Governor Herbert recently signed into law Brad Wilson’s bill providing for drug screening in certain cases before one is eligible for government assistance. But before the ink had even dried on the Governor’s signature, Democratic blogger Eric Ethington assailed the action as “dehumanizing” and part of the “GOP’s attack on the poor and working-class.”
Let’s ignore for a moment that this politically charged statement misrepresents the facts (the bill passed with bipartisan support) and address the substantive issues involved.
As a responsible journalist (City Weekly named him its best “Citizen Journalist” in 2011), you would think that the author would speak with the sponsor, ask him what the arguments in favor of the bill are, and address those in turn.
Instead, he merely cites an anecdotal conversation with a Republican Representative wherein it was allegedly suggested that poor people are more prone to drug use (I have to assume other parts of the conversation were left out). The House member was not the Chief Sponsor nor was he one of the 22 cosponsors. Notwithstanding, the author treats this as the primary, if not sole argument for the bill, and decries this stereotyping of the poor and working class.
As an attorney, I wish I had the luxury of addressing a bystander’s argument for my opponent’s case as the exclusive argument for the same. I’d never lose. Unfortunately, a court of law does not operate that way. And neither should honest public policy debate.
Despite what the Democratic blogger would have you believe, this bill has nothing do with stereotypes. There is no intrinsic assumption that the poor are more inclined to use drugs. And this bill does not treat people as “potential criminals” anymore than an employer who requires a drug test before hiring or an elementary school that participates in the “Just Say No” program.
The bill is merely a means to safeguard taxpayer money and serves to help people stay away from drugs. It recognizes that drugs are a destructive force on their users, and ensures a premium be placed on helping those who are engaged in helping themselves. And it further provides for a path of recovery for drug users seeking state assistance so they too can avail themselves of the state-sponsored safety net and be better positioned for gainful employment.
To me, Rep. Wilson’s bill represents true compassion. It does not allow the system to blindly throw money at people in need, but sets up a system where the true problem can be identified and addressed. It teaches people to fish.
As the blogger himself admits, welfare programs are a “temporary crutch” to help people “until they can get back on their feet.” And what better way to help people than to identify drug problems and provide treatment programs so they can ultimately help themselves.
To do anything else would be “dehumanizing.”