Why is this even a question? A bill has been pre-filed for the upcoming (next year) Texas Legislative session which would require people applying for TANF to take (and pass) a drug test. This is hardly an onerous requirement. If I can be required to pass a drug test to get a job whereby my taxes can be used to pay for TANF, it is not unreasonable to have people applying for it also pass a drug test.
Of course, this is a bridge too far for Liberals for some reason (they're very free with your money). As far as I can see, there are three lines of argument here.
1- "What about the children!" This "argument" basically says that people applying for TANF who do drugs might have kids, and we can't possibly harm those kids by not giving their parents direct cash assistance.
This is what Joe Biden might call "a load of Stuff."
First off, the bill would not affect food-stamps (well, now the LoanStar Card), so we're not exactly taking food out of the children's mouths. Second, the State should not be responsible for your children, you should be. If you can't be persuaded not to do drugs, I shouldn't be paying for your kids. If you want to make them wards of the State, there are ways you can do that. You don't get to keep custody of them and then demand that I care for them.
2- "They only get $174!" I think the point of this argument is that each individual receives so little cash assistance that it's not worth controlling.
Again, this is "a load of Stuff."
It is correct that the average payment per case in the TANF Basic program is $174. What that doesn't tell is how many payments someone receives. Is that $174 per week? Per month? Per year? All told, in October of 2012 alone, TANF paid $7,302,339. A rolling 12 month average appears to be in the $7,000,000/mo range for a rough total of $84,000,000.00 in the last year alone. And that's only for "Basic" cases.
Ask the Texas School System what they could do with an extra $84,000,000.00. Or, for that matter, tax-payers.
The other thing to remember is that this is "direct cash assistance." That means this is cash money (well, probably a check, but the point remains). Once the recipient has that cash in hand, they can do whatever they want with it. That "whatever they want" includes "buy drugs." If we don't want them buying drugs with that money, then we need to take steps to make sure we're not funding drug users or drug dealers.
3- "No one else has done it correctly, why do you think we can?" - this argument speaks for itself, and it's the only one really worth rebutting as a serious argument.
It feels really strange to be on this side of the argument. Normally it is Conservatives pointing to some Liberal tax-and-spend/redistributionist/communist policy and pointing out that it has never worked, with Liberals crying, "Oh, but this time we'll do it right!" Conservatives roll our eyes and get ready to pick up the pieces.
In this case, they do have a point- the policy, while straight-forward sounding, will not be that straight-forward in implementation. How are we going to pay for these drug tests? Will it be required every time someone applies for TANF, or will they be random? If we're testing everyone who applies for TANF (or even a significant percentage of them) are we really going to save the Texas Tax Payer any money?
Unlike Liberals, who generally explain "shut up," when confronted with these questions about their own policies, I'll answer honestly: I don't know. I do think it's worth looking at. I think the goal is noble, but that doesn't make it practical. I certainly recommend the policy be thoroughly examined for practicality before being put in place. If we spend $40,000,000.00 to save $30,000,000.00, we were better off without the program. Just as it is not the State's duty to look after your children, it's not the States job to be your parent, either.
That said, my hunch is that it can be implemented well. If I were to answer those questions, here would be my answer:
1- How are we going to pay? Use the money from the TANF program itself. If a $50.00 drug test can prevent one person on drugs from getting assistance, then that one person has paid for two more tests of people who aren't using drugs. As long as we don't spend more than we are already, we're not any the worse. I can't justify spending any new money on the program, though.
2- Every person, or random? Well, I would suggest that the first time someone applies for TANF, they have to get tested, and after that, random tests- just like most employers do.
3- Are we really going to save money? Well, my suggestions would mean that we would at least not spend any more than we are right now, and, yes, we might save money. That said, this, to me, is the linchpin argument. If the number-crunchers look at the program and show that we are not at least breaking even, then the program should not be implemented.
With all of that said, it is important to realize that the argument, however valid it might seem to be, is entirely disingenuous. Liberals do not care about "well it's never worked before" or they would abandon most of their own positions. Liberals do not care about "how" it is going to work. They do not care about how we would pay for it. Liberals do not care about if it would save, or cost, the taxpayers money.
Liberals care that they can spend your money to bribe people to pay for them. They want to be seen as "caring" for people.