This is one of those situations where I find myself somewhat torn, but there you have it. The bigger issue with the GOP jobs bill is what it does to benefits in general, but there’s still that niggling little issue about drug testing people who collect unemployment. On the surface, it seems to make sense. Peel back the first layer, and now it’s a terrible idea. Go further and it’s good again. Repeat ad nauseum.
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.”
Okay, let me go back and forth between my reasons to both agree and disagree with this idea.
- GOOD IDEA: The first thought is that people who are unemployed shouldn’t be sitting around getting high or doing lines. Clearly things are not going well, perhaps your time might be better spent not doing drugs.
- BAD IDEA: So a guy who spends all week trying to get work and then lights up a soda can pipe on Friday can’t get unemployment any more?
- GOOD IDEA: This is taxpayer money, people. Are you suggesting that people should basically be getting free shit on government money?
- BAD IDEA: I’m pretty sure you can get some pot for less than a big latte at Starbucks. It’s not like they’re burning through drug money.
- GOOD IDEA: Like that guy said, these people are preventing themselves from getting jobs, and since you can only be denied unemployment for misconduct and fraud, it ain’t hard for someone to be applying for jobs out the wazoo, get denied thanks to failed drug test, and keep collecting.
- BAD IDEA: Chances are, the people who would be applying to jobs that require a drug test aren’t going to be needing the test anyway, and the people who’d fail the tests are getting jobs where they could smoke up with co-workers on the weekend.
And so on and so on. This exercise could be repeated indefinitely, with no termination to it. Personal freedoms? Taxpayer expense? Personal responsibility? Economic boost?
My gut, clearly, tells me that the number of employed people I know that make a white cloud when they sneeze is proof positive that drug use and employment status aren’t really linked, but until I get some studies done I can’t really solidify a position.