Are you poor? Black? Hispanic? Congratulations! The city of San Diego wants to look at everything you own without a warrant! All of this is in the context of ensuring that there are no “cheaters” and that money distributed to the poor by the state is being done legitimately. This is actually a Constitutional question that was upheld in 1971. Oddly enough, and sit down for this one because it’s shocking, it’s only ever applied to the poor and not the literally millions of other entities, whether corporate or agricultural, who receive the same type of largesse.
If waiving one’s Fourth Amendment rights based on the receipt of government funds were applied outside of the impoverished, most people would instantly see the problem. Given the number of people who benefit from some kinds of government subsidy, the government could simply abrogate the Bill or Rights through its spending power. This can’t be right. And whether or not it’s unconstitutional, certainly these kinds of searches without cause are bad policy, for the same reasons. As soon as executives at Archer Daniels Midland agree to waive their Fourth Amendment rights, we can start talking about welfare recipients.
I know that the Fourth Amendment is no longer operative, so this may be something of a moot point. But it’s so clear that those quick to jump on the indigent for “ripping off the taxpayer” has no similar fervor for those in corporate America. I was astonished when I heard Bill Richardson use the phrase “corporate welfare” at the Yearly Kos Presidential Forum. Maybe some of our more progressive cities might want to start barging in to some corporate offices just to make sure their books are the same as they claim. Who knows, maybe we can end welfare as we know it again.