Friday, November 11, 2011

Polls and Drug Tests

I saw a poll on facebook today asking people if individuals receiving unemployment benefits should be drug tested.  Of course, people answered in the affirmative at a rate of about 9 to 1.  This is generally fueled by the impression that unemployed people (of which I may be joining their ranks very shortly) are a bunch of pathetic, lazy, moochers, sucking on the government teat.  But here's the thing.  I don't think drug-testing people receiving unemployment benefits goes nearly far enough.  We really need to be asking this question more often.  I mean, shouldn't we be drug-testing these federal government parasites who are stealing our hard-earned money?

  1. Should we require drug tests for families that receive food stamps?
  2. Should we require drug tests for single mothers who receive child and dependent care tax credits?
  3. Should we require drug tests for people receiving Medicaid benefits?
  4. Should we require drug tests for people receiving Medicare benefits?
  5. Should we require drug tests for college students applying for Pell grants?
  6. Should we require drug tests for college students applying for subsidized/unsubsidized Stafford loans?
  7. Should we require drug tests for retired senior citizens collecting Social Security benefits?
  8. Should we require drug tests for homeowners using the Home Mortgage Income Tax Deduction?
  9. Should we require drug tests for drivers who use our federal highways?
I think you see where I'm going with this.  If you answer yes to these questions, you are advocating for the government to drug test every single citizen in the United States.  You know why?  Because every single citizen in the United States receives benefits from the government in one shape or another.  Yes, even those unemployed parasites collecting unemployment insurance, paid into the unemployment insurance fund at one point or another.  So you can't make the argument that drug-testing the jobless is some kind of special case that deserves extra scrutiny.  They paid into the program just as the retired paid into Social Security.

Former governor of California getting high.
But let's think about it in a practical sense.  What if we did enforce drug testing for the unemployed?  Well, drug-testing is very expensive and requires massive man-power to administer the tests and analyze the results.  So you'll need to create a massive new bureaucracy.  And hire a lot of new people.  Fine then, off the top of my head I can think of a bunch of people that could use the job, heh, heh.  But creating a new bureaucracy and hiring a lot of people costs money.  So you're taxes will need to go up to provide that revenue.  Or your benefits will need to go down.  Probably both.  Plus, we have to decide which drugs we are testing for. Are we testing for alcohol too? If not, why not? Marijuana?  That seems like a no-brainer, but I know pot-heads that pass drug tests all the time.  So as an added bonus, the tests aren't too reliable either. Wonderful. And who are we drug-testing again? Just the unemployed?  Why not people using our federal highways?  I can guarantee you that people using our public highways on drugs are doing vastly more societal damage than people on welfare smoking pot. I honestly can't think of a good ethical or practical reason why the unemployed should be drug tested but drivers should not.  I guess the only difference is that pretty much everybody drives (except the poor) so drug-testing drivers would affect "us" rather than the marginalized "others" who are unemployed.  And if you thought the wait times at the DMV were bad, can you imagine what the wait times at a government sponsored drug-testing facility would be?  Not to mention the personal privacy invasion associated with being compelled by your government to give blood and urine samples.  In other words, we shouldn't be asking people if the unemployed should be drug-tested before receiving benefits.  We should ask them:
Would you be in favor of the creation of a massive government bureaucracy that will increase taxes, cut benefits, demand hours and hours of your personal time and invade your personal space and privacy, in order to prevent a handful of drug users from collecting unemployment benefits?
Because that would actually be a much more accurate description of the trade-offs involved and the remedies suggested.

*** UPDATE ***

The Daily Show hits it out of the park below...


  1. The ratio was actually 23 to 1. All the people with political science graduate degrees were in the minority. It's almost like people with expert knowledge of how policy actually works are able to see the gaping problems with policy that the average individual supports based on gut instinct. So yeah, what do experts know, those damn pointy head elitists.

    Of course, they already have it built in that if you are convicted of drug possession you are ruled ineligible for federal student aid.

  2. I didn't know that about college loans but it's still a leap away from mandated drug testing.