Maybe you’re for them. Maybe you’re against them. No matter what your stance is, it’s clear that the government is spending too much on social programs such as the food stamp program and welfare. As a relatively poor person, I understand that these programs are necessary to ensure that everyone has food to eat and a roof over their heads. I do, however, believe that the government could save some money by changing the programs in some way. One way they can do this is by drug testing applicants and recipients of these programs. Drug testing people applying for or receiving food stamps is a hot button topic for many people. Why should drug use even be a factor in getting food stamps? Most would agree that if people stopped buying drugs, they could get better jobs or hold the jobs they do have and this would ultimately lead to having the money to afford food for their family. Those who argue against drug testing say that it is not cost effective and it would cost the government too much money to do this. Those who argue for drug testing say that it is cost effective and it should be done. After some research and some extensive math, I believe I have found the answer to the question “Should the government drug test food stamp applicants?” To find out, read on.
According to Reuters, there are approximately 33,800,000 people in the US on food stamps. Overall, these applicants receive $4,504,864,000 per month ($133.28 per person per month) and $54,058,368,000 per year ($1599.36 per person per year). This is a very large amount of money that the government is spending. Could drug testing lower it?
Let’s assume 5% of food stamp recipients are on drugs (1,690,000). If these drug users were excluded from the food stamp program, it would save us $225,243,200 per month and $2,702,918,400 per year in food stamp costs. According to the ACLU website, it costs approximately $42 to complete a drug test. Let’s assume that 90% of those drug users applying for food stamps fail the urine test and do not qualify for food stamps (1,521,000). For a one-time $42 fee, we save $133.28 per month and $1599.36 per year per person. That comes out to a savings of $2,702,918,400. What about the cost of the drug tests, how much is that? Well, it would cost approximately $1,419,600,000 to drug test all of the food stamp recipients. After the drug tests are taken into consideration, the United States government would save over $1.4 billion by excluding drug users from receiving food stamp benefits.
Of course, 5% is a low estimate for the amount of drug users receiving food stamps. According to the ACLU website, about 10% of the US uses drugs. This should remain the same among food stamp recipients. So using 10% instead of 1%, we would still spend $1,419,600,000 in drug testing fees but we would save $5,405,836,800. If we would test all applicants at the time of application and all recipients once per year, we would continue to exclude more and more drug users until there would be virtually none left.
As you can see, it is indeed a smart idea to drug test people applying for and receiving food stamps. Of course, this doesn’t have to be applied to only food stamps. It could be applied to Welfare, Section 8 housing and even WIC recipients. It actually would be even more beneficial to drug test for all of these things because many food stamp recipients also get benefits from another one of these programs. By doing one test per person for all of these programs, it would further lower the drug testing cost, making the savings grow even more.