Long predicted and even longer denied, new legislation would require welfare recipients sign away Fourth Amendment protections under the Constitution in order for the government to carry out random drug tests.
Known as the Welfare Integrity Act of 2013, which you can read for yourself on the Library of Congress website, the legislation would force both applicants and recipients of welfare under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) government assistance program to sign away (through a ‘waiver of constitutional rights’ document) their Fourth Amendment right protecting them from unreasonable searches and seizures so that government officials may conduct random drug tests on the individuals. The bill will affect over 100 million US citizens who are currently receiving federal welfare support.
This has been discussed to a great extent within the alternative news for years now, and it is a highly important subject for many reasons. First of all, it has been predicted for years that the United States government would ultimately enforce stronger regulations on those who rely on the government for serious aid. When relying on the government, or even those gaming the system, many are apt to simply accept anything that the government throws their way. This can be problematic if taken advantage of by government officials, yet it is also important to keep welfare ‘fakers’ at bay. As more and more individuals continue to rely on the government for assistance, legislation of this type becomes even more serious.
Government Aid For a Price
Whether it’s in the form of financial aid, insurance-based aid, or otherwise, government reliance and the entitlement of citizens who demand aid from the United States government (and even worldwide) has become the norm. As this attitude and action grows, it actually gives the US government more power to become highly intrusive and throw privacy and constitutional rights to the wind. On the flip side, it also means at least a considerable number of welfare recipients are actually just ‘gaming the system’, slacking off on taxpayer dime. Around $131 billion is currently spent annually just on welfare that does not include food stamps or unemployment.
According to Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who introduced the bill, drug users are utilizing the government ‘safety-net’ to pay for their habits and not have to change their ways. Fincher explained in a statement:
“Instead of having to make the hard-choice between drugs and other essential needs, abusers are able to rely on their monthly check to help them pay their bills.”
Under the bill, those who were found to be taking drugs through the random drug testing process would be denied welfare temporarily, with the ability to receive it again up to three times in the future. After testing positive for drug use three times, they would be permanently cut off from TANF benefits. The repercussions seem rather lenient given the aggression of a constitutional rights waiver being set in place.
The initiative brings a number of things into question right off the bat. First of all, will such legislation set an extremely concerning precedent regarding the mandatory dismissal of constitutional rights via future laws? Could future legislation follow the same path as the Welfare Integrity Act of 2013 in initiating rights-free stipulations that could affect millions. As it turns out, high courts may actually never allow the new bill to even set a precedent. We saw similar legislation be shot down as unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals back in 2003 after Michigan attempted to adopt it.
Will this bill be shot down as well, or it could pave the way for similar legislation nationwide?