Of course, no one likes to sound like a bigot, so we mask our contempt for other groups under more exalted principles and values, such as justice, opportunity, freedom, responsibility, fairness, etc.; and through sweeping generalizations, often false, we argue that those we don't want to help are irresponsible, opportunistic, lazy, undeserving, etc. That paints a picture that helps us rationalize our dislike for helping others, especially when they don't look very much like us.
So, when someone wants to argue that we should drug-test people requesting government assistance (probably because conservative fiscal policy destroyed the economy on which the poor previously relied for employment and an honest income), we all tend to jump on the bandwagon of "justice" and "merit," and recite that heartless cliché: "why should my hard-earned money go to some lazy, irresponsible junkie who's just going to blow it on drugs?" As if politicians' cocaine habits weren't also paid for with your tax dollars...
But if we are seriously going to argue that anyone who is going to receive money funded by tax-payers should be tested for drugs, the implications of that assertion go far beyond welfare applicants, as Aasif Mandvi hilariously demonstrates in this clip:
But why require such conditions of the poor only? It can't be drug use only, since virtually every demographic group has members who partake in the occasional festivities. But why only drug-test the poor? What about college students who apply for financial aid? Or elementary students who apply for free lunch in their schools? Or scientists who depend on government grants for their research? How about government and military contractors? Remember Blackwater? Didn't they go on killing sprees of innocent people while drunk, further endangering our troops abroad? How about the wealthy who are taxed at lower rates than their maids and secretaries? How about farmers who receive subsidies for producing all the corn that's contributing to our obesity and early onset diabetes epidemic? How about churches that receive tax exemptions (and government funding) while they openly discriminate against various other groups? Last time I was in church, the Padre was rosey-cheeked, drinking wine and eating wafers in front of the entire congregation. :)
Is the welfare system open to abuse by free-riders? Or course, and I would never be rash enough to deny that. But do the 2% who might abuse the system justify violating the constitutional rights of the other 98% of welfare applicants? Should that 98% be automatically perceived with the contemptuous eyes that presuppose them guilty before any facts are in? Don't we in America believe in the principle that one should be presumed innocent until proven guilty? Not only that, the Constitution grants us all the right against searches not based on probable cause, and correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I checked 2% was not more probable than 98%.
Still, even if the percentage of drug users among welfare applicants were more probable than those who don't use drugs (and notice the equivocation this fallacious argument depends on), the very idea of rights implies that nothing can be done to you (as an individual) just because others who might superficially resemble you in some way might be guilty of some iniquity. If 98% of people like you are guilty of some crime, no one has the right to arrest you unless there is direct evidence tying you to that crime. Whatever the social utility that profiling might confer on society, the whole idea behind the Bill of Rights is that there are certain things that can't be done to you as an individual with "inalienable rights," regardless of their expediency or social utility.
But hey, if you're not going to demand that your politicians, stock brokers, bankers and investment managers be drug-tested so that they don't blow your hard-earned money on cocaine and hookers and lobbyists who are going to run the country to the ground just so they can buy yet another yacht and more blow to snort through hundred dollar bills that they will subsequently burn while lighting cigars and making fun of the poor, maybe you should be a little bit more compassionate toward people who are struggling, often because the other rich douchebags (whose outrageous fortunes are the result of financial speculation and political manipulation instead of real production of value, good or services, but that's a rant for another occasion) have created a system that furthers their own interests while perpetuating the poverty of the poor...
Thus spoke the Philosophy Monkey. :)
Now feel free to weigh in and tell me why I'm an idiot.