Last week my favorite "death-watch" personality, Pat Robertson, declared the war on drugs unwinnable and said marijuana should be legalized. What we can hope for is that his audience of religious zealots and other conservatives will reexamine their stance on drugs. The GOP plot to institute drug testing for citizens on public assistance reminds me of Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High when he repeatedly asks his students, "What are you people, on dope?"
This is the same assumption that GOP lawmakers are making about America's poor. It's a law that is treading a slippery slope, not to mention a direct affront to the constitutional rights of American citizens. What is the reason for such legislation? There are two factors involved here.
The first is the typical high horse of morality on which the GOP is permanently mounted, chasing windmills throughout the political and social landscape. The second is another favorite of the GOP, the so-called "look over here at this problem and don't look at the real problems that are crushing this nation" tactic. It's a two-fold explanation that they are using: a moral crusade cloaked in a sham economic crisis.
The state of Michigan actually instituted this hideous legislation in 1999 but it was vigorously opposed by the ACLU. In April 2000, U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the law. She wrote that drug testing an entire class of citizens simply because they are poor "would be dangerously at odds with the tenets of our democracy." In April 2003, the appeals court affirmed that decision. Basically what Judge Roberts was saying to the GOP drug squad is that you're screwing with the Fourth Amendment and that is not cool.
However, this policy was in effect for five weeks and we were able to pull an interesting statistic from that period. Of 268 people tested, only 21 tested positive for drugs and all but three were for marijuana, and that is 8 percent. The positive tests for marijuana are plain ridiculous and that's a whole other piece I need to write, if those were thrown out we are looking at 1 percent.
The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 22 million Americans age 12 and older -- nearly 9 percent of the U.S. population -- use illegal drugs. So what we see here is that poor people are just like Americans of all economic strata when it comes to drugs. Now on to the economic scare that the GOP uses as their casus belli for the war against the poor.
What we are left with is my favorite pathetic conservative tactic, keeping the public's attention on what is a non-issue as opposed what is really causing turmoil in this country. The 2008 meltdown is the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and, when all is said and done, may surpass the damage done by the latter. So around the nation we have GOP politicians trying to con the masses into believing that the poor are sucking the system dry, all the while toking, snorting and shooting their days away on the tax payers' dollars.
It's complete insanity, but the populace buys in to this complete pile of horseshit. We have seen ultra-wealthy financial "captains" rob the middle and lower classes with their Ponzi schemes all the while protected by these same politicians and their colleagues. After all, there are five financial industry lobbyists to every congressman in Washington. Who is lobbying for the welfare recipients who just struggle to live from day to day? So the GOP has found a perfect scapegoat, defenseless and with no cash-infused, congressional voice. Blame the poor, they're all on drugs anyways!