Democratic lawmakers in four states — Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee — have proposed making Republican legislators pee in cups.
It’s all the rage in state legislatures and even in Congress. More than a dozen states are debating proposals to require jobless Americans who receive unemployment benefits to submit to mandatory drug testing.
The argument for forcing the unemployed to relieve themselves in a cup goes something like this: Tax dollars shouldn’t support drug addicts, and neither federal nor state governments should be in the business of funding drug cartels.
Never mind that sober-minded think tanks, serious policy shops, and even the nation’s leading newspapers have debunked the notion that unemployed workers are likely to be drug users and that mandatory drug testing constitutes sound public policy.
It took Jon Stewart’s Daily Show to expose the hypocrisy of drug- testing proponents. Stewart dispatched faux reporter Aasif Mandvi to Florida to interview Navy veteran Louis Lebron, an unemployed worker who is relying on his benefits to take care of his disabled mom while he studies to be an accountant.
“I refuse to take the drug test,” Lebron solemnly tells Aasif.
“This is unconstitutional. It violates the Fourth Amendment. I served in the U.S. Navy. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution…It’s casting a cloud over a population of people with no factual evidence.”
Advocates for unemployed workers suspect that conservatives who would require unemployment recipients to submit to mandatory drug testing have a hidden motive: First, undermine public support for unemployment insurance by associating recipients with drug users. Then, get the public to think about unemployment insurance as just a government handout. Finally, blame the unemployed for their predicament, thus creating a political environment that allows benefits to be slashed.
An example of this thinking comes from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who told CNN,
“The studies show that people on welfare are using drugs [at rates] much higher than the [general] population.”
Before a federal judge struck down Florida’s drug testing program as unconstitutional, just 2 percent of unemployment recipients there failed a drug test — much lower than the estimated 8-to-9 percent of the U.S. population that uses illegal drugs on a regular basis. In Indiana, 1,240 people were tested — of those, just 13 people, or about 1 percent of the sample, tested positive.
Even if drug testing were to route out a significant sample of unemployment insurance recipients, and even if one could overlook the moral and constitutional implications, there’s another problem:
Depending on which test is used, drug testing costs $25 to $75 per test. Indiana’s drug testing program cost $45,000, involved 1,240 people, and yielded 13 people who tested positive, according to the National Law Employment Project. That’s an average of $3,500 for every positive test result — or more money than it would cost to extend federal UI benefits for one person through 2012. More broadly, an advisory board in Texas found it would cost that state $30 million to implement a comprehensive testing program for jobless Texans — which is why a drug-testing proposal failed to pass even the rabidly conservative Texas House of Representatives.
Will lawmakers in Congress and the state legislatures come to their senses? Perhaps, but it might take some comic relief to help them do so. Already, with tongues planted firmly in cheek, Democratic lawmakers in four states — Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee — have proposed making Republican legislators pee in cups. And a bipartisan group of legislators in a fifth state, Indiana, actually passed a bill calling for random drug testing of their colleagues.
If some lawmakers tested positive, we could call it Legislating Under the Influence. And that, we can all agree, is a waste of our tax dollars.
David Elliot is communications director for USAction, a progressive federation of 22 state organizations. www.usaction.org
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Looking for something?
New on bluetabletalk…
- The Parched Truth About American Jobs
- When Are 12-year Olds Sex Offenders?
- Obama Admin Secretly Obtains Trove of Associated Press Phone Records in “Unprecedented Intrusion”
- Failing to Heal: Hunger Strikes in Guantánamo and the Role of Medical Professionals
- US Foreign Policy on Trial in Guatemala’s Genocide Trial
- Future Politics: Fast Forward or Full Reverse
- Survival of the … Nicest? Check Out the Other Theory of Evolution
- Victory for Lake County 8th Grader as School Board Settles Gay-Straight Alliance Lawsuit After One Day
- America Wages War on Sex
- How Reinhart-Rogoff and the Austerians Produced a Sloppy Scholarly Fraud
- National Day of Reason Reaffirms the Separation of Church and State
- Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
- Dump the AARP
- Why Pride, Dignity and Respect Hold the Key to Ending Violence
- ACLU Statement on Miranda Rights of Boston Bombings Suspect
- Painting a Grim Picture of Art Education
- Following Push by ACLU, Lake County School Board Decides Not to Ban All Clubs
- The Case for Platonic Marriage
- CEO Pay: The French Have a Better Idea
- Fracking the First Amendment
The good man understands what is right,
the bad man understands profit.
“The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land in which there are the most homesteads, freeholds — where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough — a modest living— and no man is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities.”
–Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
'He leaves us a lesson, which is to never accept any injustice.'
–The French President, François Hollande, speaking of Stéphane Hessel, dead at age 95.
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered…”
Around the web…
Above the law"The laws, Cicero wrote in the days of the Roman Republic, “are silent in time of war.” But what if the war has no end, no defined enemy, no defined territory? How can markets work if the financial behemoths are too big to fail and too big to jail? If the national security state has the power of life or death above the law, and Wall Street has the power to plunder beyond the law, in what way does this remain a nation of laws? " --Katrina van Heuvel
Waking From My Moral Coma"It is the killing, it is the permanent war, it is our deranged national priorities. It is the system we live under which requires the serial deaths of all those innocents to maintain our economic health that should appall us. We sup upon the blood and bonemeal that is the byproduct of the idea that is America, and we sleep. And we sleep." -William Rivers Pitt
- Diana on Is Your Bubbly Soap Making the Kids Sick?
- Bob HILL on Vocabulary for the New Millenium: Reconciling Independence with Interdependence
- Gerry Tatham on Alan Grayson. “Aaron Swartz, R.I.P.”
- Rabbi Stanley Howard Schwartz DD on Alan Grayson. “Aaron Swartz, R.I.P.”
- j j on SOTU 2013: Not a Game-Changing Agenda
Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition