There has been a lot of talk recently regarding drug testing for welfare recipients, and whether this would be a valuable way of reducing our social welfare costs, while also ensuring that those who are on welfare won’t be using the money on drugs.
With the current spending on welfare believed to be in the region of $888 billion in 2010, most would agree that this is a decent proposal. Plus the fact that many employers are now implementing drug testing for their employees, then why should the unemployed not face similar circumstances before receiving their benefits?
However, considering that Arkansas recently saw a bill to implement drug testing for welfare recipients fail, what are the other sides of argument? Why did this bill fail, and what are the negative consequences of such legislation?
It seems the primary argument is that suspicion-less drug testing goes against the constitution – at a basic level, it is an unreasonable search and invasion of privacy. The second issue regards the costs: with each test likely to cost in the region of $30 – $75, those against drug testing for welfare recipients question whether we would, in fact, be reducing the budget at all. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that for every individual user discovered, the state’s expenses would be $20,000 or more. Finally, what effect could this have on the families whose benefits will be taken away? Perhaps a father tests positive, should it be on the governments conscience that his children therefore go without food?
All are difficult issues, and all are currently being debated in more than a dozen states. The outcome has already been decided in Michigan and Kentucky in recent times, when such legislation has failed. This seemingly sets a precedent, but it will be interesting to keep an eye on these bills nonetheless.