I love the GOP. It seems these days with the upcoming presidential election that every browse through my Google Reader highlights new developments from the good ole boys that never fail to disappoint. By the end of January, more than half of U.S. states were in pursuit of administering a welfare drug testing program spearheaded by none other than the GOP. In Indiana, McMillin (R) introduced a bill to create a pilot program to test welfare applicants but when a Democrat amended the bill to require drug testing for lawmakers, the bill was withdrawn altogether. Wonder why.
It feels great when we D’s are the good guys and most of the time we are. Now if you ask the R who introduced the bill, he withdrew it because he needed to re-craft some measures as the language teetered on being ruled unconstitutional. Of course it did. Unreasonable searches and seizures are still prohibited thanks to the Fourth Amendment which means states cannot require urine samples or hair strands just because they foot the welfare bill.
And no, Democrats don’t want welfare recipients using their unemployment check to score meth. We don’t want people living in government housing if they’re so doped up on heroin that they can’t function in a full-time job. We don’t want people using food stamps to buy food because they’ve spent all their money on marijuana, alcohol and lottery tickets. It’s a minority of people who abuse the system but it doesn’t mean states get to decide which groups of people are afforded constitutional rights and which groups of people forfeit them.
I’ll admit it. I have a bit of a conservative streak that goes unnoticed by the omniscient liberalism flowing through my veins. So when I first caught wind of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients, my conservative streak reared its ugly head intent to battle against my liberal leanings. It said, “Hell yeah! If you live in government housing, support your family with government food and fuel, talk to your drug dealer with a welfare sponsored cell phone plan, and receive unemployment benefits, then we need to make sure you’re not on drugs!”
Twenty seconds later I was back — and it felt so good to be back because I had twice as many arguments for why that line of thinking is flawed. For starters, people who receive government assistance shouldn’t be treated like criminals. Who else is routinely tested for drug use other than people on probation? Right. Lots of people. Mostly people in the capacity to inflict harm on innocent bystanders. People like bus drivers, police officers, train engineers, military pilots, and anesthesiologist. Okay, that’s not entirely true either. These days, over 80% of employers require some form of drug screening and for good reason. I don’t want the 911 operator feigning for his next crack score during an emergency call. And still, I think it’s an unconstitutional practice that we’ve talked ourselves into believing is in the best interests for society.
What’s next? Will states next ask for fingerprints? What if your fingerprints match the system for a breaking and entering from 15 years ago? Should you be ineligible for SNAP assistance? What if you missed traffic court and there’s a bench warrant for your arrest? Does it mean you can’t receive unemployment benefits even though you’ve paid into it for 22 years? There’s more than one way of breaking the law and being deemed “unworthy” of government assistance, right? When will they shift their focus away from drugs onto something else? If states start drug testing people on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, what prevents school districts from requiring drug test from its high school students? Or middle school students? Since our property taxes fund neighborhood schools, don’t we as taxpayers (the states) have the right to make sure we’re not educating drug addicts?
“This week, Arizona approved a bill to require people laid off through no fault of their own to prove they’re not on drugs in order to receive unemployment insurance“. The Congress gave states the thumbs up back in February. Guess they’re tired of footing the bill, too. And I do get it; in these hard times, no one wants to carry anyone else, especially if they’re on drugs. But this kind of lawmaking doesn’t protect citizens’ rights. It puts everyone’s liberty and security on a slippery slope.