A Bad Idea Goes National

A Bad Idea Goes National December 14, 2011

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.

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