Measures Of Welfare

There is a recent push to require people who are collecting state benefits to submit to random drug tests. CNN has an article that details a West Virginian legislator’s push for such a law. Such laws are being discussed in ten other states as well.

Of course the issue is controversial and Administration the ACLU has jumped on it to defend the rights of drug users or something like that. There is one valid argument against it at least. Even though it is government subsidized, unemployment benefits are insurance, not welfare. Each week money is taken off of your paycheck to go into this program. If you’re an independent contractor who can’t find work, you can’t just go collect unemployment because you didn’t pay into it. Agreeing to take someone’s money but refusing to pay it back to them when they need it is a good way to end up in a lawsuit and the ACLU would be likely to win.

But what if we focus solely on people who are collecting government welfare? They paid in nothing to be eligible. We are not talking about millions of people who legitimately need help from the government because of some hard times. This is talking about a small percentage of people who are not only breaking the law but are taking advantage of a system that is meant to help the less fortunate and ultimately giving all recipients a bad reputation. We’re all aware that some people have children for the sole purpose of collecting a bigger welfare check. Most people do not do this but anybody who has a couple of kids and collects welfare is accused by some people of doing this.

Now, does this single out a certain portion of the population? Yes. Is it unfair to expect people to obey the law? No. This is no more unfairly singling people out than a cop who only pulls over those who are speeding. I don’t believe that it is being stereotypical to suspect that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs. Frankly I doubt that drug use among welfare recipients is any greater than any other portion of the population. If drug use was just a low class thing millionaire athletes and actors wouldn’t get caught with drugs.

The intention of the law needs to be considered. If anyone thinks we’re going to catch these drug users and deny them federal money and therefore save money, they’re kidding themselves. At least in the short term, this is not going to save money. Therefore states that are scrambling to pass these laws while the economy is bad are not going to save any money. Any sort of drug testing program is going to be expensive to implement and maintain. Beyond the cost of the test itself, there is the question of what to do when someone is caught. Do we send them to jail? Is such a test result even permissible in the courtroom?

The goal of random drug testing would have to be to get a user off of drugs. Merely threatening to take away welfare benefits isn’t going to work because a person’s freedom is already in jeopardy as drug use is against the law. Drug rehab could be required for a person to regain or maintain welfare eligibility. This would at least be a start but even drug rehab has a high rate of failure as many people go back to drugs. In the end though, even if 25% of people who enter the program get off of drugs for good, this is a great success. These people would be able to get their life turned around any many would be able to get off the welfare system. Being on welfare doesn’t imply that a person is on drugs but being on drugs definitely increases the chance for being on welfare. Getting users out of the system would be a great savings down the road. Welfare costs would decrease as well as health care costs for treatment of all kinds of problems that drugs can cause.