Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Orrin Hatch Supports Government Intrusion

Ryan Grim wrote this article for The Huffington Post:
Utah voters have reacted enthusiastically to Sen. Orrin Hatch's legislation to drug test the unemployed and those receiving other forms of government cash assistance, the Utah Republican told the Huffington Post after introducing his measure last week.

"A lot of people are saying, 'Hey, it's about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?'" Hatch said.

The goal, he said, is to get users into treatment.

"Now, it doesn't do away with food stamps. And it does get the help for them that they really need. And if they get the help, then they're right back on to the cash," he said.
So conservatives hate government interference and love states' rights, so what is with Hatch's preposal?  First of all, Hatch is a Mormon.  I am reminded of a line spoken by John Malkovich from the movie Burn After Reading in which a CIA agent confronts Malkovich's character about his drinking problem in which Malkovich responds that compared to the agent, a Mormon, everybody has a drinking problem.  Hatch's comments make the assumption that everyone on unemployment is guilty of doing drugs and must take tests to prove they are not.  Out of curiosity, how does somebody buy marijuana with their food stamps?

Hatch's policy seems unrealistic, ineffectual, and downright intrusive.
He stressed that he isn't looking to punish, but to help. "We're not trying to hurt anybody. What we want to do is get it so that federal dollars aren't going for drugs," he said.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) weighed in on the matter with a rather fiscally conservative approach: "I think it's a punitive attitude. Who's going to pay for the test? What's the point of the test? You know, why do you want to drug test people who have lost their job?"

I agree with Mikulski.  Considering that in order for the policy to be effective, drug testing would have to be periodic and last the duration the recipient is receiving benefits, which could last for months. 

Considering roughly 5 million people are out of work and receiving unemployment insurance, drug testing could cost upwards of $50 billion annually - based on an average time of 7 months spent on unemployment, one drug test averaging a cost of $70 every two weeks, for all 5 million receiving unemployment insurance, and these costs don't take into consideration administration of the drug testing or any rehabilitation program designed to get people "right back on to the cash."

I also find the issue of states rights to be very interesting, considering there are several states that have decriminalized marijuana, so citizens following their state's laws may face losing their benefits.

I bet Illinois Senator Mark Kirk would be exempt from this piece of legislation too...

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