For welfare recipients, passing a drug test has become standard operating procedure in more than 15 states. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) asks, why not also make this a requirement for the wealthy?
On Thursday, Moore introduced the "Top 1% Accountability Act," which would call for taxpayers with a federal income of over $1 million to be subject to a drug test when filing taxes, or else be forced to take a lower deduction. Though the bill will go likely nowhere in a Republican-controlled Congress, it does afford Moore the opportunity to make a point about drug testing for welfare recipients.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the second-largest itemized deduction in taxes is mortgage interest, after state and local taxes. Of that expenditure, 73 percent goes to the wealthiest 20 percent of taxpayers, meaning the richest people receive the biggest tax breaks.
The way Moore sees it, these deductions are given back to the wealthy the same way welfare is given to the poor. Therefore they should be subject to the same trials and tribulations.
In an interview with the Guardian, Moore said she was inspired to write the bill after hearing a recent anti-poverty speech by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), which he gave in front of a drug treatment center in Anacostia, a predominantly black neighborhood of Washington, DC.
"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," Moore said.
According to a Think Progress analysis, over $1 million was spent on drug testing through 2014, even though the rate of drug use among welfare recipients is lower than the national average of 9.4 percent. In the states where drug testing is required, all but one have a rate below 1 percent.
"We're not going to get rid of the federal deficit by cutting poor people off SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program]," Moore said. "But if we are going to drug test people to reduce the deficit, let's start on the other end of the income spectrum."