Monday, October 24, 2011

Reason #51: Welfare for Everybody!

A month or so ago, I came a hair's breadth away from talking about a new law in Florida that requires all welfare applicants to pass a drug test. No one wants people using government assistance to buy drugs, certainly, but it still seemed stupid to me in a sort of indefinable way, and this blog is supposed to be about good things the government is doing, so I let it go.

In retrospect, it's much more clear to me why it's a stupid law, so the news that a federal judge has blocked the law in response to a lawsuit brought on by the ACLU gives me cause to finally bring it up.

First of all, not only has no one proven that implementation of the law actually saves money, but some figures (I would link to something but this was something I saw weeks ago and I forget where) suggest that the cost of implementing that many drug tests--applicants pay the $35/40 fee themselves but are reimbursed if they pass--far outweighs the money saved by denying benefits to the 2% or so who test positive.

Secondly, I know a lot of people hear "ACLU" and want to kill the discussion right there, so I should point out that the suit was brought by an ex-Navy single father who wanted the money so he could finish his degree. What really brought me around on this one wasn't the fiscal questions, it was the notion that this guy shouldn't be allowed to get high once in a while if he wants to.

Maybe weed isn't the best possible use of one's welfare benefits, and maybe there are other people with serious addictions that would genuinely abuse the system given the opportunity, but unless we want to have a conversation about policing all of welfare recipients' spending habits--beer? Movie tickets? Candy bars?--I see no fair reason to single drugs out.

And if it doesn't really save the government money anyway, why even waste our time having the conversation?

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