Scott Walker has had a good week. The press is googly-eyed over him, waxing on about how he could just win this thing, and he's still rolling on his high from last weekend's Freedom Summit. Of course, that's not really something to write home about when you're besting the likes of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.
He's got that populist message down pat just like his other friends on the campaign trail. Income inequality! Deteriorating middle class! And he's so concerned about those things he's going to govern on that basis, right?
Walker has a real problem on his hands, because while he's basking in the afterglow, he still has to govern. It turns out he's not doing that awfully well.
Wisconsin’s low-income workers and some members of Congress are speaking out against Governor Scott Walker’s call for making people on public assistance undergo a drug test. Governor Walker confirmed in a Q and A at the conservative American Action Forum in DC on Friday that the 2015 budget he will unveil Tuesday will include measures that cover those who need food stamps, Medicaid and unemployment benefits, among other programs for those in poverty.
Walker claimed his motivation for the controversial move was feedback he’d received from Wisconsin companies. “As I traveled my state, I hear employers, small business owners say, overwhelming: ‘We have jobs. We just need workers. And we need two things: people who know how to show up every day for work, five days a week, and gimme someone who can pass a drug test,’” he said.
Now here's how that plays out with real people who need assistance.
For Wisconsin workers who currently depend on public assistance, like 21-year-old Milwaukee waitress Peyton Smith, the burden of the law would be much more personal.
“For [Governor Walker] to put another barrier in front of us is like saying we’re guilty, but we’re not guilty,” Smith told ThinkProgress. “It’s already hard to go down there and file for government assistance. We have to report in every day, fill out papers. Now I have to take the time out of my busy schedule to take a drug test? Come on!”
Epps-Addison, who depended on food stamps when she began law school at the start of the Great Recession in 2008, echoed Smith’s difficult experience in signing up for public benefits.
“There were times even I couldn’t navigate the process, as a law student with a college degree,” she said. “The system is set up to disempower people and make them frustrated enough to give up before receiving the help they need.”
Smith, who has a three-year-old daughter and another baby due soon, works about 20 hours a week at Denny’s — though she has repeatedly requested full-time employment. Because it’s a tipped job, she makes just $2.33 an hour, and currently relies on food stamps to feed her family.
“I’m willing to work. I’m not lazy at all,” she said. “But the jobs we can get are horrible, low pay, and we can’t get the hours we need. As a parent, it just sucks. I want things that are healthy for her, but the fruits and vegetables she needs to grow as young child are expensive.”
Scott Walker, like the party he represents, is awesome at tossing around the simple solution sound bite. Need workers? Drug test the ones on welfare! Never mind that they're likely not skilled at building furniture or whatever jobs he's talking about. When employers say they need people to show up who can pass a drug test, what they're really saying is that they have some nice minimum wage jobs over here with long hours, shifts, and little in the way of pay and benefits.
And please, never mind about that pesky unconstitutional thing. Scotty will make that go away...somehow.