25 January 2016

Welfare Drug Tests: A Tale of Whose Ox is Gored

There is bipartison support in the West Virginia Legislature for a proposal that welfare recipients be drug tested upon a “reasonable suspicion.”

This is NOT because these people are poor and have zero support in the Legislature.  One legislator has called it “a compassionate approach.”  Let’s start by acknowledging that State money should not be spent on illegal drugs.  It’s offends the people of West Virginia.

But in fact, this proposal is FAR to timid.   The proposal doesn’t really touch the drug trade.  It’s highly moral, but ineffective as written.  We can do better.

About 2,000 welfare (TANF) recipients will be affected. Let’s take a scientific wild guess that this group spends 10% on illegal drugs.  That’s the equivalent of 200 welfare checks going to criminals.  It is right that we intercept that money.

But the state has 65,000 employees.  If they are much more law abiding than TANF recipients, we can take another scientific wild guess that only 1% of their state money goes to criminals.  But if that’s so, that’s the equivalent of 650 much larger paychecks going to drug dealers.  If we are going to honestly attack the drug trade, let’s really attack it.  The State is the biggest employer in West Virginia.  The U.S. Government is number two.  And U.S. employees make 75% more than people in private industry doing similar jobs. Might we not find that this largely law abiding group is responsible for far more drug profits than welfare people?  Surely, we can find reasonable suspicion on some government employees. 

And that includes the Legislature.

This is a moral issue.  West Virginians don’t want people passing laws who are whacked out on drugs.  In 1974, during a legislative session, I was in the bar of the Daniel Boone Hotel.  There was a quorum of the West Virginia Senate there, most of whom were intoxicated.  In 2015, what is their drug of choice?  We have only to test to find out.  They have nothing to fear.

Only a druggie has anything to fear from a drug test.  One would think that people would be happy to be tested and to take a firm stand against drugs.  All that is required of any citizen is that he or she follow the law.

So how about it?

Or is the truth that we really ARE picking on poor people -- just because we can?


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