Unsatisfied with waging simultaneous wars against reproductive rights, poor people, the environment, organized labor, single mothers, and Ronald Reagan phones, Republican lawmakers in state capitols across the country are seeking to add another front to their unrelenting fight against basic principles of logic and fundamental human decency: drug testing the unemployed. Now, this isn’t exactly a stretch of the imagination, considering how many bills have been introduced to test welfare-recipients. It is however, really, really fucking dumb.
Even a cursory examination of available information demonstrates that the entire enterprise is riddled with problems: it’s constitutionally untenable (just ask Florida), it doesn’t save any goddamn money (in fact, it does the exact opposite, most welfare-eligibility drug testing programs actually end up costing taxpayers more money than is saved. Just ask Florida! (and Georgia). “But Wait!” You’ll say, “that isn’t the point, the goal of testing is to get users off the dope!” Well, here’s the thing – welfare and unemployment benefits are notoriously unreliable predictors of drug use. In fact, individuals receiving food stamps, unemployment payments, or other forms of public assistance are no more likely (and often less likely) than those in higher economic brackets. National surveys put the rate of illegal drug use at about 8%. Florida’s adventure into blanket testing of welfare applicants? 2% tested positive. Additionally, erecting barriers to access for welfare and assistance programs is ultimately just going to harm already disadvantaged children.
None of these even touches on the Orwellian nature of a bunch of ‘small government’ zealots legislating into existence a variety of intrusive bureaucratic mechanisms that will siphon off public money into the hands of some corporate behemoth to perform all of these drug tests. Nevermind the almost unbelievable ideological hyprocisy. Nevermind that only the poor and desperate will be faced with additional hardship, or that these efforts are straw-men pandering at its most cruel and tribalistic, backed up solely by conservative think tanks and the purveyors of dystopic corporate interests over at ALEC.
But hey, if you’re still down with this absurd, insidious type of legislation I’m sure you won’t mind repeated unconstitutional privacy violations when you apply for a student loan, or a federally backed mortgage, or a small business loan. Sure you won’t because you probably don’t even use drugs and will therefore happily pee in cups over and over and over again to access basic public services.