Saturday, June 19, 2010

Drug Testing and Welfare

I was pleased to learn that Senator Orrin Hatch plans to introduce legislation to administer drug tests to persons on public assistance. This is a concept I've advocated and written to you about for years.

It is obvious that the way we've fought the war on drugs for the past several decades has not worked. Our approach has largely been to attack the supply side. This approach has made the occupation of producing, distributing, and selling drugs extremely profitable. That profit motive has driven most of the the nation's violent crime. Our drug-trade violence carries over into other nations, such as Mexico.

I am convinced we must attack drug demand through continued education coupled with frequent drug and alcohol testing of the people most at risk for drug abuse: Those who receive
• Worker's compensation,
• Unemployment compensation,
• Earned-income tax credits,
• Government-guaranteed student loans, and
• Unearned government benefits such as Medicaid and Food Stamps.

Those who test positive for drug or alcohol abuse must successfully undergo competent treatment in order to continue to receive any form public assistance.

Drug and alcohol abuse is a major factor in broken families and I suggest that couple that apply for divorce also undergo drug and alcohol testing and treatment before a divorce is finalized.

Some drugs are relatively benign (ie marijuana) and I believe the federal government needs to seriously consider legalizing them for distribution similar to the way we distribute alcohol and tobacco. A tax on these drugs would help fund the rehabilitation program and testing. However, testing positive to these legalized drugs or to alcohol abuse would still be a disqualification for government assistance unless the person undergoes successful treatment.

Many other drugs, like alcohol, steal the soul. The people who get into the really nasty drugs such as meth desperately need help. Identifying abusers though testing of those receiving assistance will improve the odds that they will get the treatment they need to get out of the taxpayer's wallet and become productive citizens. That personal independence and productivity is the most important objective in this testing. Secondary benefits will include reduced violent crime, reductions in the cost of caring for non-productive people, and stronger families.

Even where not required by law, many employers drug-test their employees because they know that it is good for the bottom line. So it is with government programs for those on assistance.

I suggest that Congress set the example by regularly drug-testing all congressmen and their staff. Congress demands drug and alcohol testing of servicemen, government employees, and employees in certain occupations such as pilots. Are the responsibilities of a congressman or his staff so much less demanding that drug testing is unnecessary? I am convinced that much of the nation's political problems stem from the strong likelihood that many congressmen have lost their soul (as described above) either to abused drugs or to prescribed drugs that suppress the moral compass.

We probably ought to test all voters on election day, too. That might be all it takes to purge Congress of all those who are legislating while impaired.

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