by Chris Freind
Randomly testing all public workers is simply common sense
Random drug testing of welfare recipients and public workers is racist, discriminatory and blatantly unconstitutional.
And if believe any of that, you’re smoking something.
Once again, the drug testing issue is making headlines in Pennsylvania, as such a program is now underway. Unfortunately, because the Legislature dragged its feet (what else is new?), the current initiative is a scaled-down version of the original bill, and has been put into effect via an emergency budgetary order from the Governor. It only applies to welfare recipients who have been convicted of a felony in the last five years or are currently on parole or probation.
Too bad. It should include every single non-elected person receiving a paycheck courtesy of John Q. Taxpayer.
(The only officials who should be exempted from mandated drug testing are elected officials, though that position is sure to generate hoots and hollars from the cheap seats. The rationale is simple: they are elected by the people. They are not collecting government assistance checks, nor are they hired as civil service workers. True, much of what we see from elected officials leaves us wondering if they’re all on drugs. And yes, at first glance it seems hypocritical for lawmakers to enact laws that they themselves do not have to follow, but they are in the unique position of being employed directly by the people. What’s next? A State Rep fails the test and is stripped of his seat? Not practical, probably unconstitutional, and a very dangerous precedent. Would these elected office holders be smart to voluntarily take a drug test? Absolutely, because if they don’t, they’ll be unsuccessfully explaining themselves all the way to the ballot box.)
Remember the point of state-mandated drug testing: to ascertain whether someone receiving money --- given to them by hardworking Pennsylvania taxpayers --- is breaking the law by using those funds on illegal drugs. It is not to put people behind bars, but to ensure that they are clean and not abusing taxpayer dollars.
Proof that this is not a conspiratorial police-state tactic designed to incarcerate the state’s drug users, but a program to simply ensure responsible stewardship of the people’s money?
Consumption of drugs is not illegal. Manufacturing, distribution and possession of illicit narcotics is. And since having drugs in one’s system is not legally considered “possession,” no one failing a drug test would be arrested.
Taxpayers have an absolute right to know that their money isn’t going to welfare recipients’ drug habits. No one has a gun to his head to go on public assistance, just like no one forces people to work at a private sector company that mandates drug tests. It’s part of the deal--- take it or leave it.
Seemingly lost in the debate is that drug testing isn’t a discriminatory act against select individuals, but is increasingly common throughout all of society. Many companies require applicants to pass a drug test as a condition of employment, for obvious, common sense reasons. No business wants drug users on the job, as they would be high-risk, untrustworthy employees who would undoubtedly threaten not just productivity, but company stability.
It’s key to remember that public assistance is supposed to help the recipient and his/her family survive; it should never be used carelessly, especially for something illegal. Since drugs are illegal, if recipients can’t prove themselves to be clean, they should receive no benefits. It’s that simple. Public benefits are a privilege, not a right, just like driving or flying. If people choose not to abide by the rules, that’s fine. But it’s simply arrogant to think one is entitled to these benefits without any conditions.
Here are some of the more disingenuous arguments the pro-druggie side likes to use:
Argument: Welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.
Answer: Who cares? That’s completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the percentages are, although that claim is certainly suspect. The majority of the population isn’t directly receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. For those who are, drug testing should be the rule. Don’t like it? Fine. Get a job. And if you have a public sector job, be thankful you do and act responsibly to keep it. You work for the people. It’s their money.
Argument: Drug testing is expensive.
Answer: If the government starts operating like a business, and aggressively negotiates volume discounts with private testing companies, the price isn’t that high. This common sense expenditure would surely even pass Tea Party muster. By definition, Government must spend money, but should do so smartly and efficiently. The testing should be for all new applicants, and random testing of the entire public pool thereafter, somewhere in the five to ten percent range.
And financially and ethically, what is the cost of having taxpayers subsidize a crack addict’s drug habit?
Argument: The ACLU challenged the mandatory drug testing program as unconstitutional, arguing that drug testing of welfare recipients violates the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches, labeling it “intrusive.”
Answer: That’s insulting to every citizen NOT on the public dole. First, the anti-testing folks, including legislators and the ACLU, are not Supreme Court justices, so it’s not up to them to determine constitutionality. Second, odds are certainly favorable that given the makeup of both the state and U.S. Supreme Court, mandatory drug testing would be upheld. Welfare recipients arern’t being forced to do anything. They choose to apply for welfare. After that, they must abide by the conditions placed upon them in return for receiving public money.
Argument: Random drug testing is thinly-veiled racism, and an attempt to demonize public sector workers by lumping them into the (false) public perception that all welfare recipients are drug-using, inner city dregs of society.
Answer: I wouldn’t have believed these accusations could be made with a straight face, but that’s exactly what was thrown at me during two televised debates on this issue. Such weak arguments only serve to bolster what most people instinctively know: random drug testing of those receiving taxpayer money is sound policy that serves to weed out bad apples and preserve the integrity of “charitable” giving.
Given that a Democratic Senator, John Wozniak, is the prime sponsor of the Pennsylvania bill, and his Party loves to bill itself as the defender of the poor, minorities and public sector workers, those charges don’t stand up for a second.
They are so ridiculous on their face that they shouldn’t need rebutting, but it bears repeating: this issue has nothing to do with race (many on public assistance are White), and zero to do with demonizing public sector workers and unions (as many in the private sector are tested as well). It has everything to do with the reasonable expectation of taxpayers that their money be used for humanitarian purposes (public assistance) and an intelligent, stable and productive workforce (public sector employees).
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart ran a comedic segment, with one of its “reporters” interviewing the Florida legislator who sponsored a similar bill, and Rick Scott, the Sunshine State’s Governor who also championed the drug testing cause. Both men are right on the issue, but may have lost the PR battle, looking downright foolish at times. That’s a shame, because it’s communication miscues like those in that interview that sets the issue back in other states, giving credence to otherwise baseless arguments that should have been smoked from the get-go.
It’s not what you say, but how you say it. So in Pennsylvania, let’s say it loud and clear: “This is your paycheck (a lot of taxpayer money). And this is your paycheck on drugs: Absolutely nothing!”
Finally something worth inhaling.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com