Republicans Think People Aren't Entitled to Food

[Content Note: Class warfare; disablism; racism.]

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the US federal assistance program that provides financial support to poor families with children. There are all kinds of problems with this program, in terms of how it's implemented, and now Mississippi has created an additional barrier to access by passing legislation, soon to head to the Republican governor's desk, that "will require answer a questionnaire evaluating their likelihood of substance abuse. If they are deemed to be at risk, they will have to take a drug test, and a positive test result will require them to undergo treatment for substance abuse. A second positive test will keep them out of the program for 90 days, while a third will kick them out for up to a year."

These sorts of programs have been tested in other states, where Republican legislatures and governors crowed about the potential savings to taxpayers, which is of course more important to them than the children of addicts having food in their bellies. And even if cost were a legitimate priority over decency, they don't deliver, anyway:
Utah spent about the same amount on a very similar testing regime and only found 12 people who tested positive for drug use. Just 2 percent of Florida’s welfare recipients failed drug tests in 2011, compared to 8 percent of the population generally who uses illegal drugs, and while Gov. Rick Scott (R) promised it would bring savings, those will be negligible after costs.

Minnesota has just started drug testing welfare recipients, despite the fact that just 0.4 percent of participants in the main cash assistance program have felony drug convictions, compared to 1.2 percent of the state’s general population. Local officials are warning the new requirement will be a waste of money.

Virginia lawmakers balked altogether at a proposal when they realized it would cost $1.5 million while saving just $229,000. North Carolina’s state legislature overrode the Republican governor’s veto to pass a drug testing requirement, but the governor has still said he’ll fight it.

Besides big administrative costs, these laws can also bring hefty court fees. A federal judge invalidated Florida’s law earlier this year after many other decisions similarly finding it to be unconstitutional, and others have also been struck down by the courts.
During the last election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he thought mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients was "an excellent idea."

It is not an excellent idea.

It does not save money, and it is not effective. As I said when Florida was first considering this nonsense: "Shaming is not an incentive. It's a disincentive, and it's a totally ineffective one, at that."

This shit is disablist; it is an invasion of privacy; it is classist; and it is implicitly racist—especially in a state in which 48% of black children and 36% of Latin@ children live in poverty (versus 16% of white children).

It is absolutely indefensible. It doesn't even make any sense, except within the context of modern Republican policy, which consistently seeks to punish the people who need a social safety net the most.

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