Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) has had enough of the growing movement to drug test poor people who need government assistance. So on Tuesday, she’s introducing a bill that she says will make things fairer.
Her “Top 1% Accountability Act” would require anyone claiming itemized tax deductions of over $150,000 in a given year to submit a clean drug test. If a filer doesn’t submit a clean test within three months of filing, he won’t be able to take advantage of tax deductions like the mortgage interest deduction or health insurance tax breaks. Instead he would have to make use of the standard deduction.
Her office has calculated that the people impacted will be those who make at least $500,000 a year. “By drug testing those with itemized deductions over $150,000, this bill will level the playing field for drug testing people who are the recipients of social programs,” a memo on her bill notes.
Moore has a personal stake in the fight. “I am a former welfare recipient,” she explained. “I’ve used food stamps, I’ve received Aid for Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, Head Start for my kids, Title XX daycare [subsidies]. I’m truly grateful for the social safety net.”
Ten states require applicants to their cash welfare programs to undergo a drug test. States are currently barred from implementing drug testing for the food stamps program, but Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has sued the federal government to allow him to do so and has gotten some Congressional Republican support.
Moore has been frustrated to witness attempts to tie those who avail themselves of the safety net to drug use. “Republicans continue to criminalize poverty and to put forward the narrative, the false narrative in fact, that people who are poor and reliant upon the social safety net are drug users,” she said.
In fact, evidence from test results among states that test welfare recipients indicates that they are no more likely to use drugs than the general population — in fact, they may be less likely.
That didn’t stop House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) from using a drug rehab center as the backdrop while he unveiled his poverty plan last week. “I think this is what tipped me over the edge,” Moore said, “rolling out his poverty initiative in front of a drug treatment program to sort of drive that false narrative forward.”
Her bill will also help illuminate this very fact: that so much is spent on tax expenditures, not just on direct aid programs like welfare and food stamps. “We think it’s important to engage in some transparency and accountability around tax deductions,” she said.
She also wants to “engage the wealthy in this poverty debate,” she said. “I would love to see some hedge fund manager on Wall Street who might be sniffing a little cocaine here and there to stay awake realize that he can’t get his $150,000 worth of deductions unless he submits to a drug test.”
You go, Rep. Moore! I am all for this, even though this would be one tiny bit of accountability on the part of the filthy rich. Any accountability is better than none. As someone who gets the pleasure of the regular humiliation of drug tests, it would be nice to see the rich unable to dodge this little test the rest of us get hit with for the most basic things. There’s much more at Think Progress.