“Remember, this is a privilege, not a right…”

Those words from my father still echo in the back of my head. Growing up they were a constant reminder that luxuries such as my allowance and the car in the driveway could be revoked at any minute if I didn’t meet the pre-determined stipulations of the Hooper House Law. These privileges, as I was often reminded, were simply to help set me in the right direction for later life…

Similarly, the government recognizes that there are American citizens who could benefit from a little help. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program lives up to its name by providing exactly that: temporary assistance to allow disadvantaged families the chance for betterment in times when they otherwise had no hope. Sounds more than generous, does it not? At times, however, the system is used and abused leaving taxpayers to question exactly what their hard earned money is funding.

In effort to reassure these concerned taxpayers, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is fighting to eliminate welfare misuse.  Under new law, beginning July 1st, any individual applying for TANF will be required to pass a drug test in order to qualify for assistance.  Seems pretty fair and painless, right? Meet the qualifications, pass a drug test, get the help.  Nevertheless, in true legislative fashion, there has been extreme backlash from groups who oppose the law, referring to it as “unconstitutional”.

Unconstitutional would imply that we as Americans all have a constitutional right to be given money from the government. However, much to the dismay of many liberals, there is no constitutional right to receive welfare.  It, much like my allowance growing up, is a privilege.  Just as one must pass a test to obtain a driver’s license, or maintain a certain GPA to receive scholarships, now (in Florida) one must prove that they are drug free to qualify for the privilege of welfare assistance.

One group disregarding that TANF is indeed a privilege and not a constitutional right is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida. Executive director of the ACLU of Florida, Howard Simon had this to say on the legislation:

“What (Scott) is doing is giving ugly legitimacy to an unfortunate stereotype that has been in this country for a couple of decades — that all welfare recipients are a bunch of drug abusers.”

What Simon has failed to realize is that the only way this “unfortunate stereotype” will be legitimized is when and if a high number of applicants fail the mandated drug tests and therefore lose their opportunity to receive assistance. In all actuality, with a low failure rate, this new law has the possibility to completely disprove the aforementioned stereotype. True or False, most people jump at the chance to prove their innocence? This is no different.  You take a drug test, you prove you’re not abusing drugs, you qualify for TANF and then they reimburse you for the test.  Only those afraid that these drug tests will legitimize the notion that many welfare recipients are abusing the privilege would be against this change.

Before I could start my current job I had to take and successfully pass a drug test.  If I had to pass a drug test for my paycheck, why is it a violation of constitutional rights for welfare applicants to have to do the same?

Sometimes Americans seem to forget that bad behavior is not to be rewarded. We bend over backwards to appease people who are taking advantage of our country and our hard earned money.  Whether rich or poor, or conservative or liberal we all know the difference between right and wrong… there’s also a difference between a right and a privilege.  Welfare is a generous privilege meant for those in need, not for those in need of a fix.

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