Should Welfare Applicants be Tested for Drug Use - TGV & Fox 26 Video Debate
by Bob Price on April 26, 2011 at 5:44 PM
The question - Should welfare applicants be tested for drug use prior to receiving benefits from the state? Damali Keith of Houston's Fox 26 News invited me and the Texas League of Young Voters director Christina Sanders to debate this question on a recent news show. It is an interesting topic for sure and one that is worthy of being addressed in this time of looking for ways to reduce government spending and stopping dependence on governmental support for basic subsistance. Following this video replay of the broadcast, I will address some other aspects of this question that were not raised in the limited time available for this debate.
The debate came about as a result of an NPR article titled "Should Welfare Recipients Get Drug Testing?" NPR's Allen Greenblatt discussed the Kansas Legislature's debate on this topic. Florida and West Virginia are also looking at this type of legislation. The NPR story says, "Critics of these bills say they're not just misguided but unconstitutional. It's already a given in most welfare programs that if a recipient is suspected of using drugs — because of current behavior or past history of abuse — he or she will be referred for treatment or screening." So... I guess no one on welfare is also on drugs then?
Before the newscast, I asked members of our Facebook audience to give me some input on this topic. While most members agreed with the topic of testing welfare applicants, some raised concerns about the big government aspect of this topic. Both from the standpoint of, "Should government be giving out welfare to begin with?" and "Would this type of testing be a violation of the 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seisure?"
I would certainly agree with questioning whether the government should be handing out welfare at all. Certainly there are times in people's lives where they need help, but I have always believed that help should come from family first and if not available from family, then from a philanthropic charity. Non-profits and churches are much more efficient at delivering assistance to the needy than is the government.
On the issue of the 4th Amendment, welfare is a voluntary program. As such, the giver of the benefit (the taxpaying American public) has a right to put restrictions on the eligibility to receive these benefits. As such, the applicant would, as part of the application process, consent to the search (drug testing) in order to receive the benefit. That consent therefore does not violate the 4th Amendment.
Christina Sanders of the Texas Young Voters League would most likely disagree with me on this as she did on the broadcast and I would invite her comments in response to this artice. I hope she can present a stronger case than comparing the Texas Governor's official residence to public assistance housing. Under her logic, that would make President Barrack Obama our nation's welfare-recipient-in-chief.
So, what do you think? Should Texas look at screening public assistance applicants for drugs? Do you want your tax dollars going to purchase illegal drugs? Does providing public assistance to drug users actually facilitate their drug habbit and prevent them from moving forward to being able to sustain themselves?
In a final comment, it was mentioned in the newscast that this assistance is temporary assistance. It is my prayer that this would be a true statement. We should measure our success in public assistance not by how many people we sign up for help, but rather, how many people we help earn their way off public assistance and on to being able to help themselves and their own families.