Romney backs welfare drug-testing

Updated
 

Asked by an Atlanta reporter about mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients, Mitt Romney announced his enthusiastic support. (Thanks to James Carter for the tip.)

“[M]y own view it’s a great idea. People who are receiving welfare benefits, government benefits, we should make sure they are not using the money for drugs. I think it’s an excellent idea.”

He’s not the only one on the right who thinks so. Republican officials in several states have become fans of expanded drug testing, and in perhaps the most notorious instance, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) pushed through an ambitious drug-testing program, only to see it fail miserably.

It’s not just the states, either. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) pushed for mandatory drug tests for those seeking unemployment benefit in the last Congress.

Romney probably sees this as a way to pander just a little more to his party’s base, but there are some pretty dramatic flaws with this policy. For one thing, there are constitutional concerns about the government forcing Americans to give up bodily fluid in order to qualify for benefits to which they’re entitled. Is this what the right now considers “limited government”?

For another, administering these drug tests isn’t free. In Florida, Rick Scott said the policy would save taxpayer money, but the tests ended up doing the exact opposite.

But perhaps most important is the offensive underlying assumptions. At its core, Romney and his allies are making a disturbing assumption: those who’ve lost their jobs, or are relying on the safety net to get by during tough economic times, should necessarily be suspected of drug abuse.

If you can’t find work, or if your family needs a little extra help, it may very well be your fault – because you might be some kind of addict. What do Romney and his friends base these suspicions on? Nothing.

I would be curious, though, about how serious Romney is about this. In his answer to the Atlanta reporter, he said he supports drug testing for those receiving “government benefits.” Would that include farm subsidies? Defense contractors? Beneficiaries of bank bailouts? Officials in public office?

Or is Romney only focused on targeting the very poor, whom he said last week he’s “not concerned” about?

Romney backs welfare drug-testing

Updated