Drug tests for the unemployed? What lunacy

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The following editorial appeared in the San Jose Mercury News:

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, says that to cut the cost of unemployment benefits, the federal government should make applicants take drug tests.

Oh my. Where to begin?

At a time of nearly full employment, maybe it would be worth debating whether to tighten the screening of people applying for help when it seems like they really should be able to get a job. But in the middle of the deepest recession since the Great Depression?

Then there's the experience of Michigan, which tried screening welfare applicants in 1999 to try to root out drug users and found only a few positive tests, mostly for marijuana. Based on that "Why bother?" result, other states declined to follow the example.

But of course the most outrageous thing about this is the obvious upfront cost and new government bureaucracy it would take to implement drug testing on a large scale for today's massive number of unemployment recipients. This from a member of the party that hates big government.

Wouldn't it be better to just help people through this crisis? Or maybe invest in some startups to create jobs?

Congress seems unable to pass an extension of unemployment benefits despite evidence that our national recovery persists in being all but jobless. That's bad enough. The idea of spending federal money to humiliate out-of-work Americans is just pathetic.

What is Hatch smoking?

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