Democratic Bill Would Drug-Test The Rich

The legislation is inspired by Republicans’ welfare drug-testing proposals.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) wants rich tax filers to pee into a golden cup.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) wants rich tax filers to pee into a golden cup.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Tired of Republicans having all the fun, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) has introduced welfare drug testing legislation -- for rich people.

Moore's bill would require a drug test for any tax filer who claims itemized deductions worth more than $150,000. So a wealthy guy who wants to write off massive amounts of mortgage interest would have to prove he's not on drugs.

The bill is a response to the slew of Republican proposals in recent years to make poor people pass drug screenings in order to receive welfare benefits.

“As a strong advocate for social programs aimed at combating poverty, it deeply offends me that there is such a deep stigma surrounding those who depend on government benefits, especially as a former welfare recipient," Moore said in a press release.

"Sadly, Republicans across the country continue to implement discriminatory policies that criminalize the less fortunate and perpetuate false narratives about the most vulnerable among us," Moore said. "These laws serve only one purpose: stoking the most extreme sentiments and misguided notions of the conservative movement."

Republicans in dozens of states have pushed drug-testing bills for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and even for benefits under the much larger Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which serves 45 million Americans. The latter program doesn't allow states to make drug testing a condition of eligibility, but some Republicans in Congress want to change the law to let it happen.

The text of Moore's bill was not immediately available, but her release said rich tax filers could dodge drug tests if they avoid itemized deductions in favor of the typically much lower standard deduction, which can reduce a filer's tax liability by a set amount based on factors such as income and age. Mortgage interest is one of the biggest itemized deductions, costing the treasury roughly $70 billion per year. The Congressional Budget Office says three-quarters of that tax expenditure goes to the wealthiest 20 percent of taxpayers.

Moore told The Guardian her most direct inspiration for the proposal, which is unlikely to become law, came from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who unveiled his poverty policy agenda last week at a drug and alcohol treatment center in southeast Washington.

“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.

Arthur Delaney is a co-host of "So That Happened," the HuffPost Politics podcast:

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