By Teresa Welsh |
Unemployment insurance is meant to be a safety net, a bridge to re-employment. So with all our budget woes, why pay someone not to work when he has voluntarily taken himself out of the hiring pool? That is what we are doing when someone on unemployment is using drugs.
Today the U.S. government borrows 40 cents for every dollar it spends. We are running the highest deficits in our history. At $14 trillion, our national debt is now 100 percent of our Gross Domestic Product.
Employer contributions do not cover the full cost of the program. Under the current system, workers can earn up to 26 weeks through employer contribution but are eligible for 99 weeks of benefits under current law. Your tax dollars make up the difference. Thus, maximizing efficiency and effectiveness has to be our society's mutual goal.
That is why I have proposed legislation to require drug screenings for applicants for unemployment insurance. Applicants would be screened using a non-invasive written test that has a 94 percent accuracy rate. If identified as likely to use drugs, an applicant for unemployment would be required to pass a drug test as a condition of benefits.
This non-invasive practice has been upheld by state courts in New Jersey, Texas, and Indiana. A federal court in West Virginia upheld that state's practice of screening applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance.
The screening would not increase federal spending. The estimated cost is $12 per person. This would be more than offset by reducing the $1.5 billion budget for the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was established to ration healthcare expenditures.
Some have said this proposal asks too much of those who have lost their jobs, but consider this: If an athlete is injured, the team wants him back on the playing field as soon as possible. He needs to do this by taking care of himself and showing up for physical therapy. It is part of being on the team.
Similarly, asking someone who is unemployed to do his or her part by staying eligible to work is common sense, not draconian. Call it tough love or call it fairness, but spending your tax dollars wisely is the least Congress should be doing.
About Jack Kingston U.S. Representative, Georgia's 1st District
David Vitter U.S. Senator, Louisiana