Posted By Eric Ethington (Author) on March 30, 2012
Utah Policy’s Jordan Garn published a piece going after PRIDEinUtah for our commentary on the new law requiring drug tests for welfare recipients. Well, we here at PRIDEinUtah always love the debate, so let’s break it down.
First, let me say that I commend Jordan Garn for tackling this troubling issue. Too often in Utah we don’t get to hear all the arguments on any issue, so I appreciate his willingness to participate in the debate.
Jordan starts his piece by mocking our mention of the GOP’s widely-recognized War On The Poor, but he doesn’t actually provide any evidence to the contrary, so let’s leave that one alone.
Garn’s argument in favor of this law involves the idea that a law which requires welfare-recipients to undergo drug tests doesn’t indicate a pervasive assumption of guilt among this targeted group of people. Rather, he says, it provides a “safeguard [for] taxpayer money and serves to help people stay away from drugs.”
That’s a fair assumption if you examine the bill’s intent on a surface level, but it doesn’t hold up if you go any deeper.
First, if the intent of HB 155 is to safeguard taxpayer money (a worthwhile endeavor if you ask me), then the requisite of a drug test should be place on all recipients of taxpayer money, such as state employees, legislators, and the owners of businesses who receive government funds. This of course is not the case, so we find that the only targeted group of these forced drug tests are individuals who’s financial predicaments have forced them to use the welfare system temporarily to get back on their feet.
Any rational person would conclude that if you target only one specific group of people you are assuming that those people are more likely than others to perpetrate a crime. So obviously the effort is not to safeguard taxpayer funds, but rather to weed out supposed drug users from among welfare recipients.
Garn goes on in his article to describe HB 155 as providing “a path of recovery for drug users.” Now, I’m fully supportive of efforts to help people off of drugs, but unfortunately this is a rather flimsy description of HB 155. A responsible path to recovery would be to provide voluntary addiction-recovery programs for welfare recipients, providing them with the opportunity to help themselves out of the dangerous situations addiction can create.
Either Mr. Garn missed the entire point of my previous post, or (entirely possible) I didn’t do a good enough job communicating my feelings.
The issue of HB 155 is every American citizen’s right to privacy. Their right not to be targeted as a potential lawbreaker just because their financial status is not the same as others. A government forcing citizens to undergo drug tests violates our civil rights, no matter what reasons or rationalization it gives. And when they violate the rights of one of us, they violate the rights of all of us.