Two bills targeting the most under privileged citizens of Michigan passed the legislature on Wednesday, and now only need approval in the House to take effect. The bills, one of which sponsored by Republican Senator Joe Hune, require those in need of public assistance to submit to drug testing and to perform unpaid work in their communities.
Similar laws have gone into effect in places like Utah, for example, where a total of 12 people failed their drug screening. The idea for such programs has been around for a long time, with proponents saying that they feel those people collecting public assistance money should at least give something back to the community. Others have estimated the cost of implementing drug testing programs, with results ranging from $92,487 for drug testing 20% of recipients and treating 2% of those tested in Louisiana, to $20 million for the testing of all public assistance applicants and recipients in New York.
Though many in the public would like to see such bills passed, they forget who the people are that are collecting welfare, including single mothers who would have the added burden of community service hours to caring for their children. Many individuals on welfare currently possess a medical marijuana card, and the burden of sorting out who should and should not be allowed to use cannabis will get even more complicated.
Drug testing seems outright unconstitutional. When society decides that we should drug test people without suspicion, we may as well be drug testing all of our elected officials, who technically are collecting money from the state as well. In fact, such an amendment was proposed, though, obviously, was shot down.
While we continue to punish, humiliate, alienate, and blame those most in need in our society, the very wealthy continue to pass legislation that further disenfranchises those most in need in our society while their wages increase exponentially.
This causes one to wonder that perhaps the reason so many Americans collect welfare is not because they are drug addicts, but because we keep minimum wage below what an individual, much less a family, can support themselves on. To quote Noam Chomsky, “minimum wage ought to be indexed to the cost of living and high enough to prevent falling below the poverty line. Eighty percent of the public support that and forty percent of the wealthy. What’s the minimum wage? Going down, way below these levels.” The sad truth is that the very wealthy shape policy in this country, while the most disenfranchised Americans undergo the humiliation of having to pee in a cup before they can afford to eat.