For quite some time, myself and some colleagues and friends have held the belief that it is necessary to police the habits of people who receive government assistance such as welfare. It’s a clinical hazard to walk into a person’s house who is receiving welfare benefits just to find out that they are an avid heroin user, or a user of other such illicit substances. It may be even legal drugs that they have a serious problem with – some smoke three or four packs a day, or just can’t get through the morning without a 6-pack with their corn flakes. Regardless, they’re spending the extra cash on their habit more than they are on food, housing, or children if they have any (which they almost always do).
Recently Florida and Kentucky have passed laws requiring that people pass a drug test before they receive welfare benefits. First off, finally. Perhaps now more welfare benefits will be available to people who truly deserve it. Even if a user is genuinely the most unlucky person out there – they just can’t seem to find a job, their kids are getting in trouble, their apartment or house has every kind of problem you can imagine – that still is no excuse for using even a fraction of those benefits to feed an addiction or a recreational habit.
As a side note, I think there should be even more regulation on what a person should spend their welfare benefits on. For instance, for most of my young life I lived in a city where it was par for the course to 1) receive some sort of government assistance, 2) only speak some English or none at all, and 3) to spend your money on the most inappropriate items. I would watch people on my street send their small children walking to school with no lunch, and meanwhile have a new Escalade in the driveway. And what did they do all day? Sit home an play video games, or hang out on the porch drinking beer with their buddies. Everything but looking for a job. Is this the same thing as using government assistance to finance your cocaine habit? Not exactly, but it has the same consequences: your family sacrifices food, housing, clothing, or any other necessary items for frivolous spending.
Sure, these people may have absolutely needed a new car. If your old car physically is not capable of getting you to and from point A to point B safely, then by all means use that money to get a replacement. However, that replacement should not be a top of the line luxury vehicle. The words luxury or extras shouldn’t even factor in to your choice for a replacement mode of transportation. The payments for the car most importantly should not take away from your child’s ability to get proper nutrition. If it does, then a replacement simply isn’t possible at that particular moment. That is what public transportation is for.
I don’t think we can ever regulate someone’s spending in such a way that doesn’t result in an unconstitutional law, but my point remains the same. People need to have some sort of incentive to spend government assistance on things it was meant for. This article argues that the cost of drug testing and subsequent legal ramifications for a positive test outweigh the money saved by not giving welfare to people who test positive. In other words, it costs less to simply give welfare to drug users than to test them for substance use. That may be the case, but this begs the question: Is the point of the legislation to save money, or to send a message to people that there will be consequences for the misuse of government assistance? I believe it’s both, and obviously the emphasis is on the former. Whether both will be accomplished is a different story. I do not believe in the point the author of this article is trying to make – that is, we’re spending the money any way, let’s just forget about the drug testing. Drug testing needs to be an active presence, no doubt about that. But if it really is costing that much more, perhaps it can be done differently.
No one can give a perfect solution; there could be an entirely different solution that could work with each state. I will say that it does have the potential to create more jobs in the following ways:
- For the extra personnel necessary to physically administer drug testing.
- For those more deserving people who will only use welfare to get back on their feet (aka its intended purpose) and find a new job.
- For those users who will effectively be forced to get clean to get government assistance – hopefully it will be enough to motivate them to use welfare for its intended purpose and thus be able to hold a job down better when they find one.
- For the extra personnel necessary to get these people clean.
Of course not everyone will get clean. Of course people will always find new ways to fund their habit. These are given, obvious facts. You can’t ignore, though, the impression that the legislation will give to people: the government refuses to cater to people who intend to use government assistance inappropriately. Use my tax dollars on the truly deserving. If I have to be subject to drug testing to have a job, test those people to whom my hard earned money goes to who aren’t employed.