Thursday, December 22, 2016

A consistent policy toward drug testing for recipients of USDA benefits

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) this week urged President-elect Donald Trump to allow Wisconsin to implement drug testing for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's leading anti-hunger program and the largest program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

One could argue that this is a bad idea, because people in the grips of substance addictions can be as poor and hungry as anybody else. Moreover, SNAP is a household benefit, so it is not clear how benefit cuts based on one person's drug test would affect innocent children and other relatives in the same family. Remedies other than taking away their food may be the most humane approach to this social problem.

Alternatively, if the incoming administration values drug testing, we can all agree that any drug testing for recipients of USDA funding should be consistent and fair across the board. One could imagine:
  1. Drug testing for SNAP participants. In other social safety net programs, evidence suggests that millions of dollars can be wasted chasing very few positives. But, this was Governor Walker's proposal, so it stays on the list.
  2. Drug testing for participants in farm subsidy programs. A 2011 study reported: "Current alcohol use, smokeless tobacco use, inhalant use, and other illicit drug use were more prevalent among high school-aged youths living on farms than among those living in towns." To be consistent with the household character of the SNAP drug tests, the testing would certainly include teenagers in the farm families. The Environmental Working Group shows 1995-2014 USDA payments to Wisconsin farmers of $7.6 billion. Surely, only a small fraction of this sum is spent on illegal drugs, but even a small fraction can add up.
One suspects that this consistent drug testing policy would find less support in the U.S. Congress. 

If Governor Walker's proposal fails to gain traction, perhaps Congress will then turn to more imaginative ways of reducing despair and hopelessness, and increasing prosperity and food security, for all recipients of USDA funding.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Drug testing for SNAP recipients makes perfect sense when one considers drug abuse and an expensive drug habit could logically be an important impairment of family disposable income for food -- it could easily be a causative factor for a recipient being on SNAP in the first place. It might also account for some of the corruption in redemption of SNAP benefits, like so many EBT cards issued in Maine turning up redeemed in Florida -- who qualified for those cards in Maine, and why did they sell them to crooks instead of purchasing food with them...who doesn't need to eat before anything else? Drug testing could be a godsend public health push: identify the problem, treat the problem successfully, would-be SNAP recipient recovers and becomes useful member of society, kids get a sober parent, SNAP program is smaller and paperwork load reduced, public coffers are spared, everybody wins.

Inasmuch as drug abuse could logically be a cause of food insecurity, SNAP eligibility and EBT abuse, I find your insinuation, that smokeless tobacco use may be a cause of farming, somewhat less than convincing, however. You see, it's precisely that same judgemental smarmy bigoted attitudes of Liberal Elites that put Walker in Wisconsin's governor's seat and that got Trump elected. The silent majority has taken their country back and change is long last.