So Scott Walker is proposing drug testing Food Stamp recipients…

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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82 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    He did campaign on this issue and said he would go for it re-elected.

    I do think that part of the legalization/reform process is going to be drug warriors and conservative culture warriors making last ditch efforts at entrenching the status quo. I largely do think that social conservatives are on the ropes right now with an increase in legalized marijuana, the collapse of same-sex marriage bans and DOMA, and increasing awareness of the need for rights for transgenerdered people, etc.

    They will not go quietly though. My brother noted on FB that the conservatives in Europe have largely accepted and made peace with the various social revolutions of the 1960s. The social conservatives in the United States have not and are largely still trying to fight the 1960s and reverse various changes. There are a lot of social conservatives who want to turn back Griswold v. Connecticut for pete’s sake!

    So these sort of battles and issues are going to pop up a lot in the next few years. There is a new argument against the 9th Circuit decision striking down SSM bans and it is very silly and amounts to “Wah, you ruled against us and that is mean”Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      While I do not share it, I do understand the sentiment that says “I had to take a drug test to get a job to pay for your welfare, the least you could do is return the favor.”

      Now, I’m not particularly interested in defending a position that I don’t hold (today, anyway) but I am willing to say that I can see that this position is one that seems to be perennial enough that we’ll probably have to argue against it, oh, next year and the year after that unless we find a really good argument against it.

      From where I sit, “you don’t have to be drug tested anymore” looks like it might be sufficient.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

        If they’d use drug tests that look for current intoxication rather than intoxication at any time in the past month, that could be a good start. And of course, if they’d restrict drug testing to jobs where having a bit of a buzz on would actually endanger people.

        In Canada, I’ve really only heard of people being tested for jobs with considerable danger and heavy equipment – construction, mining, etc. Some of the jobs I’ve heard of Americans having to be tested for are really puzzling.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

        @dragonfrog Hey man, you don’t want just ANYBODY making that sandwich. You don’t know if they are hopped up on goofballs.

        @jaybird – as I explained below, I think that argument is actually glib shorthand for a more deep objection, and simply making drug testing go away for most of the non-welfare populace will not prevent people from pushing for drug testing for those on welfare.

        There’s a reason panhandlers even bother with stories about how they “just need enough gas to get home”, or “get a hot meal” or whatever, when many people know, no, that dollar I gave them is really going toward maintaining an addiction (of course, there’s always the exception who letters his sign “I REALLY JUST NEED A DRINK”, and gets cash by being funny/honest – but he’s always the exception, not the rule, and the sign wouldn’t get money if he were the rule).

        People want to believe their money is going towards giving a person a hand up; not assisting them in planting face down.

        Some people don’t want to assist due to envy/resentment (“why should *he* have fun on *my* dime?”) and some don’t because it feels complicit/enabling to do so (I myself have wondered what obligation I might have to stop funding an artist who is known to be self-destructing on drugs or alcohol – you don’t want *your* dollar to be the one that bought his fatal shot, do you?)

        I realize this also seems like arguing for a position I don’t hold, but I think assuming that we can get people to stop feeling this way is overly optimistic. I can understand those feelings, even if I suspect they ultimately bring their own costs and problems with them.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        “Hey, I didn’t ask for banana peppers! Damn stoners.”Report

    • So these sort of battles and issues are going to pop up a lot in the next few years. There is a new argument against the 9th Circuit decision striking down SSM bans and it is very silly and amounts to “Wah, you ruled against us and that is mean”

      I expect a similar argument mutatis mutandis if the scotus rules against subsidies for federal health insurance exchanges. Not that I’d welcome such a ruling, mind, and not that I’m not pleased at striking down ssm bans. But sometimes the fairness or unfairness depends on whose ox(en) is(are) being gored.

      My point is more than just to snark and lob a tu quoque. It’s also to warn against a counterproductive triumphalism that can work against maintaining those advances. (And they are advances. I strongly support ssm and legalizing marijuana and I do support recognizing the rights of transsexuals, although I confess I’ve been slow to jump on board.)

      One way to entrench opposition against these advances–and thereby strengthen efforts to rollback or curtail further advances–is to adopt the attitude that the only reason one can or does oppose them is out of simple bigotry. Bigotry may play a role here, at least when it comes to those who oppose ssm or protections for transsexuals, but bigotry is usually not simple. People develop and are raised in world views in which gender and sexuality and marriage are seen as “natural” and based on certain norms and in which the state has a special obligation to protect those norms. I disagree strongly with those people and believe they are mistaken (and I believe that the history of such things would belie the “naturalness” of what they take to be natural) but it’s a little more complicated than simply waking up one morning and deciding to not like a certain group of people.

      And some issues–like the social conservatives who wish to keep marijuana illegal or who oppose Griswold–are perhaps not as easily caricatured as bigoted. Marijuana may be, as I believe, generally less harmful, or only “as harmful,” as alcohol, but it’s not harmless across the board, and there are probably some people who would experiment with it if it were legal who otherwise would not, and some of those might become somewhat dependent on it, and some of those might find it does lead to some mental damage that’s not easily fixed. (In my opinion, very little of that is helped by keeping it illegal, but it’s not full-blown obvious either that there’s no legitimate concern whatsoever about weed.)

      To the extent that social conservatives really do oppose Griswold–and I have my doubts that “a lot” of them do, maybe it’s only half a lot–their big target, I imagine, is abortion, a practice many of them regard as tantamount to murder. I suspect that if you asked such anti-Griswolders why they hold the position they do, they’ll probably point to that case’s identifying of a “right to privacy” and the use of that doctrine to justify the Roe v. Wade decision. They might not necessarily have any beef against legalizing birth control itself. (Some might, and I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if the owners of Hobby Lobby would support making it illegal if such a policy were on offer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d draw the line somewhere south of criminalization, either). And although I ultimately believe that women have a special prerogative to terminate or foster that life and even if I didn’t believe so I’d have grave reservations about making abortion illegal and although I don’t think recognizing a “right to privacy” necessarily means that abortion should be legal anyway, I do find the concerns of such social conservatives to be sincere.

      When we’re on the cusp of victory, we need to express empathy for our opponents. I don’t mean sympathy, I mean empathy. I mean we need to show some appreciation for how it feels to be on the losing end of the battle. I tend to see this as an almost ethical imperative, but if you can’t meet me that far, I’m willing to fall back on the notion that empathy is a good tactical matter. No one “deserves” empathy, and I would probably have a different instinct if, say, my right to a legal marriage were limited because of whom I happen to love. Also, none of this means we shouldn’t still support change. The fight for ssm isn’t over, the fight for transsexual rights is barely begun, and legalizing marijuana is only one step in ending the drug war. But there is sometimes room for understanding others and not fueling their incentive to react against changes, and perhaps even winning allies in unexpected places.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy

        I don’t think opposing Griswold is about simple bigotry or wanting to oppress women but I am a cis-gendered heterosexual male. It is not my place to tell someone who is gay or women that they should be more respectful to people who oppose same-sex marriage or access to birth control or abortion.

        But there is an element of opposing Griswold which screams trying to turn back the clock and stuff everything you dislike into a box. Griswold was decided in 1965. The decision will turn 50 years old very soon. I don’t know how to describe it exactly but it does feel a odd that some social conservatives are still screaming in rebellion about Supreme Court cases that happened 50 years ago.

        I also have to ask about why they think states will go along with banning contraception if Griswold is overturned. What is their ultimate aim? What kind of world do they want? It does not feel like a very welcoming world to me as Jewish person and I can’t see why it would be very welcoming or appealing to women, LGBT oriented people, and other minorities. This was published in the Atlantic this week:

        http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/11/the-republican-obsession-with-restoring-america/382689/

        “Here’s the problem. Unlike Reagan, today’s Republicans are generally shrewd enough to avoid identifying exactly which previous age they wish to restore. But for African Americans, Latinos, women, and gays and lesbians, idealizing any previous age means idealizing one in which they enjoyed fewer rights and opportunities than they do today. Pledging to “restore” America appeals to many older, straight, Anglo, white, and male voters, because it’s a subtle way of saying Republicans will bring back the good old days. The GOP’s problem is that to win back the White House, it must make inroads among Americans who know the good old days weren’t all that good.”

        This paragraph is rather spot on and I don’t trust the opponents of SSM or people still screaming at Griswold to ever give respect to the viewpoints of their opponents. I am not convinced that I am morally, ethically, or strategically required to give them any charity or respect either. To a large extent, I simply distrust them.Report

      • @saul-degraw

        First of all, this is a very good point:

        It is not my place to tell someone who is gay or women that they should be more respectful to people who oppose same-sex marriage or access to birth control or abortion.

        And I should probably check my privilege at least a couple times before admonishing others.

        But admonish I did, and while it’s not necessarily my place to do it, I really do think I have some ethical/moral obligation. You disagree. You also disagree that there’s a strategic “obligation,” as you call it. I do think that the tactical/strategic portion of my argument doesn’t rest on notions of “obligation” as much as on notions of what works and what doesn’t. And maybe you have enough faith on the power of your side and mine than I do. I guess time will tell.

        As for this:

        I also have to ask about why they think states will go along with banning contraception if Griswold is overturned. What is their ultimate aim? What kind of world do they want?

        I think I tried to answer that, at least by implication. I think their ultimate goal, or the goal of most of them, is not to ban birth control. It’s to take aim at abortion. And again, I disagree with them, but I don’t doubt that they, or some of them, at least have sincere arguments.

        Now, the empathy I advocate for goes only so far. And at the end of the day, we might have to rely on the markers of strength: fashioning a coalition, appealing to the courts when the laws don’t recognize the rights we seek, appealing to the legislatures when the courts don’t recognize those rights, seeking to change minds.

        And again, and as you said, it’s probably not our place to tell transgendered or gay people, or gay people, or women that they need to show empathy (and I think “empathy” is different from “respect,” which is the word you used).

        But the trouble with being right is the temptation to self-righteousness. And that’s what I’m trying to argue against.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Empathy. Show empathy. That’s such great advice.

        Like I have some great empathy for my brother, who could only marry his partner of 27 years two years ago, and couldn’t marry him in many states, still. I have empathy for my daughter, who two weeks after beginning HRT to transition from male to female had relief from depression and suicidal ideation that had plagued her all her life as a male. I have a great deal of empathy for the woman I helped at the food last week. She has three children, her husband abandoned them, and she’s about to be evicted because she can’t pay her rent. I had to tell her she needs to go check into a shelter to get any help.

        Empathy for the people who think she’s a moocher? Empathy for someone who would tell my daughter to spend the rest of her life contemplating suicide instead of living as a woman? Empathy for the people who don’t think my brother and his husband should have the same marital rights and my husband and I have? I’m certainly sorry that these things discomfort them; but I have nothing in the way of empathy for the harm they would cause others. And I don’t think I should, either.Report

      • Zic,

        I’m leaving this conversation, but I just want to note that I hear what you’re saying and it’s not lost on me.Report

  2. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Like I’ve said before, I’ll support these once every employee of a company that makes more than 50.1% of their income from federal or state contracts or anybody who receives other forms of government support, such as Pell Grants, also has to take a drug test.

    Oh, and of course, every member of the staff of the legislature and the legislature themselves. There, I just killed the DC nightlife. 🙂Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    What kinda drugs are we talking about? Soft stuff, like weed? Or the real stuff, like Viagra?

    Though you realize the inevitable conclusion of this is a test for Congresscritters that excludes anyone on heroin, crack, and oral contraceptives… right?Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    Now this is a good one for the CBO to score.

    We’ve just been through this stuff (to some degree, we’re in for me,) here. Some <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/01/08/3136631/lepage-welfare/"3,000 EBT withdrawals, made at bars and strip clubs, etc. Oh My. Get your angry disapproving on, and start up another expensive investigation to catch fraud. Because this is rampant:

    the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) spokesman told the Bangor Daily News, they only make up “about two-tenths of 1 percent of total purchases and ATM withdrawals,”

    Perhaps we should start drug-testing Medicare recipients, along with Congress, too. How much would it cost us to boot all the pot-smoking grannies (toking up while they get chemo for cancer,) and heroine-addicted grandpas (injured on the job and addicted via doctor-prescribed pain killers,) off Medicare?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to zic says:

      Part of the problem is that many of the folks who support the policy see it as tax dollars well-spent.

      The argument that it’s expensive (or spends more than it saves) is an argument that just bounces off this position because many of the people who hold it aren’t opposed to such things as government spending in principle, they just want to make sure that the money is spent on the “deserving”.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Jaybird says:

        I always think it is, at least to some degree, an indication their own yard stick for committing fraud; because they might do it (or encourage family members to do it) if they have need, the expect the same of others, who, of course, aren’t as good as they are.Report

  5. Avatar LWA says:

    Nice try, but I honestly don’t think conservatives will feel the slightest ripple of shame even if confronted with their own drug test with a copy of their application for Medicaid/ Agricultural grant/ gummint assistance whatever.

    The fact that so many Tea Party/ Fox viewers are on Medicaid but rail against “Welfare” usually means that government aid to rural white people is legitimate, while government aid to urban black people is welfare.

    Yeah, it really does boil down to class and race, every time. No one seriously believes that welfare fraud/ voter fraud is significant. Drug testing is just a dog whistle, the handy smokescreen that conceals the desire to punish the illegitimate Other.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

      I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with this. From the article: But a number of Republicans–whom aides and other congressmen interviewed refuse to identify, saying they don’t want to hurt them politically–let it be known they considered drug testing an indignity unworthy of their elected positions.

      Identify them. Get them on camera saying “this is an indignity unworthy of me”.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I like the spirit of where you’re going here, but I don’t think it would have the desired effect — and I think Republicans know that.

    When people say they want drug screenings for food stamp recipients, it’s for the same reason they want harsh jail sentences for drug users, but are ok with the fact that they do/did occasionally take a hit of pot.

    They aren’t really against the drugs; they’re against the picture they have of a certain class (and often times race) of people that they assume do drugs.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Tod, you have this wonderful ability to get to the heart of the matter very easily.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I think that’s some of it.

      I also think “Wait a second, I have to agree to pee in a cup for my job (where I work to get paid) and some schmo on welfare doesn’t?” actually has quite a bit of resonance. And not just among people who vote Republican. One of the first things I often hear when someone announces their support for these sorts of policies is that they, themselves, have peed into a cup (or have agreed to, if required).Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        In addition, I think that everyone knows that, well, drugs are fun. At least for a while. They are a rollercoaster for your body and brain. Which is why people do them.

        There’s that old saw about “the fear that someone, somewhere is enjoying themselves…”, but in this case, the fungibility of food stamps/welfare with other income means that saw can be appended with “…on my (symbolic) dime, while *I* have to get up for work in the morning.”

        People also know that drugs, especially the harder ones (but honestly, even the softer ones, via stupid decision-making) can kill…add that to the above, and people are understandably reluctant to fund that, even indirectly.

        If there’s footage on the news of people on welfare, that somehow can afford to go to Drug Disneyland – and further, Drug Disneyland has a bunch of rickety-ass rollercoasters with regular injuries and fatalities – it’s not necessarily ridiculous (or racist, or classist) for people to say, “I’m uncomfortable with funding that (or assisting/subsidizing its funding), even indirectly.”

        I don’t support drug testing myself, feeling it’s a waste of money and too subjective/invasive etc; but I think presenting all people who support it as racist/classist (instead of also, in their own possibly-misguided and unarticulated ways, compassionate and/or envious, two very human tendencies), is far too simple a narrative.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman, there are potential privacy issues involved with drug tests for welfare recipients and other benefits. The 4th Amendment, applied to the states through the 14th amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants. This generally includes body searches. A drug test by the government would most likely be an unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant. Getting warrants for everybody using food stamps or on welfare seems like a waste of time and inefficient.Report

      • I’m against it, myself, though I am skeptical that it should be a constitutional matter if pertaining to select benefits. (I’m not positive it should be a Constitutional matter if pertaining to broad benefits – such as the ability to drive – though that’s a closer call.)

        I speak of my own views, though, and not the views of the High Court.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

        It seems a bit weird to say that intrusive searches and seizures are bad when it involves a criminal standard or broad benefit but not a narrow benefit like food stamps. People don’t have a right to drive either.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will,

        I also think “Wait a second, I have to agree to pee in a cup for my job (where I work to get paid) and some schmo on welfare doesn’t?” actually has quite a bit of resonance.

        You may be right about this, but if so what does that reveal about people? Is this a fairness issue, or is something else at play (like punition!). I can’t help but think that privilege plays a pretty big role in all this drug-testing-for-food-stamps stuff, myself. But I think that you’re comment here (if correct, and I’m willing to agree that it passes the smell test) exposes something else: that privileged folks think their norms ought to be enforced (normalized, as it were) on those less fortunate than themselves. WHich is maybe a whole separate canaworms, but something that strikes me as in play on all this. Not to mention the fact that lots of people who are largely exempt from anything like criminal prosecution for all sorts of drug use are advocates for these types of laws. I dunno, tho. Just throwing that out there.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        Is what it reveals about people something that is likely to change?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yeah, I think so. Why not?Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Will Truman says:

        Lee, like I said I’m not actually sure about broad benefits like driving, either, though I think the argument is stronger.

        The standard to justify intrusiveness to lose one’s ability to stay out of prison, though, is far higher than to drive or recieve food stamps.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        If it’s a fairness issue, I’d point out a comment made by a friend in the last week. One of his kids had a two hour delay for school due to snow. The other kid had school start at the scheduled time.

        The kid who had to go to school on time explained that this was not fair.

        I am not certain that this was “privilege” operating.

        In any case, if we’re dealing with people who are saying “I had to take a drug test to pay your welfare, it’s not fair that you don’t have to take one”, I’m thinking that we’re dealing with something ingrained in human nature (using the kids as an example of that).

        Personally, I think we’ll move a lot more opinions by not making workers take drug tests for illegal drugs than by explaining to these same workers that it’s none of anybody’s business if people on public assistance are using illegal drugs or not.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        Personally, I think we’ll move a lot more opinions by not making workers take drug tests for illegal drugs than by …

        Jaybird, how do you expect to not make workers take drug tests without moving opinions on the issue?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        Why, by suggesting that Congressmen and Senators be drug tested. When they refuse, and they will refuse, use their arguments in a follow-up bill saying that these arguments apply to Americans in general.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        “a follow up bill”.

        Hmmm. The underpants gnomes theory of law making, yes? Devilishly clever. No one will ever see it coming.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        I suppose that the flaw in my plan is that it requires the Democrats to act.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        So I guess we’re going to run with the plan that requires the Republicans to change?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

        Sure Jaybird. Whatever.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman

        How many people have to pee in a cup for work? I never have. I’m not being snarky. I think you’re right about the potential resonance. I’m just curious how sizable a portion of the population this is.Report

      • @kazzy I’ve had to twice, though both of those were a part of the interview process. I had one employer that instituted screenings for current employees that I actually knew people who were tested and subsequently fired, but I didn’t draw the black bean and wasn’t tested.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Will Truman says:

        Never had to. Worked a few different jobs, usually handling sensitive material and sometimes handling various degrees of classified material. Defense and intelligence work mostly. They *could have* tested me as part of an investigation if something struck them as suspicious, but it wasn’t done randomly or universally as part of the hiring process.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Will Truman says:

        I suppose that the flaw in my plan is that it requires the Democrats to act.

        I laughed.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Hating on people on “welfare” has a long tradition. St Ronnie got plenty of mileage our of his unproven statements about young bucks and welfare queens.Report

    • Avatar notme in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Why do liberals have to turn everything into a convoluted argument that Repubs do everything based on race? Personally I think you guys do it so you don’t have to do anything hard thinking and can reaffirm what you already think you know to be true.Report

  7. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I’ll admit that libertarians on this here blog have fundamentally changed the way I think about drugs, prohibitions, screenings, incarceration-rates and penalties, etc. Not only is the enforcement of prohibitory drug-related laws a monetary sink (no money in, lots of money out), but the rationalizations for writing and enforcing those laws reveal something really ugly about our culture and society generally and the role all-too-many folks think gummint ought to play in all this in particular.Report

  8. Avatar Crprod says:

    Expanding drug testing to welfare recipients benefits the companies that do the testing and their investors. This benefits the free enterprise system and is good for America. Anyone who points out that welfare recipients have a much lower frequency of positive results than the general population and that results in increased taxpayer expense is obviously a socialist.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Crprod says:

      @crprod

      “This benefits the free enterprise system and is good for America. Anyone who points out that welfare recipients have a much lower frequency of positive results than the general population and that results in increased taxpayer expense is obviously a socialist.”

      You say this is like this is a bad thing….Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Professional concern troll Kevin Drum has a provocative blogpost:

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/can-we-talk-heres-why-white-working-class-hates-democrats

    Interesting graf: So who does the WWC take out its anger on? Largely, the answer is the poor. In particular, the undeserving poor. Liberals may hate this distinction, but it doesn’t matter if we hate it. Lots of ordinary people make this distinction as a matter of simple common sense, and the WWC makes it more than any.

    Check out the whole thing.Report