This seems to be a real-hot button issue lately, that myself and a few friends have taken up as sort of our "pet" issue. Pet-peeve might be more like it, seeing how people are actually swallowing this fascist crap. Sadly, other friends of mine who I have a lot of respect for in other ways, have fallen prey to the rhetoric, and actually believe that this drug-testing thing is actually a good idea.
On July 1st of last year, Florida put it into effect for a number of months before the courts stepped in and said it was un-Constitutional. Despite the total failure of that program both fiscally and legally, Georgia is now slated to implement their own drug testing program exactly one year later to the day, on this July 1st.
Well, I have decided to throw down the gauntlet. I challenge anyone to give me one good, logically sound reason to believe that this is a good idea. Because up to this point all I see is fascism and bigotry as the lowest common denominator in this sort of legislation.
To get things rolling, I have put together this piece, challenging some of the more common reasons people give for supporting drug-testing of welfare applicants and recipients.
It will save the taxpayers money.
FALSE. In Michigan and Florida it has already proved to cost taxpayers a lot more than it saved. These programs were an expansion of social services, not "smaller government" and not an effective cost-cutting measure at all. Other states that considered passing similar laws, rejected the idea when their own studies found that it would cost far more than it would ever save to implement a drug-testing program of this nature.
In Florida, taxpayers are now left on the hook to reimburse payment for the 97.4% of applicants who passed the drug screening. All of that money is going directly into the pockets of the private drug-testing companies. Companies like Solantic, which was founded by welfare drug-testing champion Florida Governor Rick Scott, and then handed over to his wife for safe keeping amid the fervor of an obvious conflict of interest.
The NY Times tells us:
...2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state... Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test... the testing cost the government an extra $45,780.
No one has even tried to crunch the numbers to find out the actual final cost to taxpayer either. The test is only one component of a now hugely expanded welfare bureaucracy which must digest the test results, process the information, manage appeals, and battle the Constitutionality of the program in courts. What will this cost the taxpayer in man-hours for social workers and other state employees? What will the cost to taxpayers be for something as simple as the new forms which must be filled out? It doesn't seem unreasonable at all to guess the cost of the program might actually be 3 or 4 times the cost of the actual test itself.
Welfare drug-testing yields 2% positive results
Florida's welfare drug testing costs more than it saves
Florida's welfare drug tests cost more money than state saves, data shows
Drug testing will stop druggies from applying for welfare.
FALSE. An internal document states unequivocally...
“We saw no dampening effect on the caseload”
This shows that there is no "hidden" cost benefit to the program. It also shatters the myth that poor people use illicit drugs at a significantly higher rate than the national average. Studies done on the subject reject
that myth, and many show that people in poverty are actually less likely to use illicit drugs. That conclusion is supported by the Florida statistics too. If there was no sudden downturn in the number of welfare applications when the drug-testing went into effect, then the 2.6% who did test positive is a fairly accurate assessment of detectable drug use among welfare applicants at any given time, seeing that the program provided no significant deterrent.
At least I won't be supporting an addict, even if it costs more.
FALSE. Once again.
Most drugs process out of a person's system within 24-72 hours, which is plenty of time to prepare for a welfare drug test, whether applying for the first time or re-certifying. So you will still be supporting the most hardcore drug abusers out there regardless of costly drug testing and bigger government. The same thing goes for alcohol, which is not even illegal of course, yet which is the most dangerous and frequently abused drug out there. You will still be supporting them too. Consider as well, the explosion of prescription drugs in society. Even when taken according to doctor's instructions, many people are dieing or becoming addicted.
So really we must consider the moral dilemma of not helping people in a battle with addiction in the first place. How do we differentiate between the addict who got their start on a school yard, and the addict who was assigned their first fix by a doctor? Who is more in need of assistance than a end-stage drug addict who is simply not capable of meeting their most basic life needs? Someone with diabetes perhaps, or cancer? Those diseases are often brought on by poor choices or bad habits too. Smoking, tanning, over-eating, poor diet. Do we reject all of those people from welfare too? There are many people who would shake their head yes, but those are the same people who reject welfare in its entirety, and are simply using the drug-testing issue as a cover for their bigotry toward poor folk. That is their right of course, but bigotry should never be a basis of law. So let's not follow the red-herring here and get back to the real issue.
Whether or not one thinks they should be supporting an addict, this law is not going to do anything to change it, and you will still be laying out money for a program that does not achieve your objective. There will still be people doing drugs and collecting public assistance funds, regardless of a costly drug-testing program.
And the few that do get caught? Pot-heads mostly. According to the state agency the majority of rejected applicants tested positive for marijuana. Hardly the die-hard smack fiend that might fit the common stereotype. Can weed be addictive? To a degree, sure, but not so much as harder drugs, or even nicotine or alcohol. And as we have already established, true addiction is a disease anyway, which should be treated as such, not discriminated against. Since marijuana is the only thing that is really turning up in these drug tests, what are people really saying, when they support a law for drug testing of the poor?
I don't want people on welfare spending my money on drugs, testing will put a stop to that.
FALSE. You guessed it.
It only means that the tiny fraction of the people on welfare who do use drugs, will turn to harder more dangerous drugs which are not so easily detected, or simply become drunks instead of pot-heads. Which would you rather see wandering the streets looking for a job, a mellowed-out stoner, or a vicious unstable drunk?
Granted, people should not be spending public assistance funds on any sort of vice, but then again, we are talking about human beings here too, who actually require some form of recreation to keep from going insane, literally. Not everyone has a fitness center or a social hall in their neighborhood, and we all have our vices. One could just as easily say that people on welfare don't deserve to watch television, don't deserve to eat anything but gruel, should never wear anything but tattered rags, should sit in a tiny room staring at the walls all night after walking the streets for 12 hours a day looking for a job that isn't there. Is it really so offensive that someone like a homeless veteran smoked a joint in a park once or twice this past month with some hippy who walks her dog there? Is that such a high crime that we will deny him food and shelter for the next year, perhaps to die in the streets in the meantime?
The truth is that we all need some way to unwind and enjoy ourselves for a bit. That need is probably even more acute for those living in poverty, not less. Depression, loneliness, lack of resources, lack of recreation, these are things that often lead to drug abuse in the first place. Relaxing with a doob or socializing with a few friends around a case of beer may be the very last things that a person living in poverty has to hold on to in order to retain their humanity, even any attachment to society. Maybe smoking a doob with the neighbor will get someone into a construction job. Maybe having a beer at the pub will lead to a job at the grill. Who are we to really judge?
Especially when you consider that, for the most part, people are not actually spending welfare money on any drugs at all. Welfare does not provide enough to live on in the first place, much less to support a drug habit. Which sadly enough, is often another big reason why poor folk turn to drugs in the first place. The allure of quick cash in the black market to make up the short-ends when it comes to putting food on the table and keeping the lights turned on. So then it is not welfare money that is paying for drugs, but black market dollars instead. The welfare money is still going to the basic necessities of life, not drugs. Now one might argue that the drug money should be going to keeping the lights on instead of the welfare money, but then you would be making the case for legalizing drugs so that it could be declared and taxed as income. So if you argue to legalize drugs while demanding drug-testing, doesn't that make you a bit of a hypocrite?
Finally, to wrap up this section, it must be admitted that some people will wind up spending public funds on drugs (or alcohol, or tobacco, or chocolate, or caffeine) but drug testing is not going to stop that. It's also not even something we should be so concerned about that we are willing to shred up the Constitution and shoot ourselves in the foot with the costs. Will people use welfare money for drugs? Sure. No system is perfect. But what percentage of people on welfare are actually spending public cash on drugs? Not the occasional pot-smoker, not the pot dealer who gets high on his own supply. So out of the 2.6% of people on welfare who are doing drugs, there is still only a tiny fraction of that number, who are probably so far gone into their drug habit that they will be dead within a few years anyway. Better off to just let them have the damn few hundred bucks rather than dealing with them breaking into your house.
If you are really concerned about where your tax dollars are going, you would be much better off to demand answers about where these $2.3 TRILLION in tax dollars vanished to, or why a cop who sniffs coke off the dashboard of his squad car still gets his pension, or why you are funding all of these crimes, or why you are supporting a failed war on drugs.
It's for the children! Drug testing will protect them.
FALSE. No it won't. No more than cops protect kids by shooting the family dog in front of a 7-year old. Whenever fascists come calling, they tell you for it's for your protection, whenever they really want to shove something down your throat they tell you it's for the children.
Drug testing of welfare recipients will put children directly in harm's way. Specifically, when the parent is denied assistance, the children will have to go without food, shelter, and basic immediate needs. There is no child advocate standing there to take custody of a child the moment a welfare applicant tests positive for drugs. Which means that the child will indeed be forced to endure starvation and neglect as a direct result of this policy, while they disappear onto the streets. Now some may argue that it is the result of the parent's irresponsible drug use, not the policy, but that argument is logically flawed. First, because of the high risk of false-positives, it is quite possible that the parent did not in fact use drugs, but still turned up positive on a test. Secondly, it is the policy which is denying direct aid that would be allotted for this child, not the parent. The child's hunger will not be fixed by placing blame on the parent. Blaming the parent in this case is like blaming the waiter for burning your food. Sure, maybe they should have seen that it was burnt when they brought it out, but they were not the one who burned it.
Some might argue that a child should be taken away immediately if a parent tests positive for drugs, but that is a very dangerous precedent to set. First, as we already pointed out with false-positives, the state would be taking away children from parents who were not in fact drug users, but who had perhaps used some nasal spray before the test, or drank a Mountain Dew. Secondly, it would set a precedent that would not be limited to just folks on welfare. This would mean that any parent who ever tested positive for drugs, perhaps as part of a job interview, would be subject to the state stepping in and taking their children. Any arrest for simple possession, a DUI, those too would be grounds for a children's removal from the home, even if it turned out the parent was not even proved guilty in a court of law. A tool for the state to come in and take children away based on a simple accusation against parents who have in fact done nothing wrong.
Even if it turns out a parent actually is one of those dreaded pot-smokers, would a child really be better off tossed into a state facility or a foster home, where children are often beaten, raped and murdered? Except under the most dire circumstances, a child is better off with a parent, and the courts agree. In a controversial case, the State of NY overturned a ruling which barred a level-3 sex offender from seeing his children, and even opened the door so that he could sue social services for barring him access to start with. (His conviction had nothing to do with any crime against his children.)
...under New York's Family Court Act, they
cited two findings that required them to determine neglect. The first is
"proof of actual (or imminent danger of) physical, emotional, or mental
impairment to the child." Second is the danger "must be a consequence
of the parent's failure to exercise a minimum degree of parental care."
The court noted the statutory test is not best or ideal care for children, but a minimum degree.
So we see here that it is the drug-testing law which creates the neglect, by denying essential emergency services to benefit the child, based on no actual violation of the law. Having a pot-smoking mother may not be the ideal situation for a child, but it certainly is not proof of any imminent danger. Remember, it is illegal to have drugs on you, illegal to distribute them, but there is nothing specifically illegal about having drugs in your system. Even if it were illegal, then the welfare applicant must be tried and convicted in a court of law, by a jury of their peers, before they could be seen as responsible for anything having to do with drugs in their system. In the meantime, it would still be the state themselves which were creating the neglectful condition, not the parent. There are plenty of parents out there who can smoke a joint on the weekend when the kids are away, without endangering or neglecting the children in any way. Just as there are parents who are responsible drinkers, without impeding on the safety of their children. It is the government's refusal to assist those in poverty which impedes on the safety of the children, no matter what the government's excuse might be.
Would a hospital refuse to treat a child for injuries or some other emergency health condition, simply because the parent refused or failed a drug test? Certainly not. Hospitals can't even refuse treatment based on someone's ability to pay for the services. Would an ambulance driver refuse to take a child to the hospital after a car wreck, when it looked like the parent was driving drunk? Would an ambulance even refuse to render aid to the drunk parent themselves? Certainly not, because if they did it would be a dereliction of their duty to render emergency aid. And emergency aid is exactly what welfare is. Granted, it may seem like some of these emergencies go on forever, but don't blame the victims of a terminally flawed economic system for that. Which of course bring us to...
If we make them get drug tests, it will force them to get off their ass and get a job.
FALSE. For one simple reason. There are no jobs.
For every job opening in America, there are 4 people actively trying to fill that position. Those numbers don't include people who can only find part-time minimum-wage work, and must therefore turn to public assistance funds to feed their family. Those numbers don't include those who have run the length of their Unemployment Insurance benefit without ever managing to find a job. Those numbers don't include those who finally gave up, virtually hopeless, exasperated beyond the point that the working stiff would ever care to imagine. You might be pissed off about your job, how hard you work, all the taxes you have to pay. Try not having a job for a while. You will envy those who have an April 15th deadline. But in the meantime, we are going to take away from you the Constitution, your liberty, and oh, by the way, your last shred of dignity as well....
Yup, that's right, that schmuck has a job, and you don't. Your journey to the darkside is now complete. You are now a slave, in every sense of the word, and it's all your fault.