Gov. Scott: Welfare Drug Testing "Was Never About Money, It's About Children"

November 01, 2011 12:49 pm ET — Kate Conway

Yesterday on Fox Business, Scott stuck with his recent pattern of rewriting history at his own convenience. When host Gerri Willis reminded Scott of his campaign pledge to save $77 million by forcing welfare applicants to undergo drug testing, Scott backpedaled, claiming the scheme "was never about money, it's about children."

WILLIS: One of your initiatives has not been so successful, and that's welfare drug testing, a judge recently saying that she didn't think it was the right thing to do and that in fact your claims that you could save $77 million by having people who apply for welfare get drug testing was probably not attainable. How do you respond to her criticisms?

SCOTT: It was never about money, it's about children. Remember, welfare is separate from unemployment. Welfare is for the benefit of a child, so that money should go to a parent that doesn't use drugs. So what we said is before you as a parent get the money, you're going to go through a drug test. Now another parent can get the money. A guardian can get the money. But it should not go to a parent that's using drugs. This money has to go for the benefit of children, so I'm very disappointed with the judge decided.


Yet Scott's now-defunct campaign website (courtesy of internet archives) stashed his welfare drug testing proposal on a page dedicated to his plan to "reduce government spending." The section about welfare benefits doesn't mention "the children," and indeed seems to be all "about money":

Rick Scott Welfare Benefits

(Click here for a full-page screenshot.)

In truth, Scott has done very little during his tenure to help out Florida's youngest citizens, just as he's brushed aside the needs of the state's most vulnerable adults. Sugar-coating a bottom line-focused approach to public policy with sweet rhetoric doesn't get Scott off the hook for a program that failed in its original money-saving objectives and that is now failing in its newly applied social welfare rationale. Not only is drug testing welfare applicants saving the state very little (if anything), it's also one additional barrier between vulnerable children and their next meal. And it's a barrier that may well violate the civil rights of Florida's poorest.

And whatever Scott may think the ideal welfare program might be, welfare is not exclusively for children. It's also set up to help out disabled adults or those who have fallen on hard times. This might seem like a minor point, but it's a slip that, like the drug testing policy itself, hints at Scott's suspicion of and disdain for those in poverty, as if he thinks the only citizens who merit aid are those too young to get a job.