Morning Read: Warren County leaders say welfare recipient “freeloaders” should be drug tested

Denton Publications is reporting that Warren County leaders are urging that recipients of welfare payments in New York state be tested for drugs.

A resolution supporting the idea passed on Friday, according to an article penned by Thom Randall:

Ralph Bentley of Horicon contended that taxpayer money paid to some welfare recipients freed up their personal funds to be spent on drugs — so in effect the county was supporting drug habits. Mandatory testing, he said, would be effective in preventing such expenditures.

“All our highway employees have to go for random drug and alcohol testing, and if the test is positive, they’re fired and lose their license,” Bentley said. “Why shouldn’t freeloaders be subject to the same rules as people who work?”

Other supervisors raised constitutional and practical questions, according to the article, which you can read in full here.  But according to DenPubs, the local resolution passed supporting a statewide law.

What do you think?  A good idea to make sure welfare recipients are clean and sober?  If you’re forced to look to government for help supporting your family, would you be comfortable being forced to take a blood test?

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60 Comments on “Morning Read: Warren County leaders say welfare recipient “freeloaders” should be drug tested”

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  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Freeloaders? Did he really say that out loud?

    Why stop at welfare recipients? Let’s start with all the Supervisors. What about the County Administrator? Many of the decisions they’ve made over the past decades have led me to believe they are either drunk or on drugs. Let’s see, the trash plant in Hudson Falls, the co-gen plant that they built to provide heat and power to a building they knocked down, the county jail that they approved that is too large because they thought it could be a profit center? Just those 3 alone add up to many tens of millions of dollars. And those are just off the top of my head.

  2. Verplanck says:

    Agreed, knuck.

    Florida tried this and came up with a really low percentage of hits (3%?). The cost of drug testing far outweighed the savings from booting people off the welfare rolls.

  3. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    And what happens when they get booted off of welfare? Do they somehow not end up costing the county money? Will we put them in jail? Will they end up homeless? Will they stop eating?

    How about this idea, if you suspect someone is in need of help because of some sort of personal issue why don’t we try to get them the help they need to become productive members of society again? Oh, wait! Isn’t that what our social services programs try to do?

  4. Ken Hall says:

    Are these typical Christian attitudes? “My way or the highway?”. “My way or Deaths door?”. Makes me very glad they are not my way.

    As paraphrased from the “full” article “what about the children?” Which is most cost effective supporting the family or putting each child in foster care (for perpetuity) and incarcerating the parents?

    And then the next round begins. What a deal.

  5. Ken Hall says:

    Is it perchance easier and safer to “wage the war on drugs” by going after those least able to resist? How about we ask law enforcement to concentrate on the drug dealers and the supply chain rather than the low hanging fruit (the users). Is it possible the dealers and suppliers have deeper pockets and can afford the muscle and the high powered lawyers?

  6. Anita says:

    Having worked at a county highway department in the past, I’m willing to bet that the process isn’t quite as simple as Mr. Bentley describes should a highway employee test positive. There are union contracts and strict rules for the discipline and discharge of public employees. The one incident I observed of an employee apparently flunking a drug test resulted in demotion and medical treatment (at public expense), not in discharge. Things are rarely as simple as we would like them to be when people are involved, and a truly robust system accounts for that.

  7. Peter Hahn says:

    Those public officials should be drug and alcohol tested.

  8. Peter Hahn says:

    Actually those officials should be flogged for pandering.

  9. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Let me get this straight. We’re upset that welfare recipients are stoned and or drunk and ALSO get welfare benefits at the same time as being drunk and or stoned? Okay, got it….

    So let’s spend even more money administering inaccurate and expensive drug tests to the same recipients? Only to then have the feds tell us, after countless expensive law suits, that it’s illegal to restrict benefits based upon health conditions (which is what addictions is considered by most these days)? Okay, got it……

  10. Larry says:

    Why make anti-social, parasitic behavior easy? People are tired of watching those on public assistance buy drugs and alcohol while taxpayers go to work and struggle to make ends meet. I think it is time to revisit the concept of putting people on public assistance to work instead of paying them to be idle.

  11. mervel says:

    It would be better if those who are accepting public dollars not use drugs, teachers, police, county employees, hospital employees, social security recipients etc. Some of these people are already subject to random drug testing some are not. Social Security is the biggest welfare program in the country by far, so I guess we would start there?

    But the fact is as Knuckle said so what? What are you going to do if someone does test positive? We are not going to let them die, we could starve their children I suppose which is what it would mean. Most people on TANF or Food stamps are women with children. That is the who gets public assistance in this country.

    What we need is a higher level of investment in drug treatment and prevention.

    Besides that for example in SLC you are looking at testing a quarter of the entire county, what a mess that would be.

  12. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:


    I don’t think anyone is suggesting we make drug use by those who can least afford it “easy.” What we’re, or at least I’m suggesting, is that drug testing every applicant isn’t practical nor cheap. It’s a waste of time and money and does nothing to ease our angst that non working individuals get to sit around all day stoned and/or drunk on the taxpayers dime.

    Frankly, and this thought will not be popular among many here, I’d rather see our resources spent on temporary sterilization for recipients in order to prevent reproduction of additional mouths to feed when recipients in fact can’t feed themselves. Drug and alcohol abuse among recipients is relatively inexpensive for taxpayers when compared with the unfettered procreation some of these same recipients engage in. Therein lies the real cost. But in America we can never discuss limiting such a supposed rite as having as many children as you wish, even if society as a whole bears the burden for them while the parent/s sit around drunk and stoned all day.

  13. Larry says:

    The current set-up makes anti-social, parasitic behavior easy. Drug use is only a small part of it. Putting people to work would be cost-effective, productive and beneficial to all. Many of the behaviors we all object to would be eliminated if people were working instead of sitting around idle. We’re supporting these people, might as well get something out of it.

  14. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:


    I assume you are aware that many of these recipient are required to work a minimum number of hours per month in order to receive their benefits? It’s called Workfare and was included as part of the Welfare Reform Act which was passed under Bill Clinton and then Republican Leader of the House, Newt Gingerich. This requirement has been in place since the mid to late 90’s.

    My point is simply putting recipients to work does not necessarily hinder what you refer to as anti-social, parasitic behavior. Many, like the rest of society, are functioning alcoholics and drug addicts. The real costs are not from this behavior, but procreating at will regardless of one’s inability to support the results. We’re more upset with drug abuse that creating more mouths to feed, clothe, shelter, provide health insurance to, etc….It’s kind of absurd in a sense.

  15. Peter Hahn says:

    The point of these laws (evidently) is to discourage people from asking for public assistance. Or at least to humiliate them so they will think twice about losing their jobs or getting pregnant again. Oddly, the same people pushing this approach also are attempting to make getting contraception and abortions much more difficult. They also push for less job training/education and less money for drug rehab programs.

  16. Pete Klein says:

    Warren County leaders? So who is all following these “leaders?”
    Seems Warren County leaders are drinking the same water as those over in Washington County.

  17. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Abortion can mostly be taken off the table should we temporarily sterilize applicants or current recipients. Again, I find it odd that we’re more concerned about dug and alcohol use than the fact that we let these same folks pop kid after kid out into the world for everyone else to pay for because we’re too afraid to say no, you don’t have that rite if you can’t pay for them.

  18. Mervel says:

    Once again, programs for the poor are not the reason we have budget problems in this country, regardless of how many kids they have or not.

    The idea that you would not only drug test someone but now sterilize them because they are poor is horrible.

    Poor children and poor people having children are not the problem in this country, we do we always pick out the least and the most vulnerable to blame?

  19. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Of course it’s not the biggest reason we have a budget crisis in this nation, Mervel, but if we’re discussing drug testing welfare recipients and their costs to local gov’t budgets, the bigger cost out to be addressed. And that bigger cost certainly is those individuals who procreate without consequence to themselves but to those who ultimately pay for that decision. Why is it so horrible to tell people we’ll help support them, but you can’t continue to make that more expensive by having more children? Why is that so politically incorrect?

  20. Paul says:

    These legislators need to try and keep their eye on the ball. What these folks need are good economic conditions so they can get a job. Someone who characterizes all welfare recipients as “freeloaders” should never have been elected and since he apparently was he should not be re-elected. This story and that quote are like something out of looney tunes.

  21. Walker says:

    “Why make anti-social, parasitic behavior easy?”

    I second that thought! Let’s start with the really expensive anti-social parasites on Wall Street– I’m sure we’d find plenty of cocaine and alcohol use there!

  22. myown says:

    Yes, let’s have mandatory drug testing for all corporate executives and managers of banks and Wall street firms that received TARP bailout money. And also for the executives that run defense companies which receive billions of taxpayer dollars and similar corporate welfare. And of course for all elected politicians.

  23. Peter Hahn says:

    Seems to me snorting coke was big among the junior financial wizards who brought down the economy in the last melt-down. (Thats an impression that might be wrong).

  24. Paul says:

    Walker and Peter, are you sure you haven’t been watching too many movies?

    According to the president he used coke, smoke pot, and drank (drinks). He says he quit the first two. Should we believe him or should we test him also? Get real!

  25. Pete Klein says:

    We would be better off not testing anyone unless there is a clear and obvious problem.

  26. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul – might be the movies.

  27. Peter Hahn says:

    supposedly physicians have some of the highest rates of substance abuse. Celebrities are always going to rehab, speaking of the movies. Maybe we should drug test all of them too.

  28. Peter Hahn says:

    Its quite possible that people applying for public assistance have lower than average rates of drug and alcohol use.

  29. Paul says:

    Physicians are trained in the science of substance use it would not surprise me that this often leads to abuse.

    Like I said above let’s change the subject and try and build an economy that will keep these folks working, that is what the need, not a drug test.

  30. Walker says:

    “According to the president he used coke, smoke pot, and drank.”

    Yes, but was he receiving funds from the govt at the time? That’s what we’re talking about here.

    But of course, I agree– this is stupid talk, and, as Peter says, Bentley was just pandering to the the prejudices of some voters. I just think that we should recognize that there are lots of folk receiving government funds, and not all of them are poor. Let’s not just pick on the poorest amongst us, eh?

  31. Mervel says:

    I think it is simply a lashing out against poor people because we wish they would all just go away. Plus they are an easy target for all of our budget woes, they don’t have much of a lobby.

    But we DO have a poverty problem in the US and in the North Country, that is something we need to look at and understand and work on. But drug testing will not help. In fact drug testing would be quite expensive, particularly in NYS. How many new DOH or DSS employees would you have to hire to drug test the 20-40% (depending on the welfare program) of the population who receives some form of welfare benefits? Also this is not a one shot deal, drug testing would have to be ongoing.

  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I drink. I like to drink. I have smoked cigarettes, smoked pot, done coke, LSD, magic mushrooms, and used prescription medications in ways that were not prescribed (and it is possible I’ve forgotten a few illicit drugs), though at some point in my life I quit doing everything except alcohol.

    You’d be surprised at how generous some people will be in passing a joint or buying you a beer and it is possible that people who collect some sort of government benefit might be in a situation on a weekend where they attend a party and they do something that others might frown on. It isn’t easy being poor, it can be really stressful and in spite of the fact that most of the commenters on this site are probably perfect upstanding citizens, not everyone is perfect.

    If you’re on welfare do you have to be perfect 24/7? Are you allowed to be human? Are we going to start throwing senior citizens off of Social Security if they abuse their pain meds or if (heaven forbid!) they smoke a little home-grown?

  33. The Miami Herald has reported that when Florida implemented this program, the amount the testing cost was far greater than the amount saved by denying benefits to those who tested positive.

    Yet another one of those things that’s designed to give venal politicians something to demagogue even though it actually ends up harming the taxpayers.

  34. Larry says:

    So, hands off those on public assistance, right? They’ve got enough problems, most of them evidently caused by Wall Street, banks and big business, so we ought to go easy on them. Maybe increase their benefits by giving them the money we would have spent on drug testing?

  35. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry- you are catching on!

  36. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry, I’m all for prosecuting people who are doing illegal things, but there is no reason to put extra effort into catching welfare cheats who may be getting a couple of thousand dollars when we still have hundreds or thousands of people at big banks and on Wall Street who are swindling us out of billions or trillions of dollars. Let’s go after the big money first.

  37. Terence says:

    It’s good that Bentley has said out loud what many people were only thinking secretly. Now he will be required to back up his nasty proposal with actual facts, which show a very different picture: as Mervel says, the poor make an easy target, but welfare recipients aren’t the biggest recipients of public assistance. I call on Supervisor Bentley, a recipient of public funds, to set an example by allowing a thorough investigation into his own personal life, with the results published in the Post Star and here.

    It seems that many of us resent the idea that ‘some people’ are living irresponsibly while we foot the bill. And if you have trashy neighbors on welfare, it can be easy to generalize. But the truth is, the ones who are really living it up on our dime are the big-money speculators with connections.

    There are some good arguments for cutting the benefits of people who are convicted of crimes, but financial ruin can happen to any of us — especially nowadays. If we suddenly found ourselves on the other side of the question, none of us would feel that we had given up the right to our own lives, or that behavior tolerated for the middle class (drinking, recreational drugs) was suddenly more wicked.

  38. Larry says:

    Is there no issue that liberals will not use to trash “Wall Street,” banks, big business or the so-called 1%? Most of those who do are only repeating the cliches of the liberal media and have no real idea of how any of their whipping boys actually work. Paranoia based on misinformation!

  39. Kathy says:

    Unfortunately, one bad apple is very effective these days. There are welfare recipients who have abused the system. The percentage? I don’t know. But enough to warrant reform.

    We all know the economy is on shaky ground. It’s no different than you or I losing a job and taking a closer look on how we spend – how we quickly become very aware of any wasteful or unnecessary spending.

    I think our officials are taking a closer look and do not necessarily have a vendetta against welfare recipients. There are the genuinely needy but there are also freeloaders.

  40. Walker says:

    Is there no issue that conservatives will not use to trash the poor? Most of those who do are only repeating the cliches of the conservative media and have no real idea of how any of their whipping boys actually live. Paranoia based on misinformation!

    Actually, Larry, we have a pretty good idea of how our whipping boys actually work. Have you missed all of the news stories about how our economy got trashed by the shenanagans of the geniuses of Wall Street? How about the latest Libor scandal? Although investigations are just getting under way, and some huge fines have been imposed, nothing I have seen suggests that banks will ever reimburse customers for interest overcharges based on inflated rates due to their intentional misreporting of rates.

  41. Walker says:

    Larry, why is it that conservatives are never as interested in investigating and stopping wrong-doing by big business as they are in investigating and stopping wrong-doing by the poor? There is vastly more money to be saved by the former than by the latter.

  42. Peter Hahn says:

    Walker – the parallel is that conservatives are always looking out for the rights of the majority and the wealthy (and their taxes), whereas liberals are more concerned with the rights of the poor.

  43. Kathy says:

    I don’t understand tying in the wealthy and big business to this topic. The whole “what’s good for the goose..” argument should not apply. It’s immature to banter back and forth like kids, “Oh yeah? Well what about those Wall Street people?” Dumb.

    There will be continual stalemate as long as conservatives and liberals each take their turn on the soap box.

    We have to see beyond our differences and give a little.

  44. Walker says:

    Kathy, I may be missing something, but I don’t see a lot of examples of conservatives cutting liberals any slack. Especially in Congress, where Republicans have made stalemate their primary policy.

    And I do think that is is legitimate to ask why conservatives seem to want to investigate relatively small-scale welfare fraud while turning a blind eye to corporate fraud. If you think that’s an illegitimate question, I would be interested in trying to understand your point of view.

  45. Mervel says:

    I think what needs to be looked at if you want to investigate something is the administration of welfare money by the agencies charged with providing it.

  46. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry, now you are just being ignorant. The fact is that the financial industry has done enormous amount of harm to our economy and the world economy.

    Don’t accuse me of just spouting talking points and I’ll try not to insult you.

  47. Kathy says:

    Kathy, I may be missing something, but I don’t see a lot of examples of conservatives cutting liberals any slack.

    Walker, I agree.

    Additionally, I do think it’s legitimate to investigate corporate fraud. I just don’t see the value of it relating to this topic. Conservatives and Liberals are both guilty of this and it’s more of a diversion than anything.

  48. Kathy says:

    Peter Hahn” … the parallel is that conservatives are always looking out for the rights of the majority and the wealthy (and their taxes), whereas liberals are more concerned with the rights of the poor.

    Conservatives do care about the rights of the poor. If there are people who wish to clean up the welfare system, it shouldn’t be taken as an insult against the poor.

    I think the danger of identifying with our political parties is, perhaps without realizing it, we can become polarized with our position and not with prioritizing legitimate problems with common sense.

  49. Walker says:

    “Conservatives do care about the rights of the poor.”

    Would you care to site some evidence of this statement?

  50. Kathy says:

    Self-described conservatives, as Arthur C. Brooks demonstrated so cogently in his book “Who Really Cares,” donate more to charity than do self-identified liberals. Perhaps that’s because conservatives are wealthier? No. Liberals on average earn 6 percent more than conservatives. Yet conservatives donate about 30 percent more. Conservatives also volunteer more of their time — and their blood.

    Brooks writes: “If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply of the United States would jump about 45 percent.” Of the 25 states that had higher than average charitable giving, 24 went for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004.

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