Social Question

josie's avatar

Why shouldn't recipients of public welfare money be required to take a drug test?

Asked by josie (27502points) September 8th, 2011

We are not talking about testing for cold medication.

We are talking about testing for drugs that are certainly bought on the the street with money.

Some of it is MY money. And if somebody is getting my money without my personal charity imprimatur, I at least want to know that it is not being handed to some hustler in exchange for shit.

The constant argument is that it violates the fourth amendment. Please, give me break. The SC already said the amendment’s protections do not apply when the searched party lacks a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. And since they are spending “public” not “private” money, there goes the expectation of privacy.

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68 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Because that’s serious policing of people who are already disenfranchised and it contributes to biopower held by certain groups over other groups. It is often true that those who are most poor have connections to drugs and you’re not getting anywhere by not giving them the pathetic assistance that welfare is, anyway. Read here.

tom_g's avatar

Let me put the question back to you: Is the kind of society you want to live in one that allows the government to drug test people in need of some assistance?

Blackberry's avatar

Another reason to legalize marijuana lol….

I see both sides, so maybe I’m becoming more conservative, who knows lol. But it still seems wrong for many reasons. Why are we singling out these people? Singling out this entire group of people because of some bad apples? If we did that with some other random group, people would call BS. Why not drug test all parents to ensure they’re providing a safe environment for kids? You could provide a reason to drug test just about anyone.

It would make more sense to handle these things on an individual basis.

tom_g's avatar

…And if it is a type of society you would like to have, why do you make drugs the only thing that people can have their privacy violated for?

mazingerz88's avatar

My knee jerk response is yes, I’d rather have them receiving food vouchers than cash. But my intention is so they won’t buy drugs like I don’t want my brother buying drugs. And the difference with me is I don’t feel that’s MY MONEY anymore once I give it to Uncle Sam. I would voice out my complaints the way he spends it and exercise power by voting, but that’s money already belonging to the collective known as, well, I said it already.

marinelife's avatar

Because you shouldn’t have to be drug free to qualify for public assistance.

The grinding daily drudgery that is life in poverty is bad enough.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: If the assistance our public pays is so pathetic then the people who test positive for drugs won’t be missing it.

@josie: The first and most important thing I can think of is the mistakes of the adult trying to get the assistance money and failing a drug test will jeopardize their reliant children who have no fault in their parents’ misfortunes.

josie's avatar

I thought that was implied in the question. Anyway, not all the people who need assistance. Only the ones who get it from me without me knowing who they are.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Neizvestnaya Sadly, that simply isn’t true since that tiny amount is all they have to live on, sometimes. Are you having difficulty seeing that?

tom_g's avatar

Wow. Ok. Do you have any idea where “your” money goes? Do you think that you can’t afford x because of the myth of welfare queens and drug addicts? Your money is wasted all over the place, but for some reason the poorest recipients who receive a small percentage of what you pay should be violated like this? What about seniors who receive medicare? What about the disabled? What about any private corporation that receives federal grant money (your money)?

Aethelflaed's avatar

I concur. Everyone who uses things paid for by my money should be drug tested. Walk down a street paid for by the government? Not till you pee in a cup. Get a book from a public library? Not so fast, junkie. Getting student loans? We’ll be needing a hair test for that. Granny taking Medicare? Not until we know she’s not smoking joints, too! Is your house burning down, and you’d like the fire department to put it out? Gonna need to prove you’re not on drugs first. Did you get injured on the job, and now you need some disability? Make sure to wash your hands afterwards.

Seriously, @josie, how is the welfare money any more your money than a policeman’s salary is my money?

josie's avatar

@mazingerz88 I don’t feel that’s MY MONEY anymore once I give it to Uncle Sam
That is exactly what Uncle Sam wants you to think. That makes you one of Uncle’s “success stories”
But it is still your money. You earned it. Uncle Sam did not.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Understandable to me but I was referring to your statement about it being pathetic. It’s free to them, they don’t have to accept it. No one ever promised many others of us anything should we fall on hard times or make mistakes. Social welfare is not a lifestyle alternative and it shouldn’t be looked on as an entitlement.

tom_g's avatar

Note: I find it fascinating how much support this type of thing gets from the “don’t tread on me” / “small government” crowd (not saying that’s necessarily you, @josie).

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tom_g You mean because it’d cost the government even more money to do the drug testing, thus creating an even bigger need for more taxes? Yeah.

XD's avatar

You’re absolutely right. Let’s test all those Wall Street bailout bums.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I look upon it as neither and I can still, objectively, say the amount of money is pathetic.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@josie How did Uncle Sam not earn it? There’s usually a deal: Government gets to tax you, and in return, government protects you. Are there not troops overseas defending your life? What part of this bargain has the government not lived up to? I don’t know about you, but my ability to defend myself all alone against an invading force isn’t so great.

stardust's avatar

It would be a gross violation of an individual’s privacy, not to mention grinding them down even further. I cannot believe that anyone would consider something so preposterous as people on welfare equals drug addicts. It’s notions like this that continue to keep elitism alive and kicking.

JLeslie's avatar

Because it is a huge waste of tax dollars

And, because I am only worried about drug testing people who can endanger others because they are medical professionals, drivers, pilots, use heavy machinery, etc.

mazingerz88's avatar

@josie Oh, man, giving Uncle Sam money is a drag, but I truly believe it’s not fatal for me. And even if it is, I know I enjoyed the ride. It’s all a ride, man. It’s all temporary.

I have a brother whose been in drug rehab for years and his kids are growing up without him. My parent’s spends for all his rehab while I help finance his kids. When I think of someone using welfare money to buy drugs, I see in my mind the utter desperation and degradation of this person, to buy drugs instead of food. There are really bad guys out there. There are. But they may have been bad guys already before they even started using. If in a fictional world where I’m a cop who had to shoot a drug addict criminal down, I would do it but not without anguishing in silence later.

CWOTUS's avatar

Because it’s expensive, invasive and unwarranted, I think.

No one should have to take a drug test unless suspected of actual wrongdoing – other than “maybe he took drugs”, that is. So testing drivers after an auto accident – or when suspected of drink driving – is one thing, but testing anyone beforehand is another.

tom_g's avatar

I promise that I am not attempting to create a slippery slope here by asking why the government shouldn’t just be drug-testing everyone? Why should drug users be allowed to drive on roads that have been created with tax money? Why should drug users be allowed to send their kids to public school? Why should drug users be allowed to use police services?

If we’re going to suddenly be ok with gross violations of privacy, why just target the poor?

josie's avatar

@Aethelflaed Uncle Sam did not earn it. Uncle spends it. I don’t have the same question about every single thing that Uncle Sam spends money on. Once, when I was in his, and your, service, he even paid me. And I don’t even have a gripe about giving some of it away for public assistance. The question is about one thing and one thing only.
@mazingerz88 Well, there is always that too, I suppose.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Because it is not government money, it’s their money.

I work and pay taxes, and when I don’t work and need money I get some of my taxes back. If I spend it on peaches, hotdogs or meth is irrelevant. Some of it may be your money, but some of your welfare is my money.

A perfect system? lol no… but it’s what it is. Thats just my view anyway.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@josie Like I said, how did Uncle Sam not earn it by defending you? You didn’t actually answer that. I think saying he spends it instead of earns it doesn’t hold more water than saying that a small business owner didn’t earn their money because they spent all this money on supplies, like the product they sell and the fax machine and the toner and the printer paper and some pens and…

And if you don’t have the same questions about all forms of public assistance (meaning you apply this standard unevenly) then it’s really hard to feel like this isn’t coming from a place of elitism (and considering the disproportionate amount of minorities/“minorities” in that tax bracket, maybe from somewhere else??)

JLeslie's avatar

@josie I’m curious, do you think people who fail the drug test, or know they have to take the test would straighten themselves out to get the money? I am not saying one way or the other, just wondering. Was your assumption that many people on welfare or some sort of public assistance do abuse drugs? Is your opinion different now that we have seen in FL it is a small percentage of people who test positive?

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Blackberry we already do that with guns. If you receive section 8 housing, you can be evicted if you have a gun, even a legally owned and stored gun, on the premises.

Blackberry's avatar

@WestRiverrat Doesn’t seem right, but ok.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Another reason why welfare recipiants should not be tested for drugs, lots of them are actually on drugs. When you take a junkies money away they don’t take it as a sign that they should quit, they take it as a need to get more money. They will either get it by stealing or selling drugs, or some other way that does not benefit anyone.

19 million Americans are estimated to have done weed by the time they are 12 (according to some online statistic). There must be 100 million users or more once you take all drugs in to consideration. Cutting off their money would lead to some form of appocalypse.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@poisonedantidote Welfare recipient =/= junkie.

syz's avatar

Isn’t it funny how so many assume that people living on assistance are drug users. The only drug users that I have known in high school, in college, and as an adult have been relatively wealthy (compared to me, at least).

I’m not saying that the poor don’t do drugs, not by any means. But it does seem like this cry for testing is targeting the weakest, less able portion of the population and ignoring the rest. Seems kind of hypocritical to me.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@Aethelflaed I’m aware of that, however the statistics of it would still back me up. Just because you are on welfare does not mean you are a junkie, but regardless of that lots of welfare recipients are still drug users. I have claimed welfare in the past, I like the system and am the kind of person who tries to not make generalizations.

We have to recognize though, a large part of the population is on drugs, and part of them are on welfare. The ven diagram would show some overlap, so I think my point still stands (assuming you was even trying to counter it)

Aethelflaed's avatar

@poisonedantidote Really? Because the statistics seem to show that a lower amount of the welfare-receiving population uses drugs (only 2%) than the rest of the population. So… what are your statistics that would back you up?

syz's avatar

# According to a 1996 study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, differences between the proportion of welfare and non-welfare recipients using illegal drugs are statistically insignificant.[2]
# Before the Michigan policy was halted, only 10% of recipients tested positive for illicit drugs. Only 3% tested positive for hard drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines[3] – rates that are in line with the drug use rates of the general population.[4]
# Seventy percent of all illicit drug users (and presumably a much higher percentage of alcohol users), ages 18–49, are employed full-time

* The average cost of a drug test is about $42 per person tested,[8] not including the costs of hiring personnel to administer the tests, to ensure confidentiality of results and to run confirmatory tests to guard against false positives resulting from passive drug exposure, cross-identification with legal, prescription drugs such as codeine and legal substances such as poppy seeds.
* Another way to measure the cost is by counting what it costs to “catch” each drug user. Drug testing is not used by many private employers because of the exorbitant cost of catching each person who tests positive. One electronics manufacturer, for example, estimated that the cost of finding each person who tested positive was $20,000, since after testing 10,000 employees, only 49 tested positive. A congressional committee also estimated that the cost of each positive drug test of government employees was $77,000, because the positive rate was only 0.5%.[9]


poisonedantidote's avatar

@Aethelflaed Debate over, you win.

However, 2% is still 2%, lets not test them anyway, as my point about drug users getting money by stealing would still apply to these 2%, and that would still mean an increase in crime.

Edit: 30 million people on welfare, 2% of that is still “a lot of people”. I Would not like having them all show up at my place for dinner at the same time.

syz's avatar

If out of 1000 tests only 2%, or 20 people failed, then given the average $30 cost of testing then the state is looking at upwards of $28,800 in monthly reimbursements. At this rate, the money potentially saved on rejected applicants, after paying for all the passed tests, will add up to somewhere between $40,000 to $100,000 a year. This is a truly pitiful chunk out of a program that will cost roughly $178 million this fiscal year. Add in all the other costs related to the implementation of this program and the state will actually be spending much more money than it saves. And the price for Florida won’t end there; we also need to take into account all of the legal fees Florida will need to pay to defend this law in court as groups like the ACLU seek to declare it unconstitutional.


tom_g's avatar

I’d just like to add that knowing the ACLU is out there fighting these fights allows me to sleep at night. Oh, and they get my money too.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@poisonedantidote This coming from someone who declares that he “smokes pot like he breathes air”. Methinks you might want to take a judgmental step back. And, of course, none of them are showing up at your house for dinner unless you personally invite them…

jca's avatar

I know I had to take a drug test in order to get my job, so…....

tom_g's avatar

@Aethelflaed – I think you may be misinterpreting @poisonedantidote‘s point. I believe he is arguing in opposition to the drug testing because cutting off the drug user’s “welfare” money will require that he steal more in order to keep up the habit.

Unfortunately, @poisonedantidote‘s argument isn’t supported by the statistics on drug use, and is hardly relevant to this discussion.

tom_g's avatar

@jca“so…” The suspense is killing me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@tom_g Ah. Yes, I guess I was. Thanks for pointing out my error.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca Aren’t you a teacher? Or, am I confusing you with someone else?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I had to take a drug test if I wanted to be considered for the job I have now and also the last ones, as far back as 2004.

tom_g's avatar

@Neizvestnaya – Let’s keep this on topic.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@tom_g: And the topic is, what’s wrong with asking people collecting public assistance to take a drug test before they dip into the funds working folks have contributed to, many many of us who take drug test in order to get a crack at making our living.

What’s good enough and required of me to contribute, I’ve no problem asking of those who are taking.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Neizvestnaya Did you have to pay for the drug test yourself?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Aethelflaed: I think only once but it was told to me up front the cost would be reimbursed if I was hired.

tom_g's avatar

1. Some jobs require drug tests because it is too risky.
2. Some jobs require drug tests because they want to and can.

I would never apply for a job that required a drug test because I’m a software developer, and I’m opposed to drug testing. Again, not sure how this applies.

If you are arguing that the following people should all be drug tested, then at least you would be consistent:
– people receiving medicare
– people receiving unemployment
– all public employees
– all private employees who work for a company that receives public funding at any level
– all parents of children who attend public school
– all citizens who receive public services, such as police and fire
– all citizens who use public roadways

I guess the question is: why focus on this one group?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I understand companies doing it (paid by them, not the potential employee) when they are going to be working with children or heavy machinery (though, I also think there should be certain provisions – for example, just because you smoke pot doesn’t mean you do it on the job, but it still stays in your system, and that kind of thing). But for selling shirts and other retail? Making sandwiches? That’s because they can, and I hate it. I don’t think “it happened to me, so why shouldn’t it happen to you” is a very good argument. It tends to lend itself to things like “my father beat me, so why shouldn’t I beat my child” and “bloodletting was good enough for my generation, so why do you kids need this penicillin stuff?”. We try to be better than things have been for others.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Aethelflaed: I’ve worked in car dealerships for the past decade. I don’t go anywhere near heavy machinery but that’s not what the companies are worried about. They don’t want people under the influence for several reasons:

people on drugs are more tardy/absent.

people on drugs have lower performance standards.

people on drugs make more errors of task and/or judgement.

people on drugs have more insurance claims.

people on drugs quit more often than others and so training is more often and training costs.

people on drugs compromise the integrity of a company’s public image, the morale of fellow employees and can affect the end product.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Neizvestnaya Yeah, I’d like to see the data on that. People who are addicted is one thing, people who lit up a joint at a concert or occasionally find shrooms a fun way to spend a Saturday night? Less so, and drug tests don’t differentiate between the two. Nor is it like people who don’t take drugs don’t often have those same problems (and don’t get me started on alcohol and it’s accepted downfalls).

Blondesjon's avatar

I don’t care if it’s for welfare recipients, employment requirements, or any other reason under the sun. I believe if I have to piss in a cup then everyone, top to bottom, should have to piss in a cup. Let’s see how that all shakes out.

@Neizvestnaya . . . that is the biggest reagan era, just say no list of anti-drug propaganda bullshit i have read in a long time. maybe administering a fucking competency test for pre employment would be more effective.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Aethelflaed: These have been the topics and such from various HR departments over the years. They don’t make up rules unless it has to do with productivity and money. Making more productivity and money is their art.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Neizvestnaya In my experience, HR is filled with humans, humans who err and make up stupid rules. I don’t think just because someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea it definitely is. If that were true, there wouldn’t be such vigorous debate over various policies within HR.

Joker94's avatar

Dunno. I thought it was a pretty solid idea.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think they should have to because welfare is suppose to be a temporary solution, used when someone is at a low point, and it’s suppose to stop when they are working and providing for themselves again. Considering a lot of companies do drug testing now for jobs, how could a welfare recipient that tests positive for drugs hope to pass a test to get a job?

Yes, addictions are hard and those people may require help, but there are other programs available for people with addictions (like disability). Last time I heard, addictions could be considered disabilities, so the person with a true drug addiction could get the proper help needed if they wanted it.

wundayatta's avatar

I think this is an excellent principle. Let’s start with the President and Congress and work our way through every soldier and bureaucrat and contractor (such as Halliburton) who takes a government contract and force everyone to take drug tests. Anyone who fails to pass it doesn’t get paid.

And hell. Why stop with the public sector? Why not force every man, woman and child in the nation to take a drug test every week, just to make sure. Wait. Hold on a second. Gotta see my broker…

Ok. Go ahead. Just bought as much stock in the drug testing companies as I could afford. You can pass that legislation now. Make sure you pass it, or you’ll be seeing me at your doorstep—crack pipe in hand.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seaofclouds I am pretty sure the people being the loudest about wanting this type of testing, don’t want to pay disability either.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Seaofclouds When you say addictions are a type of disability, do you mean that the psychology and/or medical community recognizes it as such, or that the government would recognize it as such and if you filled for SSI or SSDI and listed “cocaine addiction’ they would give you money?

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Aethelflaed The American Psychiatric Association recognizes addictions (drugs and alcohol) and has them listed in the DSM-IV. As far as SSDI goes, I’m not sure of the exact way they determine it, but I have known several people that were alcoholics that were on disability.

@marinelife That may be true, but for me personally, I view all of the programs separately. There is a big difference between someone on welfare who is able to work and doesn’t (due to not trying) and someone on SSDI who is unable to work because of their disability. I also look at Medicaid and Medicare differently. To me, the programs that are meant to be temporary to help the person get back on their feet, should really only be temporary. Instead we see people that remain on them for a long period of time and for some (not all), they seem to not want to do better for themselves.

rooeytoo's avatar

In the NT of Australia, the government held what was termed an intervention. Too many on welfare were indeed spending their money on alcohol and drugs. The children were starving. So a credit card, for lack of a better term, was issued to each welfare recipient. These cards could be used for food, clothing, gasoline. No cigs or alcohol. Only approved stores were allowed to accept the cards. Mostly the males complained mightily but the mothers and grandmas were happy, finally there was money to feed the kids. Even the dogs loved it because there was money for dog food. And domestic violence decreased because there was not the drunken battles.

I think that is a more practical approach. I will help anyone who needs help but I don’t want to buy anyone booze or drugs. Restricting what welfare money is used for is a positive action, it insures the children are fed.

Certainly not all on welfare are drunks or druggies and are using their payments to purchase the fundamentals of life so they would not care, such an intervention would not affect them. It would only affect those who are using the money badly.

Ron_C's avatar

In the U.S. welfare money has no restrictions but theoretically food stamps can only be used by the recipient. The food stamp program has changed from stamps to a credit card that can be used only to buy food. Soda, beer, and liquor cannot be purchased with the cards. There is no such restriction of welfare money.

I don’t like the idea of unnecessary drug tests. They are perfectly applicable for police, fireman, and heavy equipment operators. I see no reason why a store clerk or secretary should be tested for marijuana use. I can see testing welfare recipients when they apply for certain housing projects but otherwise a general test to get benefits is just part of the system that punishes poor people for being poor.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Sweet holy moly, I would say yes, but I am not sure how logical that would be, and it is certainly not very practical. What would happen if they tested positive for drugs? If they do not get aid, which as many have said, is feckless at best to start with, what will they do for money? Seek to rip me off? If they are not going to use that money for food, clothes, housing, etc, and it is all going to go up their nose, in a needle or up in smoke, does that make sense to give it to them. If they are made to seek treatment, is that paying money on top of paying money to them? A conundrum surely. The better way would have a culture where being inebriated would be seen about equal with serial killers and pedophiles then no kid would want to grow up associated with it and you won’t have to worry about many of the poor causing or worsening their plight because of addiction, or wasting the aid they get on such.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects ALL OF US from suspicion-less searches. The history on this is both interesting, lengthy, and nearly universally accepted by the generation who wrote it into the Constitution for a plethora of reasons. Although I would be perfectly safe in the event of such a privacy invasion, and I abhor the idea of supporting other people’s drug habits with our tax money, I am against suspicion-less searches for the same reasons that I support Civil Rights, including gay rights, although I am not of a minority group, nor am I gay. Eventually, every chronic drug abuser who persists over time will end up on a system computer.

In my state, this disqualifies them from receiving any state benefits for six months at which time they can allow themselves to be re-evaluated—including drug testing. If they fail again, they are disqualified for a further three years. To, this is reasonable and within the bounds of the Constitution.

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