If you’re collecting unemployment benefits, you’re not going to like this latest news. As reported by the Huffington Post, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced an amendment to the unemployment extension bill (HR 4213) that requires a drug test for those on unemployment benefits and other government cash assistance programs. Senator Hatch says “A lot of people are saying, ‘Hey, it’s about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?” And it appears Senator Hatch has the support of many Americans. According to a poll conducted by CBS News online, 65% of those who responded said that taxpayer money should not go to those spending money on drugs.
Hatch says a drug test for the unemployed and welfare recipients is an incentive for getting people off their addiction. Quit the drugs and you get your cash. Hatch says most employers drug test their employees before hiring them, so why not do the same for the unemployed? The argument may make sense, but would it actually work?
Drug testing the unemployed-The Pros
No money for drugs-Let’s face it. No one would want their tax dollars spent on funding a drug user’s habit. And rather than see this money go to someone who is not doing something positive with that cash, save it for someone who is legitimately trying to survive in a bad economy with their measly unemployment benefits?
Get help for drug addicts-If someone does test positive for drugs, Hatch’s amendment requires that person be enrolled in a treatment program. There is nothing good about being a drug addict, so maybe denying someone unemployment benefits and getting him or her drug treatment will be the wake up call needed to change a destructive lifestyle.
Drug test the unemployed-The Cons
Big Brother is watching-Is the government invading our privacy by suggesting a drug test for those on unemployment and public assistance? One of the best quotes I found regarding this argument comes from Matt Welch from Reason.com: “If you are at all dependent on the state, whether by choice or force, and you don’t have the good manners to be powerful, you will always stand the risk of being treated like a patient at a criminal asylum. It is as good a reason as any other to resist further encroachment of the government on our private lives.”
Who pays for this?-Senator Hatch says the money saved by not paying unemployment benefits would go to paying for the drug tests. So the cash is spent either way and no money would really be saved. In addition Harold Pollack, Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago has said after studying the issue of giving a drug test to those on public assistance: “population drug screening is unwise. The likely consequence is to stretch states’ already overburdened screening, assessment, and referral systems with large numbers of casual marijuana users.”
Orrin Hatch and the drug companies-If you think Senator Hatch is proposing this amendment to drug test the unemployed to help with America’s war on drugs, think again. As reported here on Associated Content, Hatch has numerous connections to pharmaceutical industries, which would indicate he has other motives for wanting a drug test for the unemployed.
Drug test the unemployed-What this author thinks
While I do not want to see any tax dollars go towards wasteful spending, I can’t help but see this amendment as discrimination and prejudice towards the unemployed. With the unemployment rate still close to 10% in America and one job for every 5 applicants, why treat the jobless as criminals and losers who are living off the government? The government should spend more time trying to get people off unemployment and into jobs and job training instead stereotyping the unemployed and playing politics with the unemployment insurance they have paid into.
Grim, Ryan Orrin Hatch: Drug Test the Unemployed, Huffington Post June 22, 2010
Montopoli, Brian Orrin Hatch Calls For Drug Testing Welfare Recipients, CBS News online, June 16, 2010
Relative, Saul 2010 Unemployment Extension Bill: Drug Test Amendment Orrin Hatch’s Payback?, Associated Content, June 21, 2010
Welch, Matt Orrin Hatch: Drug-test Welfare Recipients, Reason.com, June 16, 2010