One of the most persistent poor-shaming efforts of conservative legislators is their endless efforts to force the recipients of the Supplemental Nutritionary Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF) programs to undergo drug tests before receiving their safety net benefits. Under current law, SNAP beneficiaries cannot be tested; TANF beneficiaries are tested in several states in the south, with barely anything to show for it – in two years of testing, states have wasted $2 million in order to find 321 positive tests out of hundreds of thousands of poor Americans.
House Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) apparently thinks the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has no higher priorities than shaming the poor and is attempting to propose a bill that would add language to next year’s farm bill (which also disperses SNAP money) to institute national drug testing for food stamps before they could receive benefits. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), however, isn’t having any of it, and has fired back with a proposal of her own – drug testing for farmers before they can receive subsidies from the government: “If we’re going to look at drug testing for SNAP, we should take the entire Department of Agriculture and all those programs that provide federal subsidy to folks, and they ought to be drug tested as well.”
Farm subsidies are a much bigger liability to the American budget than a few low-income families. As the Economist notes, “between 2007 and 2011 Uncle Sam paid some $3m in subsidies to 2,300 farms where no crop of any sort was grown. Between 2008 and 2012, $10.6m was paid to farmers who had been dead for over a year. Such payments explain why Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, is promoting a rule to attempt to crack down on payments to non-farming folk. But with crop prices now falling, taxpayers are braced to be fleeced again.”
DeLauro’s stand puts into sharp perspective the differences in priorities between Republicans and Democrats – and how hollow the GOP’s appeals to “fiscal conservatism” really are. They are all for spending as much money as we possibly can, just so long as it fits with their anti-poor and pro-lobbyist corporate agendas. Frankly, the whole debate is absurd and there are much more important things that our Congressmen should be devoting their time to.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.