In 2015, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker sued the federal government for the right to test the sobriety citizens enrolled to receive food stamps. And he's not alone in wanting that right.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, as of March, 2016 there are 17 states with proposed legislation that ties public assistance programs to drug testing. Already, 15 states have, in some form, passed laws which makes a person's ability to collect social services inherent on their ability to prove narcotic sobriety. Not all legislation is always upheld—in Florida, a drug testing law was halted by court order, despite gubernatorial protestations—but the cumulative effect of these laws is chilling. They target the poor and needy, while threatening to withhold crucial resources that can, in some cases, mean the difference between life and death for families in dire straits.
For Wisconsin congresswoman Gwen Moore, this is an intolerable trend. It's also one for which she thinks she may have an antidote.
This week, Moore announced that would introduce legislation designed to force America's richest citizens to undergo the same type of prohibitive drug testing already mandated for many of its poorest; At risk would be the significant tax breaks that help the country's wealthiest few skirt the financial burdens faced by everyone else.
“We’re not going to get rid of the federal deficit by cutting poor people off [federal food stamp program] SNAP," Moore said in an interview with The Guardian. "But if we are going to drug-test people to reduce the deficit, let’s start on the other end of the income spectrum."
Moore's bill, which she calls the "Top 1% Accountability Act," would require households whose itemized deductions top $150,000 to submit a clean drug test to the IRS, or take a dramatically lower standard deduction. According to Think Progress, Moore's office estimates this will affect households earning at least half a million dollars per year.
Moore's inspiration for the proposal came after her fellow Wisconsin congressman, Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled his "Better Way" anti-poverty plan outside a Washington drug rehabilitation center. "When he stood in front of a drug treatment center and rolled out his anti-poverty initiative, pushing this narrative that poor people are drug addicts, that was the last straw," she told The Guardian.
While Rep. Ryan may have provided the necessary motivation to turn Moore's frustrations into an actual bill, a 2015 essay by Moore—also in The Guardian—shows it's an idea she's toyed with for some time.
A 2015 Think Progress study on the effectiveness of pairing drug testing with federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds discovered that in the states which have already implemented laws to that effect, drug use among recipients is significantly lower than the national average.
"We might really save some money by drug-testing folks on Wall Street," Moore told The Guardian, citing those "who might have a little cocaine before they get their deal done."