Monday, November 1, 2010

Want welfare? Pee in the cup.

Okay, here's one that looks new to me.  And it's an interesting idea.  But I'm not sure whether the author really thought the ramifications through.

TO PEE OR NOT TO PEE...              
I  have a job. 

I work, they pay me.

I  pay my taxes & the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit.

In order to get that paycheck, in my case, I am required to pass a random urine test (with which I have no problem).

What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test.
So, here is my question: Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare check because I have to pass one to earn it for them?

Please understand, I  have no problem with helping people get back on their feet.  I do, on the other hand, have a problem with helping someone sitting on their butt - doing drugs while I work.

Can you imagine how much money each state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check?
I guess we could call  the  program "URINE OR YOU'RE OUT"!

Pass this along if you agree or simply delete if you don't.  Hope you all will pass it along, though.
Something has to change in this country - AND  SOON!
P.S.  Just a thought, but all politicians should have to pass a urine test too!

On the surface, it seems pretty fair - most workplaces require their employees to take drug tests, why shouldn't welfare recipients?  But it doesn't really think itself through...

Why Does a Fast Food Cashier Need a Drug Test?
It seems like not too long ago, workplace drug testing was a pretty rare thing.  Generally, workplaces' interest in their employees' lifestyle has been pretty limited.  When someone comes to work regularly, does a good job, and doesn't create problems, it's bad business for a company to cause friction by creating rules about what they should and shouldn't do when they're off the clock.  Especially if it doesn't affect their work.

Now, if a fast food cashier comes to work intoxicated, yells at customers, and can't keep his cash drawer straight?  That would have been the time that the workplace intervened.  Until a few years ago.  Is it because workplaces suddenly decided to become good corporate citizens and help the government fight it's war on drugs?

Probably not.  There are some recent trends that have made drug testing a wise business decision.

I can't name them all, but probably one of the biggest drivers of this policy is the cost of providing healthcare. After all, one of the most expensive aspects of keeping an employee in the United States is the cost of their healthcare insurance.  Companies are always looking for ways to reduce their insurance costs.  Insurers, competing for companies' business, try to develop lower-cost products.

This forces healthcare companies to look for a way to reduce the expense of insuring a pool of employees.  When you've got a working-age population, one of the biggest expenses are the effects of drug use - either in providing drug treatment, treating "accidents" that occur under the influence, or the medical effects of their use.  So, they can offer workplaces a good deal - if the workplace provides a $75/per person drug screen, and decides not to hire folks who turn up positive, they have a lower risk pool.  It costs less to insure such a population, and the healthcare company can pass some of the savings to the employer.  It's a win/win situation for everyone.  Except for the folks who have trouble getting a job - but maybe they'll have more motivation to seek treatment?

Does this make sense in Welfare?
Now, let's look at this writer's statement, "Can you imagine how much money each state would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance check?"

Although it's good business for employers to avoid employing folks who have positive drug screens, government assistance programs don't have the luxury of being able to refuse "hiring" someone onto their rolls.  It's designed to be a safety-net program, in order to provide appropriate rehabilitative services and temporary support to folks who can't find employment.  Now, we can argue about how such programs can be made more effective, but few are arguing that we should abandon these programs altogether.  Including the author of this email.

Businesses can afford to drug-test their employees, because insurance savings outweigh the cost of testing.  Businesses have the option of refusing to hire - an action that costs them nearly nothing.  However, when the government has a welfare recipient with a positive drug screen, their options are pretty limited.  They could:
  • Call the prosecutors, and charge violators with the crimes they've committed.  Costing a lot of money.  And even more, if we send folks to jail.  And even more, when folks start asking the constitutional question of whether this is an illegal search.
  • Require substance users to go to substance abuse treatment in order to recieve further services.  This would require a huge expansion of our government's capacity to treat such folks, costing a lot of money.  Granted, the government might save a little of that money, initially, upon a minority of folks who would refuse treatment (and their welfare checks).  But most of these folks would probably start "surviving" by breaking the law.  And we'd end up paying that way again.  And, of course, some disgruntled folks will probably still make a consititutional claim that the government is carrying out illegal searches.
In short?  This "money-saver" will probably cost more money than it saves.  A lot more.
It might be worth it.  But I think that's where reasonable debate must begin.