There is just something about a person kicked back on a couch, stoned out of his mind, giggling away at Seinfeld reruns while stuffing his face with taxpayer-funded Cheetos that makes your blood boil.
If you are living off the government, your full-time occupation should be getting off the public dime, not doing bong hits with the baby sleeping in the next room.
So, it’s pretty easy to get behind the Warren County supervisors’ efforts to require citizens relying on public assistance to submit to random drug testing.
It’s easy to agree with Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley’s point that workers in the public and private sectors already must submit to these tests to keep their jobs.
It’s easy to agree that people collecting taxpayer-subsidized benefits be required to do the same.
And, it’s easy to concur with Bentley that people on public assistance who are misusing public money to get high instead of put food on the table should lose the privilege.
All of that sounds completely reasonable and an effort worth getting behind.
The reason we cannot back this idea, however, is because we don’t believe Bentley or a majority of the Warren County Board of Supervisors is looking at the big picture.
Here’s the underlying question: Just who are the “freeloaders,” as Bentley put it, that the supervisors are targeting? Are they people who take advantage of the most popular benefit programs such as Medicaid, unemployment and food stamps?
That only scratches the surface of the benefits offered under the gargantuan umbrella labeled “public assistance.” At last count, there were more than 1,800 so called “entitlement” programs at the federal level.
And that’s just the federal level.
According to an analysis of 2010 Census data by George Mason University, more than one in three Americans lived in households last year that received Medicaid, food stamps or some other means-based government assistance.
When Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are factored in, nearly half of the nation lives in a household that receives some kind of public assistance.
That’s more than 155 million Americans.
Are we going to drug test half of all Americans? Figuring a conservative rate of $20 per test and randomly testing all 155 million people twice a year, the cost for testing alone would be over $3 billion.
Not to mention the cost of administering the program.
So it begs the question: Where do we draw the line on who to test?
If Uncle Sam is going to require testing of those on Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, unemployment and Social Security, would you also require testing of people who use programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), housing assistance or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families?
That is 14 percent of the population in those three programs alone.
How about college students who receive Pell grants? How about those who get veteran’s or disability benefits? How about those who receive tax credits or farmers who receive agricultural assistance?
How about kids who receive free and reduced school lunches or seniors who receive heating assistance?
Where does it end?
I doubt even the supervisors themselves would be immune from testing if all those variables were factored in — certainly not if we were to include their extended families.
So, while the concept of testing welfare recipients to determine if taxpayer subsidies are being used as they were intended is a commendable one, the idea of drug and alcohol testing anyone who takes advantage of a public assistance program is not.
And, as we see it, you can’t segregate one group over another. The Constitution doesn’t allow it.
Perhaps a more laudable goal to get behind would be a nation of less entitlement. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol testing would have a negligible impact on that goal at best, while costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
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