Wednesday November 21, 2012

Jason Stanford

In Texas, we pay welfare moms with three kids $260 a month. In other words, our welfare moms don’t have enough money to buy drugs or enough time to take them. But don’t worry, Rick Perry has a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist: He wants to make welfare recipients take drug tests.

Making poor folks pee in a cup to prove their worthiness to receive charity raises important issues, not limited to the 4th Amendment, privacy, and our country’s seemingly bottomless appetite to fight the War on Poverty by humiliating poor people. But this is Texas, where we have more mundane concerns.

"Texas taxpayers will not subsidize or tolerate illegal drug use," said Perry.

Not subsidizing illegal drug use is something we can all get behind, even the drug dealers. Just try finding a dealer to take your Lone Star Card in exchange for a dime bag, and you’ll see I’m right.

But tolerate? While Perry has been braying about border security, Austin has replaced Miami as the cocaine distribution hub for the rest of the country. The Texas capitol has been a pot haven since Willie Nelson introduced the kickers to the bikers, but now downtown partiers seem strangely alert after midnight, and the size of big drug busts has gone from 2 pounds of cocaine to as much as 15 pounds at a time. According to the United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime, "90 percent of the cocaine enters the US/Mexico land border, most of it entering the state of Texas." A lot of it stays right here in Texas. Law enforcement’s efforts on this front in the War on Drugs notwithstanding, Texans seem to be tolerating as much illegal drug use as they can stand.

If Perry really wanted to stop subsidizing illegal drug use in Texas, it might be a better idea not to make the poor pee into a cup since they don’t have a pot to piss in. How about Wall Street bankers? Under Perry, Texas gave tens of millions of tax dollars to subprime mortgage lenders Countrywide and Washington Mutual to get them move to Texas. Corporations might be people, but have you ever tried to make Countrywide Financial pee in a cup?

At least one Democratic lawmaker said that the line for drug tests should start behind the jackwagon who gave $35 million to Countrywide and WaMu shortly before they wrecked the economy like drunken teenagers in their daddy’s car on prom night.

"If he feels so strongly that the public has a right to know about substance abuse by those receiving government assistance, I think he should go first," said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer. "Few people in Texas have lived off of the taxpayer dollar longer than Rick Perry."

Not one for deference or decorum, Martinez Fischer took it a step further, promising to amend any drug-testing legislation to include those living in any government housing, including one really swanky mansion across the street from the capitol.

"There should be no difference between the rigorous standards we require from those down on their luck seeking a Section 8 voucher and the state official that is living off the taxpayer’s dime in the Governor’s Mansion," he said.

Perry sees this as an issue of wasting taxpayer dollars.

"Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can’t go to a Texan who needs it for housing, child care or medicine," said Perry.

On this, we agree. When Florida tried this, drug-testing welfare recipients cost five times more to administer than it saved, according to the ACLU. Before a federal judge shut down the program after only four months, Florida taxpayers suffered a net loss of $205,000 to catch the 2.5 percent of welfare recipients who tested positive for drugs.

Congratulations, Governor Perry. You’ve figured out a way to literally piss away my money. God bless Texas, and hurry.

Jason Stanford’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. He is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas. Reach him at stanford@oppresearch.com or follow him on Twitter @jasstanford.