Via Matt Welch at Reason, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has proposed an amendment to the jobs bill requiring that recipients of unemployment insurance or welfare benefits get drug tested before they get their checks. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
People seeking unemployment benefits or welfare would have to first pass a drug test under a proposal Sen. Orrin Hatch will try to add to legislation extending the social safety net during this time of economic turmoil.
Hatch … said his idea would help battle drug addiction and could reduce the nation’s debt. He will try to get the Senate to include his amendment to a $140 billion bill extending tax breaks and social programs this week.
“This amendment is a way to help people get off of drugs to become productive and healthy members of society, while ensuring that valuable taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted,” he said after announcing his amendment. “Too many Americans are locked into a life of a dangerous dependency not only on drugs, but the federal assistance that serves to enable their addiction.”
Currently, about 4.4 million families receive assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. On top of that, 9.8 million people are receiving unemployment insurance in some form. Millions more get other kinds of aid. Granted, the federal government does plenty of drug testing already, but does it really want to process 15 million new urine samples? Plus pay for all the court cases the law would create? The Drug Policy Alliance notes that “a 2003 ruling by a federal appeals court that covers the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee ruled that states cannot drug test welfare recipients because it’s unconstitutional.”
Welch writes, “This is, alas, nothing new. In addition to social-welfare recipients, lawmakers have identified several other sub-classes of people ripe for being forced by the state to urinate on command, including (but not limited to) student athletes, kids who dare take part in other extra-curricular activities,” and others.