A Bad Idea Goes National

Republican Govs. Rick Scott and Nikki Haley have already proposed or passed laws requiring drug testing for those who receive public assistance in their states and now that terrible, authoritarian idea is being adopted by the House Republicans and could go national.

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives unveiled legislation Friday that would cut 40 weeks from the duration of federal unemployment compensation and allow states to require the unemployed to pass drug tests in order to receive benefits.

Republicans have not cited any data suggesting that drug use contributes to joblessness or that there is an elevated rate of drug abuse among the unemployed. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said the measure is inspired by lawmakers’ conversations with businesses in their districts.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) cited a local business this week when he introduced a stand-alone drug testing proposal. “I had an employer tell me of an overwhelming response for job openings,” said Kingston. “There was just one problem: Half the people who applied could not even pass a drug test.”

But Kingston’s office declined to name the employer or provide any information supporting the claim. When Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) made a nearly identical claim earlier this year, it turned out to be completely untrue.

There are few things more irritating to me than politicians using anonymous anecdotes to justify policy. Michele Bachmann has practically made this her specialty, citing unnamed individuals making clearly false claims. We have no way of knowing if those people actually exist or whether they are just voices in her head, but we do know that gardasil does not cause mental retardation and that doctors don’t have to file paperwork with the IRS under the health care reform bill.

Not only is there no evidence that the unemployed use drugs at a higher rate than the general population, there are several studies to the contrary. We also know that such schemes cost more money than they save. More importantly, we know what is really going on here; this is just another way for Republicans to demean the poor and make them appear to be lazy and shiftless. And then they complain about “class warfare.” My country tis of thee, sweet land of irony.

27 comments on this post.
  1. jba55:

    Well, if we’re going all anecdotal on this issue then I can say, as a casual pot smoker, that when I’m unemployed I certainly smoke less or not at all. I simply can’t afford it.

  2. ricko:

    It’s perfectly easy to beat this:

    Anybody who gets a check from the Federal Government (or the states) has to be drug tested.

    Get a Federal check for your defense technology? Line up. All of you. CEOs and Board Members as well.

  3. eric:

    Ricko – better yet, link test cycle to how much you get. The bigger your federal check, the more often the drug testing.

  4. Jeremy Shaffer:

    Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) cited a local business this week when he introduced a stand-alone drug testing proposal. “I had an employer tell me of an overwhelming response for job openings,” said Kingston. “There was just one problem: Half the people who applied could not even pass a drug test.”

    To be fair to people like Kingston, Haley and others that quote this stuff, it is hard to track down who exactly stated the mass- forwarded e- mail that swears that this really happened to a friend of a friend’s cousin’s sister’s brother’s ex- father- in- law’s neighbor, who shall remain nameless for their own protection because, you know, 9/11.

  5. D. C. Sessions:

    What was that about States’ rights?

  6. coragyps:

    Ricko: Congresscritters need to be tested first. Including 1:15 PM alcohol testing, daily.

  7. Area Man:

    Anybody who gets a check from the Federal Government (or the states) has to be drug tested.

    Get a Federal check for your defense technology? Line up. All of you. CEOs and Board Members as well.

    And all Social Security and Medicare recipients. We’ll see how well that goes down.

    In related news, the Daily Show had a good spoof on this when they asked FL gov. Rick Scott and several other elected officials to pee in a cup.

  8. suttkus:

    Scott sold this moronic program as something that would save the government money, since we could pay out less welfare once we’d eliminated all those thousands of drug users. It didn’t work. Testing everyone for drug use cost far more than the pittance saved by kicking out the very few low-income people who can afford drugs. Scott declared it a complete success. Given he owns a drug testing company that is raking in millions from this, I’m sure he does.

  9. d cwilson:

    I’d love to see a federal agent standing outside the House chamber with a breathilizer machine.

    “I’m sorry, Rep. Bachmann, but the new federal law says I can’t let you in until you blow into this tube.”

  10. Aquaria:

    We have no way of knowing if those people actually exist or whether they are just voices in her head, but we do know that gardasil does not cause mental retardation and that doctors don’t have to file paperwork with the IRS under the health care reform bill.

    We also don’t know if the applicants who failed the drug test didn’t already have jobs. Apparently, republican douchenozzzles are too fucking stupid to know that people with jobs apply for other jobs all the time.

  11. Aquaria:

    Wait a minute–where did the gardasil stuff come from. I cut the part about the applications.

    That will teach me not to hit reload when my browser says the site is down.

  12. Michael Heath:

    Ed writes:

    There are few things more irritating to me than politicians using anonymous anecdotes to justify policy.

    That’s not much different than how they decide the nature of reality which has them then demanding we all abide by their beliefs.

  13. Modusoperandi:

    Now look, if we don’t poor-bait and keep the Common Folk looking down and shaking their filthy fists at those below them, they will look up and see the people who are actually screwing them. And who wants that? Clearly it’s for the best for all involved. (/me adjusts monocle)

    d cwilson “I’d love to see a federal agent standing outside the House chamber with a breathilizer machine. ‘I’m sorry, Rep. Bachmann, but the new federal law says I can’t let you in until you blow into this tube.’”
    Talk about deja vu. That’s the same kind of greeting that got Cain in trouble.

  14. anandine:

    Rick said, Anybody who gets a check from the Federal Government (or the states) has to be drug tested.

    I’d start with congressional staffers.

  15. fifthdentist:

    Since the previous post is about Hitchens, I can’t resist: Republicans poison everything.

    Is there a policy that every sane economist* states will help the economy? That will help people keep buying and in their homes, helping out the housing market? That will help the lower and middle classes?
    Fuck that, bitches! As a Good Republican you should attach stupid and unpalatable additions to said policy, the least effective the better. And do this so that it may mean that this good policy will not approved before Congress goes on its 10-week Christmas (Christmas, ’cause saying holiday makes Jesus sad!) break. Then blame the president for doing nothing for the long-term unemployed.
    Clearly the adults have lost control of this party of ill-tempered toddlers.

    * Reports say that each dollar spent on unemployment generates $1.90 in economic activity.

  16. raven:

    There are a lot of intellectual and moral failings about the Tea Party/GOP.

    One of the most obvious is their fiddling while the US burns down.

    We do have some major problems that need fixing. The stalled economy. High unemployment. The budget deficits.

    So they spend all their time on social engineering to bring about a new Dark Age.

    Attacking Planned Parenthood, abortion, unions, nonXians, and now the unemployed. WFT.

    Real unemployment is something like 16% of the US working population. They are having a hard time. This goes beyond the usual impoverishing of us to kicking people when they are down.

    If the Tea Party ever got everything they wanted, the vast majority of the population would be suffering more than they are already. And Occupy Wall Street would look like a children’s party.

  17. Bronze Dog:

    Republicans have mastered the art of wasting taxpayer dollars. Drug tests for a demographic that is already financially forced to be cleaner than average.

    Once again, I’m beginning to contemplate spreading the image of “money-shuffler” entrepreneurs (those who make money only by creatively manipulating money, debt, and credit, not by moving them towards the production of real goods or services) as drug addicts.

    1. If you earn money for essentially doing nothing, you can afford to be wasted.

    2. It provides a joke rationale for why they got the nation into this mess: They were trading and lending hallucinations of dollars.

  18. John Hinkle:

    This is an excellent way to get about 11 percent* of the population to vote for the other party.

    * I read recently that “real” unemployment is around 11%.**

    ** Oops, make that about 16% if raven is correct.

  19. Blueaussi:

    “To be fair to people like Kingston, Haley and others that quote this stuff, it is hard to track down who exactly stated the mass- forwarded e- mail”

    Actually, Nikki Haley made her claims about the Savannah River Site. She claimed that half of those applying for jobs at the Savannah River Site had failed drug tests and the other half were illiterate. When the folks at SRS refuted her claims (less that 1% of those seeking employment there tested positive), she insisted she had been told that during a meeting at the site and that “people know it was said.”

  20. raven:

    It’s the usual.

    Tea Party/GOP: We want the worst for you.

    Democrats: We are incapable of governing.

    A lot of truth in that, simple mineded as it seems.

  21. raven:

    “When the underemployed and the discouraged are added to the numbers, the unemployment rate rises to 16.6%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the Labor Department, began tracking this alternative measure — known as the U-6 for its department classification — in 1995 after economists lobbied for a method comparable to the way Japan, Canada and Western Europe count their unemployed.”

    According to the US BLS, the real unemployment rate is 16.6%.

    Even this is misleading. I know a lot of college educated people holding down minimal wage jobs or working part time. They are barely getting by.

    Gee, if it gets much higher, people might even take to the streets. Oh wait, they already are.

  22. lofgren:

    I pray that I never become so obsessed with punishing a small number of people that I let it eliminate opportunities to help a large number of people.

  23. D. C. Sessions:

    lofgren, you remind me of an old Chasidic parable:

    Two men had hated each other all of their lives, and their hatred was so over the top that the Holy One, Blessed be He, decided it would take Divine Intervention to make peace between them. So an angel appeared to one of the men.

    The angel said, “I will give you anything you want, but whatever you ask for I will give the other man twice as much of it.” To which the man replied, “put out one of my eyes.”

    The angel couldn’t leave it at that, so instead he went to the other man and made the same offer. The man replied, “beat me half to death.”

    The American Right reminds me of those two men.

  24. juice:

    It’s long past time to start randomly drug testing members of Congress. If they fail, they are booted from office immediately.

  25. dharleyman:

    And then they complain about “class warfare.”

    I have often wondered why the Democrats don’t pick up on the class warfare meme. It seems to me they can make a pretty strong argument that it is in fact the Republicans who are waging class warfare against the poor and the middleclass.

  26. Modusoperandi:

    dharleyman, because saying that and adding “…and for thirty years we’ve been meeting them halfway almost every time.” doesn’t sell all that well. Also, when a Republican says “class warfare” it’s okay, but when a Democrat says it it’s just being negative and divisive and The Village press won’t stand for it. Top down class warfare is another word for “Capitalism” (also “America” and “Liberty” and “Freedom”) but bottom up it’s “SOCIALISM!!!” (and “Communism” and “Envy”). Stepping on those below you is how you climb up, you see.

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