Friday, January 05, 2007

Federal Government Drug Screens Welfare Recipients

Yes, actually I can easily imagine a big brother government handing out urine cups.

This posting was written in response to the following mailblast I recevied from a relative. Since the letter emanates from the CDC, then circulated all over the CDC, and then was forwarded to the non-government employee pulic, I can only presume CDC employees support this initative only to increase CDC budget demands thereby perpetuating their own version of welfare via a jobs program. Oops, the gloves came off. ;-)

From: Wes Ulrich
Sent: Wednesday, January 03, 2007 8:30 PM
To: Lou Ulrich; Steve Gosa; Gerald Honeycut; joe howard; DAVID HUFF; Chuck Barnwell; Aaron Blackwell; bonnie Bruce; Corey Cunningham; Fleming David; Jason Driggers; Garner, Jennifer (CDC/CCHP/NCBDDD); JEFF DUVALL
Subject: Just a thought

I have a job. I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the Government distributes my tax money as they see fit.

This person fails to see that if the government was not doing that, he would not have his job to pay taxes on to begin with!

In order to hold my job I have to take a random urine drug test. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people that don't have to pass a urine drug test to get welfare or other public assistance.
If I have to pass a urine drug test to keep my job, shouldn't one have to pass a urine drug test to get public assistance? Please understand I do not have a problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do have a problem with helping people sit on their butt and do nothing.
Can you imagine the money the government would save if the people had to pass a urine drug test to get a public assistance or welfare check?

From a legal perspective, an employer's drug testing policy is based upon an "at will" model. In the absence of public lobbying or legislation to put a halt to drug screening, the existence of screening procedures is simply a voluntary requirement for work at a given company. Your decision to work for that company is VOLUNTARY, so your decision to undergo testing is also voluntary. The logic being that you could have possibly found a job where they do not screen. The reality is that MOST employers screen, so you really will not be able to find a job where they will not screen.

Personally, I view any form of proactive screening as an invasion of privacy. In Germany, for example, all of your personal data is sealed from any company, including marketers, credit cards, and the unsavory underworld of spammers. An "Opt-In" model, the public is protected by its own government against mining one's personal data and history. You are not even allowed to send mail to someone who has not requested to be contacted. Germans must feel that billboards and TV ads are sufficient to generate the promotional interest. Huge consequences exist for violators, including for the government itself.

Here, the public has been mostly silent, docile, and accepting of this practice which is essentially an "Opt-Out" model. The default status being you can be called, contacted, and spammed unless you proactively contact every possible source of data about you and inform them directly. For your convenience I have attached a legal letter for this purpose that almost always generates a call from the vendors who receive it. They also abide by it, which is the important bit. Logically, it follows that drug screening is also legally viewed as acceptable in the US. The basis for its legality stems from the idea that no one is forcing either party to enter into an agreement with one another.

It is quite another thing to allow the government to presume guilt and therefore enact screening protocols that can in effect to entrap all manner of other citizens in the very same net. If the ACLU would work on this sort of issue instead of dabbling in religious squabbles, I might actually respect them!

Habitual drug users have very good and affordable resources at their disposal to counter screening efforts. The drug abusers are pro's at skiving the tests. The tests are just a humiliating way for an employer to send a message to otherwise good employees. The unstated message being "Stay in step, obey the rules, we are watching you, and we can even check your fluids when we want to." How dehumanizing is that? Statistic research results do not support the argument that drug testing actually is effective in identifying habitual drug users and thereby preventing their hire. Testing is done so that if a company is sued related to the actions of an employee, they can demonstrate diligence to prevent such occurrences. At the end of the day, the tort lawyers do run the country.

The larger issue is just what does welfare really provide? Welfare in our country is a joke. I have been to the unemployment office. The placement services are weak at best. You get a fraction of your pay, and that for only a couple of months. An average middle manager who has been laid off takes, on average, 14 months to find another similar position.

There are those who can game the system and make some amount of money from graft, but one has to wonder why they bother. For if they are smart enough to do that, why not make more money gaming a more lucrative system? I guess there are more clever people than actually intelligent people.

When compared to other first world countries, our welfare system is about as bare bones, ruthless, and unforgiving as you can get. When traveling in Japan, and Europe, I heard Americans characterized as callous and irresponsible for allowing the deep poverty we all know exists here to persist. As a social experiment, I challenge anyone of you to try to live on the welfare equivalent income for two months. The mere thought seems impossible, so you get my point. It is not as if this is some gravy train to the good life.

France is a good example of what benefits our European counterparts enjoy. As a woman, you get 6 MONTHS paid leave for maternity. Try that in the US, and you would be fired by the third or fourth week. And we wonder why our kids show up at school with guns. French families get quality day care that EVERYONE uses, not just the so-called poor. You get access to a ton of classes for child rearing.

It is just a different culture than ours with very different societal values. They got bombed into oblivion during WWII. They have different way of dealing with things after that experience. For example on Dec 17th, 2006, a few tent manufacturers and the French government got together and provided tents to every single sans abri (homeless) person. Now when you walk down the Seine, you see North Face style tents all in a neat and tidy trashless row, zipped up tight against the elements of a European winter.

In Europe if you do want to work, you have a bus and train system that is reliable and runs on time. I challenge anyone one of you to work a job outside of 9-5 M-F and try to ride the bus to work. You would be fired in a week or two. If the employer found out that you ride the bus as your transportation to work, you would never have been hired.

How much with maintenance, gas, taxes, insurance, and maintenance does a car cost? If you are earning the average salary in Atlanta, which happens to be a whopping $28k/yr according to the ARC, that is a HUGE chunk of your income. Atlanta, by the way, is the lowest average income earning city of the 15 peer cities in the US. I wonder why so many people come to work here? I guess they neglected a bit of homework in selecting this city. By contrast, the Northeast US major cities and ALL of europe, you have public transportation that is actually a viable option for commuting. Then factor in at least $400-$900 for childcare for a 2-4yr child, all of a sudden you are on welfare or working for your credit card company.

This is a roundabout way of giving a full response to the idea that our government should be handing out piss cups to qualify welfare recipients. If the government can't even prevent people who can not find a job from gaming the welfare systems, then how can anyone expect them to be able to accurately manage drug screening of millions of welfare recipients. And the hidden danger is to regular people - maybe they will start screening for other things, marriage licenses, voting access, gun ownership, cell phone use, or whatever other issue du jour that can conjure up a political sporting event.

Freedom is neither free nor is it safe.

Ben Franklin - Those who desire security at price of freedom deserve neither. (loosely quoted)

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