I've followed with great interest the debate raging in Florida over the new law signed by Governor Rick Scott that mandates drug testing for welfare recipients. The ACLU is, of course, challenging this law because according to the ACLU welfare babies should get anything and everything they want without strings attached! They also make several strawman arguments in opposition to the law:
* “Welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population.” This isn't the point. If even ONE person is receiving public aid and using that aid to purchase drugs, it's one person too many. Taxpayer money should not go to financing destructive and irresponsible choices. The argument isn't that welfare recipients use more or less drugs, just that the state wants to ensure NO ONE does!
* “Science and medical experts overwhelmingly oppose the drug testing of welfare recipients.” So what! Science and medical experts aren't forking over the cash to pay for lazy ass freeloaders that want a free ride. This is public money and the public deserves to know that there money isn't being wasted.
* “Drug testing is expensive.” Not nearly as expensive as welfare! Florida spends over $11 billion per year on welfare alone! Nearly 2 million people receive welfare in the state, averaging $5500 per person. I think the state can afford to protect that investment with a minor $42 test (assuming that number is accurate, which I doubt). Removing just ONE druggy from the welfare roles pays for nearly 131 tests alone! So, in the end, testing will pay for itself if the ACLU is right. Using the ACLU's numbers, approximately 170,000 would pop positive for illicit drugs (citing ACLU's 10% figure). Removing those individuals from the welfare roles would save the state $935,000,000. The cost of testing EVERY recipient on welfare is $71.4 million, a total savings of over $863 million! Obviously, the ACLU flunked elementary math.
* “Mandatory drug testing is an ineffective means to uncover drug abuse.” They go on to state that a “questionnaire” is more likely to find druggies! Seriously! I'm not making that up. Just ask them, they'll be honest with you! This is so ignorant, I don't even think it really deserves an educated response.
* “Many states have rejected the random drug testing of welfare recipients as impractical and fiscally unjustifiable.” I've already gone over this, so the states can use my real numbers to see that this argument is mathematically flawed, to say the least.
* “Random drug testing of welfare recipients is likely unconstitutional under both the U.S. Constitution and some state constitutions.” I can't speak for most state constitutions, but I KNOW my U.S. Constitution and nothing in mandatory drug testing violates it. This is the one I want to spend the most time on.
The ACLU doesn't mention WHERE in the U.S. Constitution mandatory drug testing is forbidden. I'm assuming that the 4th amendment would be the one most likely cited. It reads:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This would be a constitutional issue if the state wanted to just randomly test any American. But, we're not talking about the state just testing anyone. We're talking about people who APPLY for welfare benefits or seek government jobs. By doing so, citizens voluntarily accept certain conditions that will apply if approved.
As a Soldier, I'm required to get drug tested whenever the military wants to test me. I can't claim 4th Amendment violations because I VOLUNTEERED for this job. No one forced me into the military, just like no one forces someone to work at Blockbuster where there is also mandatory drug testing. If I don't want to be drug tested, I can refuse and just be removed from the military. It's that simple.
Welfare recipients have the same choice. If they WANT welfare checks and privileges, the state of Florida has mandated that certain conditions be met, among those a drug-free lifestyle. The ACLU claims that requiring state employees to get drug tested is an overreach of executive power.
The ACLU is errantly claiming that the governor “is willing to use the power of government to intrude upon your rights in Florida.” There is no right to work, even though Florida is a “right to work” state. The “right to work” law deals with unions, not jobs. If there was an unfettered “right to work” no business would even be allowed to require applications. They'd just hire people because they have a right to be employed.
No one's rights are being trampled when people voluntarily seek public assistance. As long as they are told that in order to qualify for that assistance they have to pass an initial drug test and random drug tests as long as they receive that assistance, individuals make a conscious decision to accept that condition. They voluntarily surrender their rights in exchange for assistance, much the same way people do to get a job (like in the military).
A perfect example to sum up the difference for when mandatory drug testing is okay is the education system. I am adamantly opposed to mandatory drug testing in the school system. Why? Because my kids are basically forced to use it. If I choose not to send my kids to school, I get fined or charged. Since I'm forced to send my kids to public schools (unless I CHOOSE to pay for private school, which I can't afford), it would be a violation of my kids' civil rights to force them to be tested. The schools, however, have found a loophole. If a child wants to play extra-curricular sports or activities, they must submit to drug testing. So, naturally, my kids don't play sports at school. But, I would accept the condition of drug testing and waive those rights if I wanted my kids to play sports. It's no different with public assistance.