Another offensive political antic: The proposal to drug test the unemployed

September 8, 2011

I opened my e-mail last week to find the notification that I have been expecting:  My state unemployment benefits have expired.  After navigating my way through the system, though, I am now officially registered in the second tier of Federal Extended Benefits.

While I am grateful for the continued aid, I am aghast.  When this strange journey began, I braced myself for it taking four or five months to find a new job.  And I am not comforted by the fact that millions of Americans share my fate.

But I am far more concerned at the political antics surrounding the economy and high unemployment rate.  I don’t see solutions coming from either party – just ludicrous rhetoric and more short-term solutions.  And with a presidential election looming next year, the antics will only intensify.

Here in Ohio, two Republican state lawmakers want to introduce legislation requiring drug testing for all public aid recipients, including those receiving unemployment benefits. A Democratic state representative wants to introduce legislation requiring all legislators and members of the Ohio Supreme Court to submit to drug tests, too.

I have worked for more than two decades and this is the first time I have received unemployment benefits.  Prior to being laid off this year, I worked for 13 consecutive years in the state of Ohio, and I paid into the unemployment insurance fund.  Aside from current unemployment benefits, the only other assistance I have received from my government has been in the form of student loans used to finance my college education.  Oh, and those loans were paid back to the U.S. Treasury — with 9 percent interest attached.


(Courtesy of Stephanie Dudgeon)

This is my response to the self-righteous, sanctimonious Republicans who think that I should be treated like a criminal and submit to a drug test:  I would like to require these legislators to submit to a critical reasoning skills test.  And perhaps a test about economic theory and financial policy, too.  Their idea for requiring drug testing for all recipients of public assistance is the latest chapter in distraction politics.  That’s because this bunch has absolutely no idea how to foster the growth of a robust economy.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I think about the hundreds of public employees who sacrificed their lives while attempting to rescue their fellow citizens.

And I experience disgust verging on nausea as I watch some opportunistic politicians vilify the same group for political gain.

So here’s a suggestion to our political leaders for how to properly honor the victims of 9/11 and restore our economy:  Start behaving like honorable, thoughtful legislators and leave the thuggish behavior and rhetoric behind.

And in place of dopey, short-term solutions, designed more for political strategy, could you please engage in some thoughtful discussions about the wide array of policies that affect our long-term economic health?

You owe it to both the dead and the living to do so.

Stephanie Dudgeon, a 48-year-old former project manager from Columbus, Ohio, has been unemployed for five months. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Stephanie Dudgeon here.

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