Posts Tagged ‘unworthy


The unworthy poor


According to Think Progress, the state of Tennessee is prepared to pass a law that ties welfare benefits to the academic achievement of recipients’ children. As the article states:

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.

If one does a search on Google News for “drug testing for welfare”, one learns that at least 36 states have passed or introduced legislation requiring drug testing for welfare applicants. (The GOP controlled House is also mulling similar legislation.) The first state to do so was Florida. The ACLU took the state to court and had the law blocked; its future is uncertain. But the purported purpose of the law—to save money—didn’t quite achieve its goal.

In the four months that Florida’s law was in place, the state drug tested 4,086 TANF applicants. A mere 108 individuals tested positive. To put it another way, only 2.6 percent of applicants tested positive for illegal drugs — a rate more than three times lower than the 8.13 percent of all Floridians, age 12 and up, estimated by the federal government to use illegal drugs. Now might be a good time to remind folks that in the debate over the bill, Gov. Rick Scott argued that this law was necessary because, he said, welfare recipients used drugs at a higher rate than the general population.

None of these laws have been passed or proposed with an eye towards helping welfare recipients get off the dole and move into work. The case of Florida shows that the stated purpose has no relation to reality. But what these laws in fact do is reinforce one of the Right’s favorite bogeymen: the unworthy poor, the welfare queens, the takers leeching off the makers.

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December 2021