Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Drug Testing (Corporate) Welfare Recipients

HB 1483, a bill that would require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to take written drug tests, recently passed the House 78-17.   Supposedly the written test is more than 94% accurate at predicting who is abusing drugs. (I don't buy that.)  People who flunk the written test then are subject to taking a regular drug test which could eventually lead to a loss of benefits if drug use is confirmed and continues despite counseling.

I am not fond of such tests.  They catch very few people, are incredibly expensive, and you have the problem of false positives which require additional testing.  In Florida only 3% of the welfare applicants failed the test.  

Supposedly the program will only cost Hoosiers $500,000 but save $1.5 million.  I think that's wildly optimistic. I'm fairly certain the figure doesn't take into effect the inevitable legal challenge.  As the government would be running the program, it is subject to the Fourth Amendment's Search and Seizure clause.   Requiring someone to take a drug test generally requires some sort of probable cause or, at the least, reasonable suspicion of drug use.  In Florida, a federal judge found the law unconstitutional.  I'm sure the inevitable legal challenge will cut into that projected $1 million savings.

But if we're going down that road, why not include all welfare, including corporate welfare? The maximum benefit payment from Indiana's TANF program for a family of four is $346 a month.  We hand out a lot more money in corporate welfare, after all, than we do poor people welfare.  An example is the Pacers.  Every year we give the team's owner, billionaire Herb Simon, $10 million to operate taxpayer owned Bankers Life Fieldhouse.  In return, the Pacers get 100% of the basketball and non-basketball revenue from the building and get to play at the Fieldhouse for free.  How many tens of millions of dollars is that subsidy worth?  It's a heck of a lot more than $346 a month.

How do we know corporate welfare recipients are not spending the money we give them on drugs?  Look at how much money the Colts gets from the state and City of Indianapolis.  Why not drug test Colts owner Jim Irsay?  Given his alleged history of prescription drug abuse that made the headlines a few years ago, those test results would be pretty interesting.  Why not test the board that runs the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is currently lobbying for a subsidy?  What about the nonprofits, entities like the Indiana Sports Corporation, Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., and the Arts Council of Indianapolis?  They regularly receive a big pile of our tax dollars so why shouldn't their board members be screened for drugs?   Or how about the for profits - those companies which receive subsidies or tax breaks from the City of Indianapolis or State of Indiana to locate or continue operating in our community?  How do we know that their CEOs and board members are not using our tax dollars to buy illegal drugs?

By including corporate welfare, the drug testing program would go from almost certain failure to almost certain success.  I guarantee you we would have catch a lot more drug users than 3% and save a lot more than $1.5 million. Of course that's not going to happen because the people who receive corporate welfare receive it because they have one thing that poor people do not have - political power.   They will make certain that this law that would apply to poor people never gets applied to them.


Sheila Kennedy said...

Paul--We must be on the same wavelength today!

Paul K. Ogden said...

Yeah, I just saw that. Hmmm, if Sheila agrees with me then maybe I'm wrong then.... Ha, ha.

Nicolas Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolas Martin said...

I'm opposed to all government welfare plans. That said, drug testing recipients is an idea as bad as disallowing illegal aliens obtaining drivers licenses. What is the unintended consequence of pushing these people off welfare while their preferred drugs are illegal? They will commit more crimes to obtain money for food. More crimes, more people in prison.

The effects of the lousy and ineffective drug war continue to expand and corrode the quality of life in the country.

Flogger said...

I would like to have all our State Legislators take the ISTEP Graduation Qualifying Exam. If they do not pass they should have resign.

I wonder how many would left???

Unknown said...

This is the first time I heard about written drug testing. Is it really a reliable way to determine who abuses druggs? I mean, the answers can be answered dishonestly if the examinee wants to.