That question is back on the legislative table after more than a dozen states this year tried to push drug-testing bills for the jobless as a way to end the frivolous distribution of tax dollars being used for unemployment benefit programs. House Republicans passed a bill on Dec. 13, allowing states to drug test despite the fact that many believe it violates citizens' rights on top of being too costly.
Last year, the United States spent $160 billion on unemployment benefits. Under normal economic conditions, that's a staggering amount of money, and in the current fiscal crisis, I would argue that we simply cannot handle payouts of this magnitude. Personally, I'm tired of my hard-earned tax dollars being used to aid drug users and people who just don't want to work. Don't get me wrong, I'm not targeting everyone who is unemployed. However, if you are seeking government benefits or employment, you should know you are going to be asked to pee in a cup -- and pass. It seems to me that people tend to argue that drug-testing is a violation of their rights only when they have something to hide. It's akin to going to a bar -- only those patrons who aren't yet old enough to drink are seen throwing a fit about having to show ID.
While I am in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, the fact is its remains illegal until federal law says otherwise. If someone who is applying for welfare has enough money to buy pot, then they certainly don't need my tax dollars to help them pay for child care. If an applicant can't find a job or is denied unemployment benefits because they have been busted using hard drugs, including cocaine or heroin, then good! They should be turned away. Instead, we should use some of that $160 billion to pay for drug-counseling centers and educational programs. I wholly agree with Gov. Nikki Haley (R- South Carolina), who remarked that "We don't have an unemployment problem. We have an education and poverty problem."
Lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) disagree with this new bill. Reid, like so many politicians, is too far removed from the realities that plague the lives of working-class Americans. Reid claims he finds the bill "ridiculous." Funny, I find that statement ridiculous, considering he was laughed right out of the Capitol when he proposed shutting down legal brothels in 10 counties across Nevada, a move that would have pushed the economically-crippled state into a deeper financial crisis. Reid, so off the mark, went as far as to blame legal brothels for tarnishing Las Vegas' so-called image for high moral conduct. Seriously?
Drug testing isn't unconstitutional, but what should be unconstitutional is blowing tax dollars on assisting individuals who knowingly break the law -- criminals. Instead, we should allow those who are willing and able to pass a drug test get the financial assistance they need. My heart goes out to those hard-working Americans who have lost their jobs in the wake of this economic meltdown. This crisis has touched many people close to me, and I can assure you that none of them would refuse to take a standard drug test if it meant earning a wage again.
There are too many jobless Americans out there, many who still need, and deserve, a financial crutch to see them through. It is those people who should be entitled to our money. That's why it is time for us to start filtering out the greedy from the needy.
Follow Bethany St. James on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ClashRiotBeth