War on Poor: War on Women
Last week the focus was on a new law in Tennessee calling for felony penalties against pregnant women who test positive for illegal narcotics. Just this week, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill requiring drug testing — at their own expense — of some applicants for food stamps and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). An applicant would be forced to be tested on the basis of either missed appointments or her “demeanor “as determined by a state worker, a vague and dangerous version of profiling.
Georgia would be the first state to require this of food stamp (SNAP) seekers, something currently not permitted under federal law. While the Georgia law can’t go into effect until a change in federal law, the House has already passed a measure to lift the ban on states adding their own conditions to food stamp eligibility. If the Senate passes its own version, then it opens the door more quickly for states to jump on board.
This seems consistent with what opponents have called a mean-spirited and politically motivated war on the poor — overwhelmingly a war on women and in many if not most cases their minor children. Federal welfare funds go to single women and children. Over half of all food stamp benefits go to women, nearly half to children.
This new Georgia law is being described as the most aggressive of a raft of laws that have been either proposed or passed in recent years. A dozen states have laws now requiring screening for possible drug testing as a condition of receiving poverty aid. Only Georgia so far now extends this to food stamp recipients and shifts the cost of drug testing to the individual applicant.
States with mandatory drug testing attached to these safety net programs have rooted out a few applicants who have failed the drug test — out of the 1,588 people singled out for drug testing in Utah and the 762 who ended up taking one last year, there were only five confirmed failed tests.
Check out whether your state is among those with these laws already on the books and let your legislators and Governor that this is nothing less than an effort to bash the poor and poor women with children at that. If your state does not yet have a law like these, stay vigilant.
Copycat laws have a way of cropping up quickly and passed with little chance to speak out on the side of compassion.