A Florida law has gone into effect that requires adults applying for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to undergo drug tests before getting the benefits, according to an article on CNN.com. The state’s Department of Family and Children’s Services would be required to conduct the tests.
This story reminds me of a Twitter conversation I recently had with a friend, who is highly in favor of such laws. He also said he would support those who receive unemployment benefits to undergo mandatory drug testing and be required to volunteer at not-for-profit organizations.
For me, I can’t reconcile the reasoning behind punishing everyone just because a few bad apples have left a sour taste in the mouths of policy makers and social conservatives. Furthermore, I am dumbfounded the state would put the following stipulation on recipients:
The aid recipients would be responsible for the cost of the screening, which they would recoup in their assistance if they qualify. Those who fail the required drug testing may designate another individual to receive the benefits on behalf of their children.
So let me get this straight: the government would mandate ordinary citizens to undergo routine drug testing to get public assistance, but the citizens would have to pay for it. So, a single mother who lost her job would be required to pay for a drug test because the government automatically believes she most likely a drug addict?
While people who hide behind the idea that these requirements would save the government money, it’s clear supporters of laws like these are out to punish the undesirables in society–The Others they believe who are ruining the capitalist fabric of the American economy.
These laws are inherently discriminatory against a certain group of people who do not fit into the racial, economic, social and moral box mainstream American has created to distinguish itself from The Others. In their minds, any American receiving or applying for public assistance is inherently lazy and are a threat to the American ideals of picking yourself up by the bootstraps and fighting tooth and nail to earn a decent living.
These laws subjugate ordinary Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures (which is unconstitutional by way of the 4th amendment for those who didn’t know) by requiring them to undergo drug testing without prior suspicion. Whether we like it or not, we can’t punish a group of people just because we believe they are more suspect to use drugs. Just like we can’t punish Muslims and Arabs by subjecting them to unjust searches and unfounded racial profiling because we believe they all are terrorists. Just like we can’t racially profile all black men because we believe they are violent drug dealers and gang members.
Laws such as these are directly aimed at creating yet another burden for the poor, women, minority and disabled to get the help they need to once again become self-sufficient. Since policy makers have no political balls to strip away away public safety nets, they instead make the process cumbersome by creating hurdles and bureaucratic red tape in order to deter people from using these available resources. These additional steps are designed to deter The Others from applying for the resources put into place to help people just like them.
The image of the Welfare Queen, riding around in a pink Cadillac, eating steak and filet mignon on the public’s dime with her several kids in tow has been seared into the minds of Americans as the prototypical public assistance recipient. Ronald Reagan did not innocently travel to Philadelphia, Mississippi, to rally social conservatives to rise up and proclaim the Welfare Queen (and the government) as the main source of this country’s problems.
That image has remained with policy makers and in Florida, and they have taken a stab at putting this Welfare Queen in her place. Florida’s law is telling the Welfare Queen and her friends they are no longer welcome to run up the government tab with their drug use, their extravagant spending and their refusal to embrace the American, capitalistic ideals of self-sufficiency and working for a living.