So, 12 states drug test welfare applicants for some or all programs; 10 more are contemplating enacting similar drug testing regimes. Tennessee is the latest ‘success story’ in this drive to ensure that welfare recipients aren’t getting help to eat or live while high: over a six-month period, they administered 16,000 drug tests of which 37 were positive.
Numbers like that fuel criticisms that these drug test regimes for welfare do little more than cost states more money than they save — although, I’d note, that the companies selling drug test kits and administering drug tests make a tidy profit. In fact, in Florida, Governor Rick Scott co-founded the company that administered the tests, had a financial interest in it, and ‘fixed’ his conflict of interest by MOVING HIS SHARES INTO A TRUST OWNED BY HIS WIFE. So maybe there *is* a financial benefit to this testing — if your friendly neighborhood governor is funneling the testing profits your way at the expense of the state.
That aside — and it’s not inconsiderable — there’s another issue.
Enough people are worried enough that some poor person might be using drugs on the public dime that they want drug testing to stop it from happening, even if it costs more than it saves. If that wasn’t the case, this idea wouldn’t be spreading — but it is spreading. A lot of people want this.
84% of companies require drug testing of applicants and/or employees. This is pitched as a public safety concern; this is often valid. Sure, I don’t want someone high operating a bulldozer. I don’t want someone drunk doing it either, but we don’t breathalyze employees when they show up to work, do we? In fact, at work, we expect employees to have supervisors. Companies expect that too, and they pay supervisors to supervise because they want employees working, and working safely — not goofing off. I’d expect a supervisor to be paying enough attention to tell if his or her subordinate working the bulldozer is drunk or high (and why are these two separate concepts? Alcohol is a drug. Someone who is drunk is high on the drug ethyl alcohol. But that’s a whole different post).
But let’s say it’s about public safety. Safety is also the reason members of the military are drug tested. Again, valid. Nobody wants a person on drugs handling the cruise missiles. Again, however, supervisors are a more immediate and effective method of identifying a chemically impaired person before they get their hands on a warhead.
Now, what is more important to our safety than our laws and government? Why exactly do we not drug test politicians who apply for a political position by running for office, and why do we not regularly and randomly drug test each and every politician, local, state, and federal?
These are the people who write our laws. They define how our entire society works. They shape commerce from the local to the international level. They define our foreign policy. They decide how our police operate, what rights we have, how those rights are defined, and what abrogates our rights. They decide who gets drug tested for safety…
…oh. There’s our answer. Politicians are not drug tested because they don’t want to be drug tested.
Now, what do we tell a job applicant to the local fast food joint who refuses to be drug tested? We assume he’s a drug addict and tell him he’s not getting a job.
Why don’t WE do that with our politicians?
If we’re going to test folks for drugs, let’s test the ones whose conduct affects every citizen in the country, and a number of noncitizens and foreign nationals as well. That sounds like a grassroots effort that would be worth our while.