Ugly and Mean

Almost half the states are considering bills or other mandates that would make drug testing for welfare recipients mandatory. Wyoming Republican House Speaker Ed Buchanan summarized the argument and reflected the sentiments of those who favor the measure, “I don’t mind helping you out, but you need to show that you’re looking for work, or better yet that you’re employed, and that you’re drug and alcohol free.” It seems reasonable but of course it singles out those who need help, a test which may not pass constitutional muster. More than that it is a punitive, judgmental approach to giving public assistance, and penalizes the poor. Colorado Republican Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg says “If you can afford to buy drugs, and use drugs, you don’t need” welfare. It’s a good sound bite, even sounds rational, and yet it does not take into account the culture of drug users, and certainly shows no understanding of poverty. What of those who legitimately need help and are not users? They too would be tested. Could that be said to be a waste of taxpayers’ dollars? It may be too that in an effort to safeguard taxpayers’ money those laws may in the end cost far more in emergency services of all kinds. The laws will probably pass in most of the states that are proposing them and that does not make them any less ugly and mean.