Thursday, March 26, 2009

Targeting the Poor: Some States Propose Drug Testing for Unemployment, Welfare Benefits


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.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why not expand the drug tests to EVERYONE? After all, drug dealers do not pay income taxes on their earnings, and buyers are cheating the states and municipalities out of sales taxes. Therefore, any drug transaction shortchanges the taxpaying public, which must make up the lost income. Perhaps Mr. Blair is making the point that illegal drugs are not a bad thing as long as you earn or steal the money to pay for them yourself, but are a luxury that should not be allowed those who need assistance. Legalizing drugs and taxing them would produce a new revenue stream AND would give the government the ability to control distribution. Just as food stamps cannot be used to buy alcohol, so could the law prohibit the purchase of drugs with assistance money.

I do believe drug (and alcohol) testing should be mandatory for every legislator in the country. I have seen little evidence to support the idea that the legislation at any level of government is being produced by sober, straight individuals.

TLE

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

TLE: Blair's argument supports drug tests for a lot of other categories of people receiving public money (see list in the article). A "scholarship" student, for example, could use money to pay for drugs, instead of books.

Infidel753 said...

Excellent point. I'd like to see the executives of financial companies that are getting bailout money tested for drugs. The way they've been operating, they must be smoking something.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Yes - Infidel. How about testing the people who decide how public money is used - not just those who use it.

Roy Lofquist said...

Darren,

I went to the link. There is no party identification on his home page. I suspect he's R. Probably claims he's A Conservative. It's fascists like this that besmirch the reputation of we conservatives.

Roy

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Roy - He's a Republican. I think it's listed in the Yahoo article. I think this is a moment for Republicans to prove their libertarian or at least egalitarian principles. This measure does neither.

Gerard said...

Agree... let's just drug test everybody starting in the womb and going to the tomb. It's the statist way! Let's get there now.

Roy Lofquist said...

Darren,

"It's a big tent". I have always voted Republican because it just happened that when I got to the voting booth it seemed the better choice, though often not by much.

I am uncomfortable with the terms egalitarian and libertarian. The philosophical conservative is more at home in the Republican Party it is true, but he is not wedded to it.

I don't know if you have ever read Kirk. If you've got a few minutes he nails down conservatism here:

http://www.kirkcenter.org/kirk/ten-principles.html

I think you might find it familiar as it hews closely to common law and US jurisprudence.

Roy

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Roy, I'll check out Kirk. And you should check out Pajamas media; the site has hosted some discussions of the union between libertarians and conservatives lately.

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