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Aug 29 2013

Another State Drug Testing Failure

We’ve already seen that drug testing for welfare recipients has cost more than it saved in other states and now Utah has found the same thing. Their system was quite different from Florida’s, involving a written test that was supposed to tell who needs to be given a drug test.

Utah has spent more than $30,000 to drug test welfare applicants after it passed a new law last year. But in that time, just 12 people have tested positive for drug use, according to state figures.

Utah doesn’t randomly test applicants or require them to all undergo a drug test, but instead requires them to complete a written questionnaire that is meant to screen for drug abuse. Those who have a high probability are then given drug tests. The state spent nearly $6,000 on written tests for 4,730 applicants, 466 of which had to take a drug test, which cost more than $25,000. The law doesn’t disqualify those who test positive but instead requires them to go into a substance abuse treatment program.

So they found a whopping .0025% rate of drug use. Will these results, and those in other states, slow down Republican legislators in passing similar programs in other states? Not likely. It’s not really about money at all, it’s about making those who receive public assistance out to be lazy drug addicts. And funny how they never propose drug testing for themselves, since they are paid in taxpayer dollars too — and much higher amounts than people who get food stamps.

29 comments

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  1. 1
    smrnda

    The problem is that Republicans aren’t likely to care about the actual cost/benefit analysis. To them, being punitive towards the poor is just so intrinsically worthwhile that it’s worth throwing away money just to piss on poor people.

  2. 2
    carlie

    They would say that it’s a success because the presence of the regs. keeps people from using drugs in the first place, a la the bear spray effect*.

    *this bear spray protects me from bears. Sure it works – you don’t see any bears, do you?

  3. 3
    troll

    And funny how they never propose drug testing for themselves, since they are paid in taxpayer dollars too — and much higher amounts than people who get food stamps.

    I seem to recall hearing (on this blog, I think) that a Democratic state congressman somewhere managed to kill one of these drug testing bills by proposing an amendment to do exactly that. The Repubs pulled the bill in great haste.

  4. 4
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    Anyone who thinks that welfare pays enough to afford recreational drugs has obviously never been on welfare before.

    I will give my own current example. As a single adult living in a region of about half a million people, my rent is a little over $900/month. A tiny bachelor apartment in this city currently goes for about $700.

    The maximum welfare payment for a single adult is $606. And I’m in socialist Canada, mind; the rates in the US, particularly in red states, are considerably lower.

    So yes, the money isn’t even enough to afford the smallest apartment possible, let alone food (and there are no food stamps here). The clawback (though finally, this is changing starting with the end-of-September cheque; a $200 exemption and a less-than-100% clawback) is 100%: every dollar I make comes off the cheque I get. Last month I had $198 in income. My cheque tomorrow will therefore be $408. I will be using a food bank to try and keep fed til the end of the next month. I will be using the few bus tickets I get from welfare for the necessaries, like going to the food bank. And applying to long-term disability, because the welfare is obviously completely unlivable.

    So yes, it is entirely punitive, as well as obviously wasteful and stupid.

  5. 5
    David Hart

    I’m not sure ‘punitive’ is quite the right word, CaitieCat, since ‘punishement’ implies for something. If you’re inflicting harm on someone becuase they did something you think makes them deserve to suffer, that’s punitive. If you’re inflicting harm on someone just because you don’t like them, I think the better term is ‘vindictive’.

  6. 6
    Doug Little

    Those who have a high probability are then given drug tests

    So they had a success rate of about 2.5% of those tested. From this the average rate of drug use for people 12 or older is around 9%. So their test looks like it actually selects people that are at less risk of drug use than just taking a random sample. Color me not surprised.

  7. 7
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    But it is punitive.

    It’s based on the assertion that anyone who needs welfare is lazy, shiftless, and has no interest in working, just squeezing out more kids so they can get some of that sweet, sweet welfare, and thus need to be given the strict spanking of society’s disapproval.

    It’s bullshit, and it’s definitely meant to be punitive: punished for being poor. Punished for being wiped out in a divorce or business loss. Punished for being born to poor parents. Punished for immigrating without already being a fluent speaker of English. Punished for being not white enough.

    It’s all about the punishment for conservatives, and these policies are the direct result of conservative activism.

  8. 8
    Reginald Selkirk

    a written test that was supposed to tell who needs to be given a drug test.

    I wonder what that’s like?

    Question 1: Do you use drugs? [Yes] [No]

  9. 9
    troll

    @8:

    Question 2: Who is your favorite musician? [Conway Twittie] [Toby Keith] [Jay Z]

  10. 10
    Doug Little

    troll @9,

    You left off The Grateful Dead man.

  11. 11
    Doug Little

    It’s all about the punishment for conservatives

    I’d add that it’s all about punishment for people not like them.

  12. 12
    Larry

    Question 1: Do you use drugs? [Yes] [No]

    That’s the libtard, namby-pamby, way of asking questions. It provides a way out of our being able to administer punishment to these drugheads poor people. A better question would be

    Question 1: Do you use drugs? [Yes]

  13. 13
    matty1

    Question 3: Are you now or have you ever been a drug addicted communist?
    Question 4: Did you just lie?

  14. 14
    troll

    Question 5: Which of the following is part of a healthy breakfast? (check all that apply)
    [ ] Orange Juice
    [ ] Cereal
    [ ] Eggs
    [ ] Fruit
    [ ] Heroin

  15. 15
    DonDueed

    12 positives out of 4730 applicants is 0.25%, not 0.0025% (or 2.5%).

  16. 16
    Modusoperandi

    Question 1: Are you poor? [Yes] *

    * Yes, they’ll catch a bunch of their own Tribe with that, but they’ll just see it as Intrusive Big Bad Government (“I just need it to get me through for a while. Not like those people. Thanks Obama!”) and double down on voting to screw themselves as long as it screws The Other, too.

  17. 17
    doublereed

    It’s really quite sickening. The reason they believe this is acceptable is because they believe welfare recipients are slaves of the state.

  18. 18
    Doug Little

    DonDueed,

    No of the people tested (466) there were 12 positives that’s where I got the 2.5 percent. I was commenting on how the test itself didn’t seem to select people that were at higher risk than the average.

  19. 19
    left0ver1under

    There is a bright spot to all this unnecessary drug testing:

    It proves that the overwhelming majority (the near total) of welfare recipients are not addicts. Those who demand the poor submit themselves for testing can’t claim the poor faked the results. And since the data is on the record, those who asked for it can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. They’ve ended up giving ammunition to those who want to be treated with dignity.

    “He has declared war on poverty. He’s throwing rocks at the beggars.”
    - An old but stil relevant political joke

  20. 20
    mcmillan

    The problem is that Republicans aren’t likely to care about the actual cost/benefit analysis. To them, being punitive towards the poor is just so intrinsically worthwhile that it’s worth throwing away money just to piss on poor people.

    Yep, when one of my friends from high school posted in favor of this kind of policy and I pointed out how it didn’t work he eventually admitted that it served enough of a purpose just to try to embarrass people applying for welfare

  21. 21
    ahcuah

    And meanwhile, my state senator here in Ohio wants to start doing so: Drug tests for welfare pushed.

    Facts? I don’t need no stinkin’ facts!

  22. 22
    timberwoof

    Rethuglicans still believe that left to themselves, people are perfect little profit-maximizing automatons and the value of a person is measured by how much wealth they accumulate. Anyone who fails to maximize their income is not worth their trouble, and it is up to them to make life harsh for poor people, as this is the most effective way to get them to be less poor.

    For example, privatizing schools makes a common activity profitable and anyone who can’t afford an education is encouraged to become rich so they can afford it.

    Drug tests for welfare recipients makes drug testing profitable and makes being on welfare more onerous and thus encourages people to accumulate more money, become rich, and not need welfare any more.

    This analysis of Rethuglican thinking is abhorrent to me, but it models their behavior rather nicely: it works at predicting what position a Rethuglican will take on any given social issue. Gah.

  23. 23
    Ben P

    Anyone who thinks that welfare pays enough to afford recreational drugs has obviously never been on welfare before.

    I will give my own current example. As a single adult living in a region of about half a million people, my rent is a little over $900/month. A tiny bachelor apartment in this city currently goes for about $700.

    The maximum welfare payment for a single adult is $606. And I’m in socialist Canada, mind; the rates in the US, particularly in red states, are considerably lower.

    Yes and no. After years of republican crying about “Welfare Queens,” the US welfare system has transitioned almost entirely away from cash payments to “in kind” support.

    Aside from disability and unemployment, it is very difficult for people in the US to get true cash assistance. Rather, if you are poor you can get:

    a. Medicaid – where the goverment pays directly for healthcare.
    b. Section 8 Housing – where you apply for a spot to live in subsidized housing, and your rent is connected to your income.
    c. Subsidized daycare and school lunch programs.
    d. SNAP (i.e. food stamps) – where you get a benefit card that can only be used to purchase grocery items.

    TANFS is the only true cash welfare system in the US and it comes with strict requirements that the parents be working, or be seeking work pretty much constantly. Moreover, it has relatively hard expiration dates. As of 2012, there are only roughly 4 million people on TANF in the US compared to more than 12 million when Clinton Enacted “welfare reforms” in 1996.

  24. 24
    ianeymeaney

    People with real jobs do blow or molly, both of which are safe party enhancers. Poor people shoot heroin and smoke crack, meth or pot, all of which are dangerous drugs which will lead to more crime. Obviously it makes sense to test the poorest people because they do REAL drugs.

    /end sarcasm

  25. 25
    freehand

    timberwoof: and it is up to them to make life harsh for poor people, as this is the most effective way to get them to be less poor.

    Very much like the religious bigots, this is one way for them to feel righteous while they are being mean to the weak.

    Or the abusive parent – “This hurts me more than it hurts you!” (*smack*)

    I hate bullies.

    CattieCat, I’ve not heard the term “clawback” before, but it’s perfect. When I was younger I knew people on welfare, and they had the same problem. There are no financial incentives to find work if it doesn’t pay significantly more than welfare. And I knew a couple who couldn’t pay their medical bills if they get jobs (no health care) so they stayed unemployed until their baby got well. Seemed like the responsible thing to do.

    If we had universal health care in the US, and clawback was only $.50 on the dollar, people would work, would take part jobs if they could get them. In a sane society I’d suggest livable welfare payments and make-work for those who were capable of it and the kids were taken care of, but I know that it would be abused with our current gang of thugs in charge.

  26. 26
    Modusoperandi

    freehand “If we had universal health care in the US, and clawback was only $.50 on the dollar, people would work, would take part jobs if they could get them.”
    OH PLEASE! THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE THE UNDESERVING POOR WORK IS TO SHAME THEM INTO IT! ALSO TURN WELFARE PROGRAMS INTO BLOCK GRANTS AND GIVE THEM TO THE STATES TO ADMINISTER THEMSELVES WITH FEW FEDERAL RULES AND LITTLE FEDERAL OVERSIGHT, WHICH WILL MAKE THOSE PROGRAMS MORE EFFECTIVE FOR SOME REASON!

    AND BRING BACK POORHOUSES AND DEBTORS PRISONS! THATS THE WAY YOU GET THEM OFF WELFARE! I MEAN HAVENT YOU PEOPLE READ THE FIRST ACT OF DICKENS A CHRISTMAS CAROL?!

  27. 27
    grumpyoldfart

    So what is the purpose of this plan? Find out who is on drugs and then withhold their benefits until they starve to death? Might as well just dong them on the head and be done with it.

  28. 28
    democommie

    “It’s really quite sickening. The reason they believe this is acceptable is because they believe welfare recipients are slaves of the state.

    Almost. What a lot of them REALLY believe is that they should be slaves.

    @27:

    I listen to people tell me about the leeches, crim’nuls and–wait for it–BLACK people on teh welfare and I tell them that they need to get back to me when they’re ready to start euthanizing all of those folks. Sadly, some of them are quite prepared to do so (although I have a strong suspicion that they’re NOT up to doing the “wet work”.

    These people, btw, are the same ones who love to visit gran in her rent controlled senior citizen housing or medicare funded retirement

  29. 29
    democommie

    the comments mechanism is completely fucked up at the moment, Ed.

    As I was saying.

    These folks are the same ones who love to visit their gran in her rent controlled senior citizen housing or medicare funded “retirement community” and admire her shiny, new scooter–paid for by the gummint which they love to hate.

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