Tennessee Continues Long Tradition Of Hurting Poors, Totally Sucking

Last year, Tennessee (state motto: We’re Vaguely Rectangular!) got into the hot new game of drug testing welfare recipients to make sure that none of them were spending their time having any fun. Because what good is having poor people if you can’t systematically scold and humiliate them for being poor? Now the results of the first six months of testing are in, and how are they? A rousing success, if your definition of success is busting a whopping 0.2 percent of people who applied for public assistance.

The people tested had all applied for aid under the Families First program, which gives financial assistance to families with children. Part of the application process is answering questions about drug use. Of the 16,017 applicants to the program in the second half of 2014, the state tested 279 of them based on their answers, and 37 came back positive for illegal drugs. So extrapolating that to the overall number of people applying, the program indicates one quarter of one percent of welfare recipients are using. Money well spent!

Meanwhile other recipients of federal assistance, such as students (talk about fish in a barrel for drug testing!), bankers (ditto), farmers, university professors, small-business owners, large-business owners, veterans and old people do not have any such requirement. But those groups make up such a small percentage of the overall population, obviously.

Oh well, at least Tennessee’s program hasn’t been ruled unconstitutional yet, unlike Florida’s. Poor people, go to Florida. It’s warmer and you can use your SNAP benefits to get high.

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Personally, we think the drug testing money would be better spent on healthcare for the poor, since that could include drug treatment for addicts. But Tennessee disagrees with us on that one too.

Governor [Bill] Haslam’s market-based, state budget-neutral plan for Medicaid expansion would have brought billions of dollars into the state. Called “Insure Tennessee,” its implementation also would have meant coverage for up to 280,000 Tennesseans.

Last week, the Tennessee state legislature rejected Haslam’s plan.

Yeah, because gosh durn it, ain’t none’a those lazy poor people gonna get no hardworkin’ taxpayer money for health insurance. Not so long as Tennesseans are smart enough (with the help of the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity) to know that “Insure Tennessee” is just a fancy codename for Obamacare.

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No seriously, polling showed that 85 percent of Republicans opposed Obamacare, while only 16 percent opposed Insure Tennessee. But AFP made sure everyone, particularly the state’s Republican-dominated legislature, knew that Insure Tennessee was actually a (conservative governor’s negotiated, state budget-neutral) Medicaid expansion that was a part of the Affordable Care Act, and presto! No healthcare for 280,000 poor Tennesseans.

Tennessee! Truly the Volunteer State, in that you must volunteer to never be poor or needy. Otherwise you can hike your ass on over the state line and try your luck in Kentucky, loser.

[ThinkProgress / NBC / Tenneseean]


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