A few days ago I aired my frustration towards Florida Governor Rick Scott on Facebook. My status stated: “Requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug testing is yet another method being used by the GOP to increase social surveillance in low-income communities. This is nothing but a ploy by Governor Rick Scott to add more customers to his drug-testing company Solantic.This blatantly violates the Constitution. Rick Scott has declared a war on working class people! It is time to fight back!”
Context: Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill on May 31, 2011 that requires benefit recipients to undergo drug testing.
Applicants for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program who test positive for illicit substances won’t be eligible for the funds for a year, or until they undergo treatment.
Those who fail a second time would be banned from receiving the funds for three years.
“While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” Scott said. “This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”
If welfare candidates pass the drug screening, they’ll be reimbursed for the test.
The legislation instantly came under a barrage of criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and several of the Sunshine State’s Democrats. They argued the bill is an invasion of privacy.
The conversation that ensued following my status update was quite interesting to say the least. For the most part my FB friends had strong, and often polarizing opinions on this topic. Yet, what I found most interesting is that everyone who engaged in this debate was between the ages of 18-25 (a voting bloc often viewed as a politically apathetic and monolithic group). This conversation proved otherwise.
Person A: Why should people performing illegal tasks(doing drugs is criminal activity) be given governmental assistance? I’d much rather our government provide assistance to those clean!? Just an opinion.
Person B: I would agree with Person A, but the conflict of interest thing is a legitimate argument. Looking at Governor Scott’s lousy record, this is a likely motive. More importantly, it gives the wrong image that all individuals who apply for benefits are potential drug users.
Person A: I also agree with Person B. Very valid point. It does provide a bad image which is most certainly not fair at all. The overall aspect of testing I believe has a good motive to it. Hopefully….
Person B: The original point Person A made is also very good. I have family members on Section 8 and receive government benefits. Some of them are drug abusers, and their habits debilitates any chances of them actually finding work. Tax dollars going to waste on such individuals needs to stop.
It’s the method that it is done that is causing the problem Edward’s makes an incredible point about.
Person C: So you think that the Floridian taxpayer should be subsidising those who are on welfares drug use? Aso how does this violate the consitution?
Me: My biggest issue with this policy is that it implies that the Constitution doesn’t apply to poor people. In 2000 a United States District Court held that a Michigan law requiring “suspicionless drug testing” of all welfare recipients fell afoul of the fourth amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. If we really want to ensure that our tax dollars are not being mishandled why not drug test all elected officials? After all, our taxes pay their salaries and in many cases their glamorous lifestyles. My issue is not with the drug testing itself, it is with the stigma being attached to poor people and the underlying symbolism that paints them as the “user”.
Person C: But if they are not “users” then they should simply pass, Couldnt this also motivate some drug users to get clean and better thier lives? Also I agree 100% all those recieving government salaries should have to submit to drug tests as is the case in many private companies
Person D: Ed, Rick Scott wants to buy dirty urine? Tell him to hit me up!
Although the conversation shows that am I against this measure, I do believe that it more importantly illustrates that youth are not disengaged, and do care no matter what side of the political fence they sit on.