Debate Club

Should Welfare Recipients Be Tested for Drugs?

Should Welfare Recipients Be Tested for Drugs?

On Tuesday night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Middle Class Tax Relief & Job Creation Act of 2011, a Republican-sponsored plan that addresses important topics like payroll tax cuts, the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and unemployment benefits. The federal extension of unemployment benefits is set to expire at the beginning of 2012, and both Republicans and Democrats have said that the temporary extension of unemployment benefits is in the national interest. Their specifics for legislation authorizing that extension differ, and one notable caveat in the Republican plan empowers states with the right to mandate drug tests for welfare recipients. Lawmakers have experimented with similar legislation in states like Florida, New Jersey, and Indiana, but the constitutionality of those laws has been questioned each time.

Political sparring over this specific part of the Republican bill is one of the reasons Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the bill “was dead before it got to the Senate.” Still, proponents of drug-testing welfare patients worry that jobless Americans will use taxpayer dollars to purchase illicit drugs. Opponents challenge that drug testing is a costly and ineffective way to deter drug use, and they cite concerns about a strictly punitive law that would bar those in need from receiving jobless benefits without offering help in the form of counseling.

As Congress races to find common ground on the extension of unemployment benefits before the end of the year, drug testing the recipients of those benefits promises to be a topic ripe for compromise. Should welfare recipients be tested for drugs? Here’s the Debate Club’s take:


The Arguments

#1
1,078 Pts
Welfare Programs Should Promote Self-sufficiency

Yes – Welfare Programs Should Promote Self-sufficiency

Robert Rector Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy at the Heritage Foundation

#2
760 Pts
Practice Has Been Upheld By Courts in New Jersey, Texas, and Indiana

Yes – Practice Has Been Upheld By Courts in New Jersey, Texas, and Indiana

Jack Kingston U.S. Representative, Georgia's 1st District

#4
352 Pts
The Result Could Well Be More Drug Addiction

Yes – The Result Could Well Be More Drug Addiction

Lawrence M. Mead Professor of Politics and Public Policy at New York University and Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

#5
-435 Pts
Participation in Welfare Is Not Voluntary

No – Participation in Welfare Is Not Voluntary

Peter Cappelli George W. Taylor Professor of Management at the Wharton School and Director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources

#6
-507 Pts
Welfare Assistance Is Not Parental Oversight

No – Welfare Assistance Is Not Parental Oversight

Matthew Bodie Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at Saint Louis University School of Law

#7
-527 Pts
Mandatory Drug Testing Demonizes and Demoralizes

No – Mandatory Drug Testing Demonizes and Demoralizes

Vanita Gupta Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union

#8
-537 Pts
Only Winners Are Companies Making the Drug Tests

No – Only Winners Are Companies Making the Drug Tests

Joy Moses Senior Policy Analyst with the Poverty and Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress

#9
-581 Pts
Say No to Drug Testing the Unemployed

No – Say No to Drug Testing the Unemployed

Christine L. Owens Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project


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