Don’t bogart that joint, my friend, but certainly don’t pass it over to anyone collecting unemployment
I’m sure that there are some folks who are collecting unemployment and using some of the money on a little puff. Apply for enough on-line jobs to satisfy the weekly requirement that you’re looking for work, then lean back, relax, toke up... Don’t forget to inhale!
No, they’re not spending their whole time on UI luxuriating under the influence, mind you. We’re not talking big stoner, here. Just someone who wants to chill a bit, forget their worries – will I ever find a decent paying job again? – and hope that unemployment benefits get extended before theirs run out.
Human nature: some folks are spending some of their unemployment check on a baggy of weed.
And I’m sure there are some folks who are collecting unemployment and using some of the money on online gambling, 8,000 calorie breakfasts at Denny’s, and porn.
But most of those collecting, I’m quite certain, are just paying their bills and trying to find work. Lush and verdant as unemployment checks are – and in Massachusetts, the max is $629/week, so it’s really not so terrible – most of the people on it wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their life relying on it as their source of income. Especially if they don’t live in lush and verdant states like Massachusetts.
So I’m a bit appalled by Senator Orrin Hatch’s mean-spirited and niggling proposal that “the unemployed and those receiving other forms of government cash assistance” undergo drug testing. (Source: Huffington Post.)
Personally, as someone who in the past has collected those lush and verdant Massachusetts unemployment checks, I would have been completely aghast and utterly pissed off if I’d had to hand in a specimen in order to get paid – even though I would have been at no risk of failing a drug test, unless I got caught up in the poppy-seed-bagel-tests-for-heroin mis-results.
Not that it would happen here, but the idea is being embraced by voters in Utah. (One more reason I wouldn’t want to live there.) Utah, by the way, has a far lower max unemployment payout than lush and verdant Massachusetts. Utah is, after all, the desert in many ways – although it probably does cost a lot less to live there. Thus, the $444 max undeniably goes further than it would in l&v Massachusetts.
Here’s what Mr. Hatch sayeth about his constituents feelings about drug testing the unemployed:
A lot of people are saying, 'Hey, it's about time. Why do we keep giving money to people who are going to go use it on drugs instead of their families?'" Hatch said.
Inquiring minds want to know just what proportion of those collecting use their checks “on drugs instead of their families.”
I’m a pretty good guesser, and my pretty good guess is that this figure is pretty darned low – and probably even lower in Utah than almost any place else on the planet.
In order to collect, after all, one has to have been gainfully employed for a slug of time. And it seems to me that this might be beyond the capacity of druggies drugged out enough to require treatment. Because that is what Mr. Hatch claims his aim is.
That’s right. It’s not to punish, humiliate, antagonize, demoralize, or piss of those shiftless, aimless, content to do nothing unemployed who are taking big time advantage of double-digit, long-term unemployment to get on the dole.
The goal, he [Orrin Hatch] said, is to get users into treatment.
No doubt there are some unemployed folks who say to hell with it, and start using meth/crack/heroin/oxy/whatever other addictive, destructive, terrible drugs there are out there.
And Hatch does want to help them:
“…it does get the help for them that they really need. And if they get the help, then they're right back on to the cash," he said.
Forget the feelings and concerns of the unemployed who aren’t using hard drugs, and don’t need any treatment, thank you. Actually, the help that 99.99% of the unemployed need is a) the cash; b) the job – not someone hounding them to pee in a cup.
But Hatch has it all worked out. The test will pay for itself by taking benefits away from those using drugs. Anything left over will go to work the deficit down.
Does this type of pee-to-play drug testing work?
Studies of this type of policy aimed at welfare recipients suggests that it’s a crock. According to Harold Pollack, a University of Chicago prof who’s worked in this arena:
"Absent specific indications, my own research and work conducted by others suggests that population drug screening is unwise. …[It] reflects a technological quirk: Urine tests more readily detect marijuana than they can detect other intoxicating substances."
Another study (of women on welfare in Michigan) showed that, while 8% of the population studied were using drugs, only 1% were using a drug other than grass.
Of course, Orrin Hatch may believe that marijuana is gateway drug, and that the idle mind of the unemployed is the devil’s workshop for reefer madness.
But in my book it just looks petty and punitive.
For most of the folks suffering through it – and I actually know a couple of them – long term unemployment is bad enough without throwing this one in their face.
But if we are going to start getting priggish about what people are spending their unemployment checks on , why not forbid anyone over the age of 10 from buying an oversized, Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirts. Maybe we should refuse to pay unemployment to anyone who’d spend it on a Thomas Kincaid painting. Or who’d spend their money on tickets to a Miley Cyrus (in her current incarnation)concert.
Now there are people it might be worth getting into treatment.
Meanwhile, write to your senator and tell him/her that, if this idea ever comes to a vote, let Orrin Hatch bogart it all by his lonesome.