This week, since I'm on my annual Christmas vacation, I've been posting "The Best of Biblical Conservatism" with selections from 2011's ten most popular posts. Today's was originally posted on June 7, 2011.
Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into a law a bill that requires drug tests for welfare recipients. Unexpectedly as the bad employment report last week (so completely expected) the Democratic Party is flipping its lid over this law. They’re bringing up the issue of medical marijuana use, which is rather preposterous, actually, and if they haven’t claimed racism yet, you can bet they will (because no white people use drugs, apparently).
Their only reasonable claim is that this law is unconstitutional because it is forcing people to take a drug test without probable cause (a supposed violation of the 4th Amendment). This may sound plausible at first, until you understand the Constitution better. First and foremost, the Constitution provided against unlawful search and seizure in terms of accusing someone of a crime, not as it pertains to receipt of public money in benefits (considering the Founders never intended the government to handle those situations anyway). Secondly, many, many jobs require a person to pass a drug test as a condition of hire.
I’m guessing most of you have had to take a drug test as a condition of employment. I have, and it was not a problem, since I do not use any illegal drugs. These tests are actually quite precise. I remember my father taking one such test a few years ago upon hire for a new position as an executive with a distributor of swimming pool products. The test did come up clean for illegal drugs, as expected, because like me, my Dad doesn’t use illegal drugs. What did register, however, was a blood alcohol content of .0001, as a consequence of him having consumed one glass of beer the night before. I tell you that story because I want to make clear how completely precise these tests truly are. (For the record, that test result did not affect my father’s employment, as the lab explained the reason for the phenomenon as consumption of one drink 12 hours previous to the test.)
Here’s the point: Those who are employed are receiving other people’s money in exchange for performing some sort of physical or intellectual labor (that is the simple definition of a job) and THEY are frequently asked to take a drug test as a condition of employment. Those receiving public assistance are receiving other people’s money WITHOUT performing some sort of physical or intellectual labor (aka free money) so why shouldn’t they be required to prove that they are not using drugs?
While you consider that, consider this: The cost of the most prevalent (and most recreational) of illegal drugs, marijuana, is quite high. One must assume (since I don’t have a legitimate source to say with certainty) is significantly above that of legal drugs like nicotine and alcohol, since black market products always account for the risk of sale in the price. So let’s say somebody is spending $100 each month to maintain their habit, a relatively low number. As a single adult, I can say for a fact that I could buy food for one month on that amount. I would have to get rid of a few items in my diet like fresh ground, whole-bean coffee to achieve that, but that’s all I’d have to cut out is the little extras to reduce my food budget to $100 per month.
For the record, my personal budget for groceries monthly is $150. (For the record, that’s my own money from the paycheck I earn at my job. I don’t receive public assistance of any kind.) Also, for the record, I don’t eat Ramen Noodles and Kraft Mac and Cheese daily. I cook real, balanced, meat and potatoes meals for that amount. So a person who is receiving food stamps and spending $100 per month on marijuana could very easily receive $100 per month less of taxpayer money rather than fund their habit.
I was once given a $100 gift card to Hess at work as a gift. My immediate mental reaction was “I can now spend $100 from my budget this month on something else.” That’s the obvious reaction in such a situation. I had money to buy gas budgeted from my paycheck, I now had $100 in gas given to me, so I was able to spend that money on something else. The difference in this situation is the money I would have been spending on gas was coming from my paycheck. Also, the aforementioned gift card was given to me as a thank you for helping my company achieve a major goal. It wasn’t given to me out of taxpayer wallets as a benefit to pay for me not working.
I know what some people are going to ask: based on this logic, we should be able to restrict those receiving benefits from buying cigarettes, beer, fast food, candy bars, Twizzlers, soda, etc. For the record, I do want certain food restricted from being purchased with food stamps, like candy and soda. That being said, I do recognize that such regulations can become a slippery slope and lead to a nanny state. My response is that a line must be drawn somewhere, and a pretty reasonable line to draw is the law. Whether or not you think marijuana ought to be legal, it is currently illegal. If you want to have a separate discussion on whether or not it ought to be legalized, that’s fine, but for the moment, it is illegal to possess and to sell.
Bottom line: Nobody is forced to accept public assistance. Believe it or not, there are other options besides government, like private charities, to help with need for food or other necessities. The difference is these groups actually give those in need food, not vouchers/debit cards which can buy any edible item at the supermarket that isn’t beer. Yes, programs like food stamps are only to be used on food (hypothetically), but by giving someone vouchers etc to buy something they were already going to purchase, they now can use the money they were going to spend on food on whatever they wish. Giving people food, and the necessary stigma behind accepting charity, generally causes people to spend their money on food before accepting said charity. This law would stop individuals from using that money on purchasing an illegal product. And since it’s my money being spent, I’m all for it.