About Corazon

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Only 2% of Welfare Recipiants Use Drugs. I "ASS"-"U"-"ME"-D Different

I try not to get too political on this blog but this recent article was too interesting to pass up. Back in July, Florida Governor Rick Scott pushed a law through his state requiring welfare recipients to be tested for illegal drugs. In a nutshell, the law stated that anyone who failed the test (or refused to take it) would be deemed ineligible for welfare. To be honest, this is a law that I am 100% in favor of. It seems only logical that people who apply for welfare should be drug free. After all, why should tax dollars be dedicated for people who are breaking the law or have a serious substance abuse problem?

And though I might run the risk of appearing somewhat jaded, I was fully convinced that this new law would reveal the fact that a large number of welfare recipients are drug dependant. Yes, this may be a terrible stereotype but I am guessing that most people probably feel as I do. We all assume that drug addicts are abusing the system to death.

But as is often the case with people who ASSUME, they make an ASS out of U and ME.

This week, Florida released the results of their drug testing for welfare recipients, and to everyone's surprise, the numbers were not what had been expected. Only 2% of Florida welfare recipients tested positive for illegal drugs while another 2% refused to take the test. In other words, 96% of Florida welfare recipients were drug free. This is lower than the national and state average for drug abusers overall (about 8%).

Even if you assume (again, "assuming" makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me") that all who refused to take the test were positive, that’s far below the overall rate of use both nationally and in the state of Florida. According to federal data, 7-7.7% of Florida residents use illicit drugs, meaning the rate of welfare recipients is about half that of the general population of the state. And remember, Governor Scott sold this idea on the grounds that welfare recipients used drugs at a higher rate than others. And even if we assume (there's that word again) that another 4% of those tested were able to "cheat" on the test (the typical margin of error on most drug tests), the numbers would mirror the state average for drug abuse. Simply put, these numbers prove that welfare recipients are not a bunch of drug abusing bums like so many of us ASSUME.

I'll admit, these numbers have forced me to reevaluate the way I look at welfare. Now don't get me wrong, I am still in favor of drug testing for welfare recipients (even though these tests cost taxpayers roughly $35,000 a month). What has changed for me is the way I will look at welfare recipients. No longer am I going to ASSUME that a large portion abuse drugs because the data has proven me wrong.

And you have to wonder if Governor Scott's motives were as genuine as he claimed. As one reporter has revealed, Governor Scott just happens to own a large number of health care clinics in Florida, and drug testing is one of their primary sources of revenue. This comes as a terrible shock to most Florida voters who ASSUMED that Governor Scott's plan was as pure as the driven snow.

Holy pill-poppers, Batman! I guess we should be a little more careful about the ASSUMPTIONS we all make every day!

Hat Tip: E. Brayton


Jenn said...

I have to be honest here, my perfect image of a welfare recipient is mainly a smoking, drinking, lazy, kid-producing kind (and yes, I myself have been on WIC before, so I know they aren't all like that). Illegal drugs never really played into the picture. I do whole-heartedly support drug testing to get your check (or debit card, as the case may be). I also wish they weren't buying those cigarettes and alcohol with the tax-payer money. And if you think they can't do that, you are sorely mistaken. Great post!

Brad Hart said...

Thanks for the comment, Jenn.

I think that the most important point for us all to understand here is that the exception is NOT the rule. For too long many Americans have ASSUMED that welfare recipients were either lazy, drunk, stoned, fat, criminals, etc. We've heard these stereotypes so often that we have come to accept them. The angry voices screaming out of our car speakers and televisions keep telling is that this is the case.

But it isn't so.

Sure, there will always be loopholes in the system and people who will take advantage of the good will of others and of this nation, but these are the exceptions. We must remember this.

Jenn said...

I think you're right, we must remember that the welfare recipient has been stereotyped. And with the unemployment rate so high, I'm sure that the stereotype is the exception (I hope). The question I beg to ask is how did the current welfare persona become so embedded in our minds? I'm also wondering how, who was it, Michigan? is going to enforce the 48 months of welfare limits? I hope they can do it, because we (as in America) cannot afford to continue paying out on our current track.