State Rep. Lonnie Napier of Lancaster has opened a political can of worms by introducing a bill in the legislature that proposes random drug testing of those who receive welfare. I support his bill.
Those against the idea say it may violate the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens who are innocent of any crime. But if you receive your total cost of living from the government, you are essentially a ward of the state, which changes the relationship with the government.
Just like Mom and Dad wrote the rules until you left the house, wards of the state must submit to the authority of those who provide their room and board — the taxpayers. The federal government has an obligation to protect the taxpayers from potential fraud.
The idea is not without precedent. All government employees could be subject to random drug testing.
The military submits to such testing. Private employers have the right to randomly drug-test their employees. You have a choice not to work for employers who randomly drug test — and in many cases, whether people want to admit it or not, it is our choices that lead us to becoming participants in prolonged welfare.
I’m not saying that all of those on welfare are bad citizens. On the contrary, good people fall on hard times and find themselves in need of support from the “social safety net” for a short period of time.
But our welfare system is broken and heavily abused. There are many who have learned how to “game the system.” They collude with each other to prop up their lifestyles at the expense of the taxpayer. In many cases we’ve made it easier for people not to work. There are billions of dollars wasted every year that should otherwise be going to those who truly can’t help themselves.
In San Diego, Calif., millions of dollars were being lost to welfare fraud. People were co-habitating without getting married. They would lie on their welfare applications, saying they had more children than they really did or were “single” parents with little or no income. In reality, their live-in partner had a solid job.
In some cases, their combined welfare and work income was more than families where both parents were gainfully employed.
San Diego put a stop to this practice by sending welfare officers to homes for an unannounced visit to make sure that participants actually had the number of kids they claimed on their application, or that they didn’t have a “live-in” who was making money on the side. The policy worked, the number of people on welfare dropped 10 percent, saving the taxpayers of San Diego County millions.
In the year 2000, federal, state and local welfare programs spent a combined $1.01 trillion on social welfare programs. (That’s the last year that combined totals were available.) Imagine if we could save 10 percent of that total just by weeding out those who abuse the system. Unannounced visits and random drug testing would be a good start.
Let’s be honest, welfare isn’t supposed to be a paid vacation. It’s also not supposed to be a government stipend to raise multiple children. While I don’t have a problem with a safety net to catch those of us who will inevitably run into temporary bumps in the road, a safety net is not meant to be a permanent retirement from the work force.
We must remember human nature. The more pleasant an experience, the longer we tend to try to drag it out.
We should do everything we can to clean up welfare fraud. The money we save would be better spent on empowerment rather than entitlement. The welfare system should be a hand up, not a hand out.
Leland Conway is the executive editor and co-founder of www.conservativeedge.com and the host of the Pulse of Lexington on News Radio 630 WLAP.