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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients: The Stigma of Poverty

drug test
In recent years there has been a lot of controversy surrounding certain states requiring drug testing for those who receive state assistance, such as Medicaid and Medicare. Drug testing requirements, many argue, discriminate against those living in poverty. Despite the fact that the American opioid epidemic has touched people from practically every demographic, there is still a long held belief that drug addiction affects those primarily of lower socioeconomic standing.

In fact, some 15 states have passed legislation requiring those that receive public assistance be subject to drug testing, and this year alone another 17 states have made similar legislative proposals, according to the National Conference of States Legislatures. In an attempt to point out the absurdity of denying the poor access to assistance for using a drug, a similar type of legislation has been proposed that would require people of means be drug tested before they are eligible to receive tax benefits.

Gwen Moore, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Wisconsin's 4th district has proposed the "Top 1% Accountability Act of 2016," a bill that would require taxpayers with itemized deductions greater than $150,000 to submit to the IRS a clear drug test, NPR reports. Moore was Inspired by House Speaker Paul Ryan’s unveiling of the "A Better Way" poverty plan in front of a substance use disorder treatment center, which the Congresswoman believes is “pushing this narrative that poor people are drug addicts” and “is as absurd as it is offensive.”

Congresswoman Moore, commenting on the legislation in a press release, said:

“Such baseless attacks against the poor inspired me to draft the Top 1% Accountability Act of 2016. My legislation would require taxpayers with itemized deductions of more than $150,000 to submit to the IRS a clear drug test, or take the much lower standard deduction when filing their taxes. It is my sincere hope that my bill will help eradicate the stigma associated with poverty and engage the American public in a substantive dialogue regarding the struggles of working- and middle-class families.” 

Those who use or abuse illicit drugs come from all walks of life, addiction does not discriminate. While it is hard to imagine Moore's plan will be passed, she is making a valid point and reigniting the conversation about political tactics that seem to make it harder for those already struggling to make it in life.

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