Welfare misuse and drugs

Welfare misuse and drugs

May 7th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

For years now, it has been common for employers to require drug tests of new employees and occasional random tests even of longtime workers.

The purpose of the tests should be obvious: Drug-using employees are likely to be less reliable and may wind up costing a company far more than their employment is worth. Businesses don't want to take that risk.

If that is a sensible and not especially controversial practice in the private sector, it would seem to make even more sense where recipients of government benefits are concerned. After all, government pays those benefits with money taken involuntarily from taxpayers. That makes careful stewardship of those dollars a moral imperative. There is plainly nothing moral about squandering benefits on people who are using or even addicted to illegal drugs.

And so it is entirely reasonable that Tennessee lawmakers have passed a bill linking welfare benefits to drug tests for recipients who are suspected of using marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines or opiates.

Florida has had success with a similar effort. The law directly prevented dozens of drug abusers from getting welfare benefits, and roughly 1,600 more were denied cash benefits when they applied for the money but refused to be tested. A few of those may simply have objected to the drug testing, but many undoubtedly knew the test would show they were drug abusers.

Encouragingly, the welfare rolls in Florida fell by more than one-tenth after the law was enacted there. Is that entire reduction due to the drug-testing law? Almost certainly not, but it would be silly to assume the law played little or no role.

Multigenerational dependence on welfare is a serious enough problem in the United States already. We should not add to that the subsidizing of the lifestyles of drug abusers. That does neither them nor taxpayers any good.