Michigan lawmakers' latest efforts are a politically motivated attack on the poor

Mar 25, 2014

Well, here’s some news you’ve been waiting for.

Two bills may soon be on the governor’s desk requiring suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients.

The Michigan Senate has approved both, the House has passed one, and the odds are that they will smooth out any differences and send them on to the governor.

Signing them would be the sort of thing politicians do in an election year.

Indeed, it would make lots of people happy. Just think of all those lazy welfare chiselers, using our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to get high.

Cutting them off is morally right, and will save the state money. So why haven’t those sniveling, lily-livered liberals in Lansing done this before?

Well, they have, actually.

They also tried this in Arizona. There they tested 87,000 people. Know how many tested positive for drugs? One.

They passed a similar bill in 1999, which was struck down in the federal courts as unconstitutional.

Lawmakers are hoping to get around that this time by identifying recipients for whom there is a “reasonable suspicion” of drug use.

Well, doesn’t that make sense? Absolutely – if you ignore all the evidence.

You might have been able to make a case for this, years ago, when we still had able-bodied adults getting general assistance welfare.

Today, the rolls have vastly shrunk. Welfare is pretty much limited to poor parents with dependent children.

We are talking about 31,000 people. According to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, the state would save less than $5,000 a year for every person kicked off welfare.

That’s not exactly enough to fix the roads, but every little bit helps the taxpayers, doesn’t it? Well, probably not. The odds seem pretty good that this would cost the state more than it saves.

That’s what happened in Florida, where they tested almost one-quarter of those getting welfare. Fewer than 3% of those tested positive for drugs.

They also tried this in Arizona. There they tested 87,000 people. Know how many tested positive for drugs? One.

By the way, those who would be tested all have children. What will happen to them if their parents lose benefits?

State Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, did manage to get the bill amended so that if a parent is kicked off, their children’s benefits will be paid to a legal guardian, but the House hasn’t yet agreed to that.

Even if it does, that sets up one more expensive layer of bureaucratic proceedings.

By the way, what do you think is going to happen to those few kicked off welfare?

I get a massive kickback in the form of a home mortgage tax deduction. Even if I get arrested for illegal drugs, nobody would even dream of taking that away.

Will they be more likely to clean up their act and get an executive position, or turn to a life of crime?

Think about it.

What this really is, of course, is a politically motivated attack on the poor, one with unspoken racial undertones.

By the way, like most people with decent jobs, I am a welfare recipient, of a kind – as are most middle-class Americans. I get a massive kickback in the form of a home mortgage tax deduction.

Even if I get arrested for illegal drugs, nobody would even dream of taking that away. After this bill passed, Sen. Gregory said, “I am continually frustrated by the priorities of this Legislature.” I think we all should be.