Gov. Scott Walker is asking Congress to allow him to drug test Wisconsin’s food stamp recipients. The problem is that the majority of the people who receive assistance in the state are children, the elderly, and the disabled.
In a letter to the chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Walker, and other Republican governors urged Congress to allow them to drug test food stamp recipients:
As you know, multiple states have recently enacted drug-testing provisions as part of the state-based requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP or food stamps. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service administers this program at the federal level, but disagrees with these drug-testing efforts.
We believe that Congress specifically gave states the flexibility to decide whether to implement this common-sense reform in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. This Act provides that “States shall not be prohibited by the Federal Government from testing welfare recipients for use of controlled substances nor from sanctioning welfare recipients who test positive for use of controlled substances.” 21 U.S.C. § 862(b).
Since SNAP and other welfare programs typically have job training requirements as a core element, we write today to express our sincere confidence that drug testing recipients of SNAP benefits is not only lawful, but will aid in our ability to move individuals off of this welfare program and back into the workforce as productive members of their communities. After all, drug testing and potentially getting treatment to be drug-free doesn’t make it harder to get assistance; it makes it easier to get a job.
The problem is that the largest age groups of food stamp recipients in Wisconsin are children and seniors. According to February 2016 statistics, children age 5-9 are the largest group of food stamp recipients. The second largest group is children age 0-5. The third largest age group is adults over age 65. In total, the vast majority of Wisconsin’s food stamp recipients are under age 23 and over age 65.
It’s not just lazy drugged out kids under age 9 and seniors that Walker is targeting. Gov. Walker also wants to drug test the disabled. Twenty-four percent of food stamp recipients in Wisconsin are elderly, blind, or disabled. Forty-one percent of all assistance groups contain at least one elderly, blind, or disabled individual.
Scott Walker’s drug testing plan is based on the right-wing myth that people on assistance are lazy, doing drugs, and don’t want to work. The reality is that the majority of those who are receiving assistance are children, the disabled, and the elderly. Gov. Walker wants Congress to allow him to impose another hurdle that will make it more difficult for Wisconsin’s poor to get help.
The drug testing plan isn’t about catching recipients who are on assistance using drugs. The plan is to discourage poor people from signing up. Scott Walker hasn’t stopped trying to advance his national political career by harming poor people.
Let’s call Scott Walker’s drug testing plan what it really is. Gov Walker wants Congress to give him permission to starve Wisconsin’s children, disabled, and the elderly.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association