Today, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously to bar the state of Florida from forcing welfare applicants to undergo drug testing.
“… the State failed to offer any factual support or to present any empirical evidence of a “concrete danger” of illegal drug use within Florida’s TANF population. The evidence in this record does not suggest that the population of TANF recipients engages in illegal drug use or that they misappropriate government funds for drugs at the expense of their own and their children’s basic subsistence. The State has presented no evidence that simply because an applicant for TANF benefits is having financial problems, he is also drug-addicted or prone to fraudulent and neglectful behavior.”
Exactly right. The state failed to offer “any factual support or to present any empirical evidence,” because no such evidence exists. As the judges went on to note, “there is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a “concrete danger” that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use.”
Nothing, that is, except deeply cherished stereotypes and a penchant for bashing poor people.
The bill creating the mandatory drug-testing provision comes out of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Last year, the Georgia General Assembly passed a similar bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal signed even though the Florida law had already been suspended by a federal district court judge. In fact, the Georgia law was so blatantly unconstitutional — and such a clear case of showboating and scapegoating — that Deal himself “suspended” its enforcement until the courts could rule on the matter.
Such laws are motivated by a cruel desire to bash and denigrate the poor, without regard to evidence or civil rights. If legislators had been truly concerned about the wise use of tax dollars, they could have mandated that HOPE scholarship recipients be drug-tested before receiving benefits, or that corporate CEOs be drug-tested before their companies could be eligible for major economic-development packages. The same logic would have applied.
But of course such thoughts never entered their minds.
– Jay Bookman