By Ruth Conniff
Tenacity can be an admirable trait in a leader -- except when it's stupid.
Stupid tenacity has afflicted several right-wing governors and legislators who grabbed hold of a bad idea that, in practice, has proven to be even worse than expected -- yet they've clung to it like Captain Ahab on Moby Dick. The bad idea was to whup-up on the poor and jobless by making them submit to drug tests in order to get the benefit payments that can help hard-hit folks recover. Never mind that there was no evidence that such people are more likely than, say, a state legislator to be on drugs, punishing those who're down on their luck is considered smart politics in right-wing circles. So, six states have imposed drug tests on people who seek unemployment benefits, and nine now require testing of welfare applicants.
What could go wrong, asked GOP officials as they rammed these vindictive insults into law? Three things, actually: First, as predicted, very few drug users are being found; second, administering this government intrusion is (hello) very expensive for taxpayers; and, third, courts have been ruling these sweeping government searches unconstitutional.
Yet, pandering at all costs to the tea party fringe that dominates Republican elections, state lawmakers won't let go of this demonstrably-bad idea of trying to humiliate people in need of a helping hand. Now, the fad is to pass "suspicion-based" laws that require applicants to fill out state questionnaires, then force those who seem to be a little "suspicious" to submit urine samples to the state. Texas and Mississippi, for example, are targeting those whose occupation might warrant drug testing.
Based on their dogged adherence to this stupid idea, I suggest that the occupation of "lawmaker" ought to top the list of those required by the state to pee in a cup.
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Photo: Flickr user DVIDSHUB, creative commons licensed.