Taking a page from the playbook of Republicans like Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore wants to drug test people who receive support from the government.
But rather than targeting welfare recipients, the Milwaukee Democrat is looking at the country's wealthiest citizens.
Moore on Thursday introduced the "Top 1% Accountability Act," which would require any taxpayer claiming an itemized deduction of more than $150,000 to submit to the IRS a clear drug test, or to take the lower standard deduction.
"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 statement. "It is my sincere hope that my bill will help eradicate the stigma associated with poverty and engage the American public in a substantive dialogue regarding the struggles of working- and middle-class families."
According to the Congressional Budget Office, mortgage interest is the second-largest itemized deduction, coming behind state and local taxes. Seventy-three percent of that tax expenditure goes to the wealthiest 20 percent of taxpayers.
Moore told The Guardian she was inspired in particular by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who recently unveiled a set of proposals to fight poverty.
"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 of the Janesville Republican.
Walker's proposal to drug test for some recipients of public benefits was approved in the state budget last summer.
The proposal requires applicants for state-run job training programs such as Wisconsin Works to answer a questionnaire that screens for drug abuse. Based on the results of that screening, a drug test could be required.
Those who fail the test would be required to receive state-funded treatment in order to remain eligible for job training. One positive test would be allowed during treatment. Those requirements would also apply to some recipients of federal SNAP benefits who are required to participate in the FoodShare Employment Training Program and to some applicants for unemployment insurance.
"As I’ve said time and time again, the notion that those battling poverty are somehow more susceptible to substance abuse is as absurd as it is offensive," Moore said in a statement. "If anything, our nation’s opioid crisis continues to underscore how substance addiction knows no social, racial, or economic distinctions. The time has come to stop vilifying vulnerable American families for being poor and start focusing on the policies that will help create an economy that works for everyone."
Walker has said his proposal is intended to help people qualify for family-supporting jobs, "moving them from government dependence to true independence."
A federal waiver is required in order to test FSET participants, creating a roadblock for the governor. Following the passage of the budget, Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to declare the requirement to drug test food stamp recipients to be legal. The lawsuit is ongoing.