Drug testing for welfare recipients is back on the political radar in Wisconsin. Last year, former governor Scott Walker requested a waiver from the federal government to drug test Medicaid recipients but the waiver was denied. This time it’s drug testing for food stamp recipients, as Republicans criticize Governor Tony Evers for not implementing a legislative requirement to implement the testing requirement by October 1st

Mind you, none of this is in response to any raging epidemic of drug users bankrupting Wisconsin taxpayers. According to a federal study, Medicaid users are only slightly more likely to use drugs than non-Medicaid citizens. 

Honestly, this is just an attempt by the GOP to taint welfare recipients as morally deficient and prone to criminality to undermine support for the program. 

This is a familiar tactic. This is the same party that has spent the last three years trying to convince Americans that a horde of MS-13 rapists have been storming our southern border. 

As a libertarian, I favor the eventual elimination of publicly funded welfare. But the handful of people that drug testing would ensnare and remove from the rolls is a microscopic drop in the bucket compared to the trillions of dollars of corporate welfare doled out by both the Democrats and Republicans every year – at every level of government. 

You only need to look as far as Racine County to see how the corporate crony gravy train flowing into the coffers of politically favored companies is costing taxpayers millions or billions while under delivering on promised jobs and economic growth. 

Want to save tax dollars? How about starting with the Department of Road Builder Welfare, also known as the Department of Transportation? During last year’s election, both parties claimed the department was underfunded and argued about which fees or taxes to raise. 

Neither promoted reining in spending. In 2017, The Legislative Audit Bureau found that costs for 19 major projects completed between 2006 and 2016 were $1.5 billion, twice the initial projection. During the Marquette Interchange rebuild in Milwaukee, DOT knowingly approved payment for services that were never rendered. At the same time, road builders consistently rank at the top of political donor lists. 

Let’s be clear, this is a bipartisan problem: Evers named a road builder lobbyist to head the department who immediately began handing out single bid contracts.

Crony capitalism entails costs beyond the waste of taxpayer dollars. The wholesale surrender in both Washington and Madison to the service of corporate interests has completely corrupted our political system. Politicians spend most of their time raising money to run for re-election, campaigns that are funded mainly by special interest and corporate money. They use that money to buy hundreds of millions of dollars in ads each election cycle, money that flows directly into the bank accounts of the corporate media which protects and sustains the corrupt two-party system. Campaigns become increasingly divisive and, once safely re-elected, politicians abandon even the pretense of serving the interest of voters.

Sure, I would like to see the government get out of the welfare business. Starting by focusing on a handful of pot smokers buying Cheetos and pizza with tax dollars, rather than the real welfare queens in corporate boardrooms, is like trying to reduce the murder rate by arresting jaywalkers. 

But saving money or helping drug addicts is not the point. Rather, it’s distracting voters from the real agenda of politicians: funneling tax dollars into the coffers of major corporations and special interests.

Patrick Baird is a writer living in Madison and was the Libertarian Party candidate for Lt. Governor in 2018.

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