OPED -- You get more of what you subsidize

By: Congressman David Rouzer

June 1, 2017

If you work, you should be better off than if you don't work. That is just common sense, and it is how the overwhelming majority of Americans feel.  When it comes to the drug testing of recipients of welfare benefits, the vast majority of citizens in my district want to know that their hard-earned tax dollars are not going to subsidize a drug habit.  

After all, many are working two and three jobs to make ends meet — and, in many cases are required to pass a drug test as a condition of employment.  They have no interest in subsidizing the drug habit of those receiving government assistance; nor should they. 

That is why I recently introduced a bill, The Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients Act (H.R. 2179), to hold individuals receiving taxpayer-funded assistance to the same standard as many American workers.  

My bill would amend the Social Security Act by requiring individuals to pass a drug screening process in order to be eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Public Housing and Section 8 Rental Assistance Programs.

The drug screening process would be two-fold and the method of implementation would be up to the discretion of the states. First, states would be required to verify that individuals have not been arrested for a drug related offense within the previous five years.  Second, those with a drug related offense would be required to undergo a complete drug test while those without an offense would be required to complete substance abuse screening, as determined by the state, to determine risk of substance abuse.  

Our welfare programs should never be structured in a way that creates a culture of dependency in any form. Of all the forms of dependency, drug addiction is by far the most damaging to the individual, their family, their community, and our society. Those who struggle with drug addiction need our help and not a blind eye to their problem. Only when a problem is identified and acknowledged can it be solved. Under my bill, the assistance to individuals who fail their drug test would be suspended for one year providing a natural incentive for them to seek the help they need.

As elected representatives of the people, we have an obligation to ensure that hard-earned tax dollars are used wisely and that every government program has the right incentives in place.  The Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients Act is a common sense step to ensure that those who are paying the nation’s bills are not subsidizing another’s drug habit.  After all, there is a fundamental truth that should never be ignored — you get more of what you subsidize.  

Rep. David Rouzer represents North Carolina’s 7th District.  He is a member of the House Committee on Agriculture; Transportation and Infrastructure; and, Natural Resources.