Cuts that Humiliate the Poor Are the Republican Drug of Choice


Cutting government spending is the drug of choice for the Republican Party. They’re already looking for the next hit before the high from the last one wears off. Still high on Sequester, Paul Ryan is looking for the greatest buzz of all – trading Medicare in for coupons. He and the other Ayn Rand worshippers continue to spin the idea that killing Medicare is the best way to save it.

Other Republicans eye cheaper versions of the great buzz that combines the appearance of cost cutting with forcing desperate people to waive their constitutional rights. Steven Fincher’s Welfare Integrity Act  revives the age-old Republican myth about substance abuse and social assistance.

The buzz apparently comes from knowing that making people who need public assistance would have to go through the added humiliation of unconstitutional drug tests possibly forcing people to choose between survival and their constitutional rights. It’s a drug originally manufactured by Rick Scott and other Republican governors whereby people who are statistically less likely to abuse illicit substances than their job creator counter parts would be forced to pay an unnecessary test to prove they are innocent of substance abuse. Oh, the buzz of knowing that people who can least afford unnecessary drug tests can be forced to go without food to prove themselves innocent.

The buzz that comes from Fincher’s bill brings side effects of delusion – like the Florida study, released in 2012, that proved how unbuzzworthy the policy is. For one thing, there is little evidence to justify a presumed guilty until proven innocent policy toward people applying for social assistance. The government study found that someone who Republicans call a “job creator” is more likely to create a job for a drug dealer than someone on social assistance is. Of the 4,086 people tested under the Scott version of this law, only 108 people tested positive for substance abuse.

Moreover, the policy proved to be more costly for the state of Florida, which had to reimburse social assistance applicants who passed the test. The numbers, confirming previous estimates, show that taxpayers spent $118,140 to reimburse people for drug test costs, at an average of $35 per screening. The state’s net loss? $45,780. The buzz for Rick Scott came not only with perpetuating the myths about people who need social assistance and humiliating them for needing it, but because he would personally profit  from the mandated blood testing – notwithstanding that similar laws were already struck down by the courts because they violated the Fourth Amendment.

Before Michigan’s version of the same law was struck down  in 2003 only 10% of social assistance applicants tested positive for illicit drug use. Compare that with the fact that 70% of illicit drug users in Michigan were employed full time.

When Texas tried it, of the 51,000 people tested only 21 tested positive for illicit drug use. Rick Perry wasn’t going to let the history in Texas and other states including Florida get in the way of passing a law that would give a better high than mandatory testing for social assistance. He wanted mandatory drug testing for unemployment insurance too! Notwithstanding what the mandatory drug testing in exchange for public insistence revealed, the same source cut off their drug supply – the pesky courts that ruled the Fourth Amendment does indeed apply to poor people.

Fichner’s law shows there is no low to where the Republicans will stoop to get that buzz that comes from stigmatizing poverty while the same Republicans are doing all they can to create developing world levels of poverty while whining that the rich are too poor.

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