Tennessee is Drug Testing Welfare Recipients and This is What They Found Out

The state of Tennessee has started drug testing welfare recipients in an effort to curb the amount of state and federal money going to the purchase and use of illegal drugs. But so far, they have turned up almost nothing.

A recent article in Think Progress explains that the drug testing has proven that less than two percent of welfare users are on drugs (that’s way under the statewide 8 percent average). See, Republicans… you’re wasting money trying to reinforce your welfare-slashing narrative. Welfare recipients are actually upstanding citizens who just need a leg up. And we’re vilifying them in ignorance. In their own words:

Despite stereotypes that the poor people who need welfare assistance use drugs at a high rate, other states have had similar results. In Utah, just 12 people tested positive in a year of drug testing applicants. In Florida, 2 percent of applicants failed the tests in 2011 but the state has an 8 percent rate of illegal drug use.

And when Maine’s governor set out to prove that welfare recipients in his state were using their benefits to buy drinks and cigarettes at bars and strip clubs, he turned up next to nothing.

Many other stereotypes about how welfare recipients use their money turn out to be untrue when data is examined. . . .

Not so fast, Think Progress. Due to the legal hoops legislators have had to jump through to drug test welfare recipients, some very crucial elements of the drug testing legislation are missing. Like mandatory drug tests for all welfare applicants, including all adults that will be using benefits. Yeah. These drug tests are not really mandatory at all. Even Think Progress included this line:

Applicants have to answer three questions about drug use to get benefits, and if they answer yes to any of them, they get referred to urine testing.

Ummm. Yeah. So all the recent data from Tennessee confirms is that less than two percent of welfare recipients are stupid enough to volunteer information about their drug use. And when you look at the rates of those who went in for testing, the percentages start to look very different. Six out of 812 submitted to a drug screening. Four out of 812 were turned down when they wouldn’t take a drug test. So, ten out of 812 said they had used drugs in the past. And five of those ten didn’t receive benefits. That’s a far cry from 2%. Apparently, Think Progress believes that the other 790 or so were telling the truth. Sure, they were.

How about this, Think Progress. If you are so confident that this whole thing is a big waste of money predicated on racist/classist conservative stereotypes, why don’y you push for mandatory, random drug testing for all applicants/recipients of welfare. If welfare recipients are, as you say, so much less likely to be on drugs than their average statewide peers, this whole thing will blow over in a year, and we can go back to welfare as usual (since that has clearly benefited welfare recipients so much…). But I doubt you would recommend such a policy. Because you know what? Even you know these recent statistics from Tennessee are hogwash.