When I saw the headline for this Huff-Po post, it caught my eye:
Welfare Drug Testing Bill Withdrawn After Amended To Include Testing Lawmakers
However, as with far too many of the stories over there, the title was designed to attract, and in the process, mislead the reader. The headline is accurate, but doesn’t tell the whole story. The bill was indeed withdrawn, but it was withdrawn because the author of the bill felt it would not stand Constitutional scrutiny with the amendment. He plans to re-introduce it next week re-written to include lawmakers in a form that will pass the Constitutional test.
Now, many have problems with requiring “welfare” recipients to submit to drug screening. And to be sure, there are plenty of reasons to be wary, particularly the right’s apparent desire to keep poor folks poor and rich folks rich. But I also see some reasoning that makes sense. For example, most unemployment insurance programs require the recipient to be able to accept work and be unable to find work. Since most employers now require some type of drug screening, having drugs in your system makes you unavailable to work for those employers. I think it would be reasonable to withhold unemployment benefits from those who choose to use drugs while looking for work. Clean drug test? Full benefits. But benefits that are not cash-based, like food stamps/assistance, make no sense to withhold. They can’t use the food assistance debit cards for drugs or booze – at least not directly. Health insurance? A grey area. Give them assistance in quitting the drugs first.
But the real key here is that we should be requiring legislators to abide by the same rules and laws the rest of us do. You want to pass a law that says you can’t receive benefits if you don’t pass a drug test? Then the same goes for lawmakers. You want to reduce healthcare benefits paid for by the state? Reduce yours first.
It’s a fairly simple idea. They shouldn’t receive any benefits that aren’t available to the taxpayers that pay their salary. If they want better healthcare, make it better for those who they represent. If they want pensions, make sure their constituents also have them.
“What’s good for the goose” is how the old saying goes. There’s a lot of truth to it.