Several states are considering whether to test recipients of unemployment or welfare benefits for drug use. Although the federal government is contemplating giving a second trillion-dollar package to the banking industry, these states are targeting poor and middle-class individuals under the guise of fiscal responsibility.
Craig Blair, a delegate to the West Virginia legislature, has started a website, Not With My Tax Dollars, to politicize the issue. He justifies his position, in part, by arguing that:
We should require random drug testing for every individual receiving welfare, food assistance or unemployment benefits. After all, more and more employers are requiring drug testing. Why not make sure that people who are supposed to be looking for work are already prequalified by being drug free?Blair is also campaigning for re-election, and his proposal to drug test recipients of public assistance seems specifically designed to exploit the public's economic vulnerability, specifically by linking the issue to anti-tax sentiment. Although Blair says that he favors "less government intrusion on our daily lives," he opposes abortion, believes in expanding drug testing, and supports capital punishment. These positions do not limit, but rather augment, the role of government "in our daily lives" (in very invasive ways).
Why Not Apply the Policy Broadly?
Proponents of the legislation in other states have linked the tests to fiscal soundness and protection of taxpayers. But I have a question for legislators who believe the drug tests will protect taxpayers: Why not sponsor legislation requiring anyone -- including legislators, governors, judges, recipients of small business assistance or "farm aid," pensioners, owners of companies receiving tax abatements, participants in state-sponsored health care for the elderly, students receiving financial assistance or scholarships, and university professors -- who receives state subsidies, financial assistance, or tax dollars to submit to drug screening? In order to avoid the very reasonable claim that they are targeting poor people, they should broaden their proposals.