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Blueroses's avatar

Should there be drug testing for public assistance?

Asked by Blueroses (17742 points ) October 3rd, 2010

My dad is a truck driver and brought this question to me. His point is that he has to pay for his commercial driver’s license, be accountable for all state laws, and is subject to random drug testing. Not a problem, but he objects to spending his obligatory taxes on support programs if the recipients aren’t required to adhere to the same standards that he has to meet to earn his living.
I don’t know what to think about this. I am pretty liberal about social programs in general but this made me ponder.
What do you think? If public assistance programs are sponsored by the money of people whose jobs require drug-free test results, should the beneficiaries be subject to the same standards?

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31 Answers

meiosis's avatar

The drug testing your father undergoes is not a requirement for him to work per se, but a requirement because of the nature of his work. Many other tax-payers who also contribute towards the cost of social programmes will not have to undergo mandatory drug testing, so whose terms and conditions of work should be imposed on the recipients of social programmes? Presumably there are also eyesight and driving tests that your father is required to pass in order to do his job; it would be patently absurd to make these requirements for social programme beneficiaries.

Jeruba's avatar

I think this is really two questions:

(1) Should recipients of public assistance be required to meet any criteria in order to qualify for aid? and if so, should clean drug tests be among those criteria?
(2) Should recipients of benefits paid for by taxes on employed workers be required to fulfill the same requirements of eligibility for aid as the workers must fulfill to perform their jobs?

The answers to the two questions are not necessarily the same.

Blueroses's avatar

Thank you for your considered answers. I should have been more clear. His objection is to paying to support somebody with a drug habit if his own income depends on being drug free. I did do a search for similar questions before asking and didn’t find one, but now see there was one that didn’t show up in my query. Sorry for the duplication.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

It sounds good in theory, but I think it would cost us more in the long run. Not to mention that at some point it would only be fair to drug test everyone that works. Although I’ve never thought twice about it personally, I know a lot of people that are excellent employees, hard working and loyal… who happen to smoke weed. I’m not sure how I would feel about it if the concept continued to spread.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Its a bad idea, and not fair. say they have a job where they are not tested, they start to take drugs, they do so for years, they then lose their job and now need help. they are addicted, and its not fair to hold back the money.

if you hold back the money, you are putting their life at risk. they could go without food, or maybe even go out and steal to feed the habbit.

a truck driver could kill people with ease if he or she where on drugs. so you can see the logic behind your father having to take them.

personally, i dont think there should be any drug testing for anyone ever, unless they want a test to see if they have been drugged by someone. its a private matter. sure, your father could kill a few people if he drove the truck while on drugs, but he could also kill people by accident, or if he simply decided he wanted to kill. this does not mean he should have a mental health exam on a regular basis.

drug test people that are arrested for certain things and drug test athletes, and keep it at that say i.

rooeytoo's avatar

For me the answer to questions of this sort has changed as I have grown older. I am now almost 66 and my husband is almost 70, we still work and pay taxes. I find myself becoming increasingly resentful that young able people who could work are not doing so but are instead collecting welfare and often purchasing drugs, alcohol, cigarettes etc. This is especially true here in Australia where there are no food stamps. I have often held down less than desireable jobs just to keep my head above water. Therefore I am with your dad, I would have no problem if drug testing were to become part of the qualifier for any kind of financial assistance that my tax dollars are funding. If anyone chooses to waste their life doing drugs, and it is a personal choice, so be it but I should not have to pay to support their habit. Give that money instead to starving kids or old folks who can’t work and don’t have enough money for food much less drugs, booze or cigs.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@rooeytoo note, that even though you have worked all your life and paid taxes, because of how the system works, i.e. a ponzi scheme, that you will now need to depends on young people to keep funding your pension. personally, i have no problem with that, it would be wrong to do anything else. but just keep in mind that it does work both ways, a lot of young people (not me) resent having to partly fund older people.

As for the lack of food stamps, im with you there. when i used to live in the UK a few years back, i noticed a lot of people in my age group collecting benefits that i just knew for a fact would all be spent on drugs withing hours. (their shouting and lack of patience combined with shaking gives it away) and i have noticed the same thing here in mallorca. food stamps are far better than giving out cash.

EDIT: im not disagreeing with you btw

poisonedantidote's avatar

@poisonedantidote me my self… “a truck driver could kill people with ease if he or she where on drugs. so you can see the logic behind your father having to take them.”

i mean take the test, not the drugs, hehe. sorry if that caused any confusion. i have not had any sleep for quite a while.

meiosis's avatar

@poisonedantidote Drug dealers take food stamps, albeit with a hefty exchange rate.

laureth's avatar

I’m not saying that this is a good idea. I’m just saying that if we do test recipients for drugs simply because people don’t want their hard-earned tax dollars going to support habits, I think there are some other things we should also do.

For instance, I’m an atheist. I don’t want my tax money supporting religion of any kind. Perhaps we ought to test any recipients of financial aid to see if they also donate to any church or religious organization. This will probably hit old people the hardest, when their social security checks are cut, because that demographic goes to church more. But like they say, I don’t want to support the habit.

I also don’t want my tax dollars going to support war. So contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton, who receive government funds, would be right out.

If I don’t want my taxes going to support corporate GMO-ridden, destructive megafarms, we’d have to cut out agricultural subsidies. Too bad that will make food lots more expensive, and eliminate the food stamp program in general (because that’s part of the farm bill). I oppose it, so it’s outta there.

I realize it’s all a “slippery slope” argument, but I don’t think that makes my point invalid in this case. I mean, there is precedent – they got elective abortion coverage out of the health care reform law on moral grounds, right? Perhaps what we ought to do is just lock all the income received from taxes in a big vault and not spend any of it at all, because someone somewhere will object to it. (/sarcasm)

That said, I’m willing to bet that most people who receive assistance do not have serious drug problems, no matter how much the media likes to concentrate on the crack-whore mamas that live high on welfare. And I would wonder if the taxpayers want to foot an even higher bill to hire testers and build testing centers to accommodate the extra regulations. Link.

Also? Unconstitutional.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@meiosis wow, really? that sucks. its bad enough they take jewelery and stuff. cant they put the owners name on them and make them show ID? that needs fixing.

I used to sell weed when i was younger, there is no way i would accept a food stamp. (i only sold to friends who asked me for it, i never offered to sell)

woodcutter's avatar

dope is and has always been expensive. Recipients should be tested and a positive result should mean a reduction in benefits. They are using money to get those expensive drugs instead of taking care of themselves with their money. So, in essence we the taxpayers are funding their dependencies that cause the recipient to continue to be dependent on the taxpayer. It’s a vicious circle.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Yes. I firmly believe that anyone recieving any sort of government assistance should be suject to random drug tests and assistance withdrawn if the test is positive.

tinyfaery's avatar

Great. Just what we need. A bunch of mentally ill (many people who are addicted to drug are self-medicating), drug addicted homeless people/prisoners.

No.

wilma's avatar

Many people (not just truck drivers) need to take a drug test prior to be employed and often are subjected to random testing thereafter. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have folks who are receiving publicly funded assistance to be subjected to the same thing. It’s not like they would be being forced to take a drug test under penalty of law. They can walk away from it if they choose.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think they should be tested and if they come up positive, they should have the choice of getting help to get clean or walking away from the system (and the financial assistance).

rooeytoo's avatar

@poisonedantidote – that argument is more old and tired than I am. I paid in to Social Security my entire life. I am not taking something that I didn’t fund. I will probably not live long enough to collect what I have paid in had it earned compound interest all the years I paid. Those young who could work but choose not to (and I am not referring to mentally ill) are the drains on society.

I think all assistance should be in the form of what is necessary to live. Subsidized rents should be paid directly to landlords, food stamps to be redeemed only for necessities (I realize black market exists but I don’t know what else can be done), medicaid. A pocket full of cash which can be spent on drugs, alcohol, smokes, video games etc. is to be earned not provided by me. If others want to fund this out of some sense of charity, let them volunteer to pay more taxes and I will pay less. I have absolutely no aversion to my taxes helping those who truly need aid, let us eliminate those who abuse the system.

wilma's avatar

@rooeytoo and @Seaofclouds I agree with you. Abuse of the system is rampant, but there are also truly needy people. My guess is that most of them ( the truly needy) would welcome the chance to prove that their public assistance is not going to buy drugs.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“Society can no longer afford the comfort of mollycoddling druggies, criminals and other miscreants.”

Comments?

SuperMouse's avatar

No I don’t believe those on public assistance should be subjected to mandatory drug tests. Regarding the black market for food stamps: where I live the money is deposited to a card, people are no longer given actual food stamps as tender. This makes it slightly more challenging for a black market to flourish.

The fact is that people are on assistance because they need assistance. They are not on assistance so they can spend all their money on drugs. I find it rather paranoid to think that most of the recipients are drug users and institute expensive and needless testing. If the idea here is to cut benefits and save money, I’ll bet crunching the numbers will prove that not a single penny is saved and the program costs will actually increase. By the way, I can’t help but wonder what percentage of these folks have kids. Should these children be forced to starve or go without shoes and a jacket because of their folks bad choices and a dirty test? To me the answer to that question is a resounding no.

@CaptainHarley my comment on your statement is that I tend to believe that the vast majority of folks here in the US especially with the economy in the shambles George Bush left are not druggies, criminals or miscreants, but solid upstanding citizens, many of whom have paid into the very system from which they are seeking help.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@SuperMouse Perhaps you are correct about the citizens who need the help. I don’t know for sure.

Blueroses's avatar

I would certainly never deny anybody assistance with basic needs; food, shelter, healthcare, child care but I can’t feel good about handing over cash subsistence when I’m struggling every month to pay my own way. This question, when put to me by my father, was not easy for me to answer. I understand that addiction is a cycle that can keep people in poverty. I would rather put my tax dollars into treatment and job training programs than give a check to somebody with a history of drug use.

Jabe73's avatar

I know where I live people on welfare have to already work for that little bit of money they recieve. My answer here personally is no. I get drug tested at my job regularly while watching most white-collar positions and those in management not be required to get them. This drugtesting stuff is a bunch of bullshit. These drugtests also seem to be biased for the very fact that only lower paying, blue or gold collar workers seem to be the only people required to get these tests. Even though I am not a user I find this process (drug testing) to be very degrading, especially when other’s where I work in management and in the office do not have to get them.

We as a society have gone too far with this drug testing baloney. Where will the limit be? Pretty soon all school kids and all people who drive will be required to get drug tested. I believe in liberty, this drug testing reaps of facism to me.

Jeruba's avatar

“reaps of facism” -> “reeks of fascism”?

Jabe73's avatar

@Jeruba Yeah the blood was boiling in my head when I wrote that response, I do that alot. I guess that should be a testament to how I really feel then when it comes to drug testing for anything. I feel drug testing is one of the most degrading things that any government/corporation can do to someone.

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t want my hard earned dollars going to support anyone’s drug habit, so yes, I’m in favor of it. If they don’t want to be tested, they have the option of not accepting the taxpayers money.

Jeruba's avatar

@Jabe73, I can understand your frustration, especially if everyone at the company is not treated alike.

Toward the end of a long, discouraging job search, I went back for a second interview with a company that sounded very attractive to me. They seemed interested as well. Then they said, “Just one thing. It’s our policy to ask candidates to agree to a drug test.”

That stopped me cold. I said, “I don’t use drugs and I have never used drugs. But I have a principled objection to drug testing. If you have reason to suspect someone of drug use, that’s one thing. But in the absence of any cause, I see no reason to submit to a test.”

The interviewer said, “You know that means we have to take your name off our list.”

I stood up, shook his hand, and said, “Thank you for your time.”

This is a difficult question. I don’t want to get on a plane being flown by someone who’s intoxicated. I don’t want to be operated on by a surgeon who isn’t sober and clear-headed. But neither do I want to be treated like a criminal when no one has any reason or cause to suspect me of wrongdoing.

As I suggested above, I think the job requirements of taxpayers is a separate question and just clouds the issue here. All employed people are taxpayers, and there are different requirements for different jobs. The jobs I’ve held have all required an exceptionally strong command of English, but it would not make sense to impose that requirement on all recipients of public assistance. Well, maybe it would, but that too is another question.

Requiring recipients to meet certain criteria is reasonable. Basing the criteria on what the workers must do to keep their jobs has a kind of emotional punch to it but is actually completely irrelevant.

Paradox's avatar

@Jeruba You are missing something here, surgeons, doctors and other white collar positions do not require drug tests. Lower paying technical, industrial and construction disciplines do. Drug testing seems to discriminate against lower paying positions.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Paradox I seriously doubt that is wide spread

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