For the eleventh time since beginning of the economic downturn, Congress is tasked with extending the unemployment insurance program. But the now-familiar fight is set to take on a new flavor this time as a tactic Republicans pushed at the state level elevates into the congressional debate: smearing the unemployed as drug idled and lazy, and inserting provisions designed to harass them.
“There’s been a concerted attempt to turn the unemployed into the welfare queen,” said Judy Conti of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group. “We’ve thoroughly demonized welfare recipients so now it seems like they’re moving on to the unemployed.”
House floor, Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican from New York, said that in his district the unemployed could not get jobs because they were all high. “What I’ve heard from small business owners across our district is that one of the main reasons that they cannot hire individuals is because they simply cannot pass a drug test,” he said.
That’s a story line gleaned from the states, where conservatives have put a lot of energy in recent years into lambasting jobless Americans—using demonstrably fallacious accusations. At least 30 state legislatures have considered legislation to require drug testing for unemployment insurance, food stamp and welfare applicants. Where those programs have been used, they’ve repeated proven a waste.
In September, South Carolina Gov. Nikke Haley told a crowd gathered at a country club breakfast, “I so want drug testing. It’s something I’ve been wanting since the first day I walked into office.”
See also: Tea Party, Republican Critics Dependent on Government Benefits; Resurrection of the Welfare Queen; Welfare Drug Testing Bill Withdrawn After Amended To Include Testing Lawmakers; How much do we spend on the non-working poor