Fresh off his official kick off of his presidential bid, Scott Walker showed the American people that he means business and that there is no limit to the amount of taxpayer money he is willing to spend in order to throw red meat to his base. On Tuesday, he announced that he is suing the federal government for the right to shame the poor by drug testing food stamp recipients:
In a statement, Walker said testing people for drugs was part of a "compassionate approach to ensuring individuals on certain public assistance programs are workforce ready."
"Our most recent budget builds on our record of enacting big, bold entitlement reforms to restore programs to their original purpose — a safety net, not a hammock," his statement said. "We are focused on helping people move from government dependence to independence because we want people to know the dignity that comes from work."
Walker has made the drug testing plan a central campaign theme since last year when he sought re-election.
Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force, said the federal law is clear that states cannot add extra rules when it comes to food stamp programs.
"They're obviously spending taxpayer dollars on a political program," Tussler said. "Where did the assumption come from in the first place that everybody who's unemployed is on drugs? It's insane."
As Susie Madrak pointed out when Walker first started floating this idea, it doesn't work and is often found to be unnecessary at best and sometimes illegal:
Walker’s attempt to police the poor faces legal hurdles that have derailed similar, recent laws in Georgia and Florida. Wisconsin would become the 12th state to have a drug testing law on the books for anti-poverty program participants. At the federal level, conservatives have pushed legislation to prevent federal aid dollars from being spent at or even near marijuana dispensaries in states where that drug is legal.Numerous critics say such policies are unnecessary and stigmatizing of low-income families who rely on public assistance programs. Drug testing for unemployment insurance benefits is “expensive and redundant,” according to National Employment Law Project senior staff attorney Rebecca Dixon. No state would provide unemployment insurance to someone who lost their job because of drug use or a failed drug test, Dixon said, because a drug-related discharge would be disqualifying. “The uninsurance program is based on work. Your former work and your willingness to work underwrite the insurance. It’s based on things that are related to your job loss,” Dixon said in an interview. “If the drug use is related to the job loss, it’s already covered in the law. So there’s no need to create a law to drug test every single person.”
Several states have implemented program’s like the one Walker has promised, but the outcomes of the testing regimes suggest Dixon and other critics are right. Tennessee has found one drug user out of 800 welfare recipients tested. With an overall drug use rate of 8 percent in Tennessee, the crackdown indicates that the poor are 64 times less likely to use drugs than everyone else. Utah spent $30,000 testing welfare recipients and produced just 12 positive tests. While 6 percent of Utahns overall say they use drugs, the state’s tests found drug use by just 2.5 percent of those tested and 0.2 percent of the total welfare recipient population. Florida’s version of the system found the rate of drug use is four times lower among welfare recipients than among the general population. (Courts have ruled Florida’s system unconstitutional, but Gov. Rick Scott (R) remains committed to a program that would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the tests each year.)
There are two reasons why Walker is pursuing this unconscionable action and neither one has to do with fiscal conservatism or Walker's "compassionate conservatism."
One is that it gets Walker cheap press that he can use as red meat for the extremists that he is trying to win over.
Secondly, and I have seen this all to often when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, it will give Walker a chance to claim a fiscal crisis. Walker will claim that his budget expected to save so much money through this testing and when those savings don't materialize....Ta da! Instant fiscal crisis that will give him an excuse to cut those services.
Walker's self-serving manipulativeness is only exceeded by his malfeasance.