In the mid-90s, a little over a quarter of poor families with children didn’t get benefits. In 2012 that number had soared to three-quarters.
Now, Mr. McAllister, as one of your constituents, I put this to you: how about a little more attention to finding resources to clean-up the lake and a little less to imaginary issues that would only siphon resources away from where they are truly needed.