“One of the consequences of such notions as “entitlements” is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.”~Thomas Sowell
Florida is the first state to pass a law requiring those receiving state benefits to submit to drug testing. Florida Governor Rick Scott told CNN that the law was passed to provide personal accountability of those who would receive public assistance. Governor Scott believes that taxpayers should not be subsidizing the illegal drug use of those who are on the public dole. Under this law, those seeking to receive aid would be responsible to bear the up-front cost for drug testing, but the law provides for reimbursement.
And as predictably as could be anticipated, the rank-and-file liberal establishment lined right up to fight and advocate for status quo unaccountability. The perjuring impeached former Federal Judge and current State Representative Alcee Hastings made a whole bunch of noise about this bill being, “downright unconstitutional.” There is somebody we should listen to.
The ACLU does what it usually does and filed a suit to block the law. Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida told CNN, “What (the Governor) is doing is giving ugly legitimacy to an unfortunate stereotype that has been in this country for a couple of decades – that all welfare recipients are a bunch of drug abusers,” pure demagoguery…But okay…let us look at what Howie confabulates.
It is a fair statement to say that not all people on welfare use illegal drugs. Fact is, we don’t really know how many people on welfare use drugs. Nobody wants to talk about it for obvious political reasons. However, lets take a look at what the National Poverty Center says about drug use:
“Citing (April 2004) estimates of the extent of substance abuse among welfare recipients, the authors suggest that policymakers and analysts have likely overstated the contribution of substance dependence to welfare receipt. The authors note that while substance use, abuse, and dependence are barriers to self-sufficiency, so are poor education, lack of transportation, physical and mental health problems, and other difficulties that are more common than substance dependence among welfare recipients. The authors stress the need for comprehensive services to address the multiple barriers faced by the most disadvantaged welfare recipients.”
NPC steers clear of making any concrete determination by simply directing attention away from drug use, to the whole host of other problems endemic in the welfare community. Their underlying thesis is to modestly acknowledge drug use but redirect the focus away from it and advocate for a more broader expansion on services. In other words, “Taxpayers, don’t ask us for details, you simply must pay more…”
The NPC has a graphic on their website that would suggest only 21% of welfare recipients use illegal drugs. Lets accept that at face value for the sake of discussion. In the Granite state roughly 53,000 households or 112,000 people use food stamps. That is roughly 1% of the total state population. According to the Henry Kaiser Family foundation, New Hampshire’s per capita food stamp benefit is $121.21. That is $13,575,520. So according to the National poverty center, the Granite State pays a public benefit in the amount of $2,850,859 to people who use illegal drugs. And with our liberal friends that is just aye-okay.
So why the big logic disconnect? In March of 2005, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University released a comprehensive “white paper” documenting, “that parents who abuse alcohol or illicit drugs are 3 times more likely to abuse their children and 4 times likelier to neglect them than parents who do not abuse these substances.” That much we all know anyway. So what is all this crying about harming children if we make parents accountable for drug abuse while receiving public assistance? Is this a competing harms trick question? Which is more harmful? a drug-abusing parent who barters away food stamps for drugs? or taking away food stamps because the parent is using drugs? What about the DCYF and their quest to protect the precious children? How is it ignored that a parent who makes illegal drug use a higher priority than properly caring of their children?
I get the whole libertarian sentiment of it being, “None of the governments’ business what one puts into ones’ own body.” I also get that a number of productive high-functioning folks who use illegal drugs are otherwise stable and responsible parents. BUT WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THEM! We are talking about people who have socio-economic challenges that contribute to risk factors for drug abuse. When people ask the government to provide tax payer-funded subsistence, should they not be obligated to, in return, step up to the plate and be responsible? When does ones own drive to use drugs supercede his or her obligation to care for children?
Finally, we need a reality check here. There exists an “underground economy” within the welfare recipient community. There are pockets of those with lesser means and absent of financial resources; plagued by chronic underemployment, who undertake underground economics. Unlicensed “kitchen” hair salons, welfare fraud, unlicensed daycares, various “curbside” sales, “bill roulette”, auto repair and home tattoo artisans are just a few examples. The larger point is that there exists some significant degree of self-determination here. Food stamps are just such a currency; A commodity of monetary value to be bartered, traded and sold. Fraud knows no socio-economic barrier as Bernie Madoff proved and to game the system is human.
Testing Welfare recipients for drug use is neither hateful nor bigoted. It does not single out poor people or create an unreasonable expectation. Drug testing is a modest, fair and judicious request when asking a community to shell out assistance. While the New Hampshire legislature lost its political will when HB 484 came up for a vote, certainly, Florida will serve as a feasibility study to see how well this works.