The Daily Show has done the best journalism to date on the growing trend of opportunistic lawmakers introducing legislation to drug test people who receive unemployment benefits.
Last night, Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi did a powerful and humorous segment that features elected officials, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, hypocritically forcing poor people to piss in a cup for money to feed their children, but refusing to take the piss test themselves.
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The segment successfully counters stereotypes and misinformation (by showing that people who receive benefits do not use drugs more than the general public) and the myth that these tests are about saving taxpayer money (these programs actually cost much more money than they save).
The segment also features Luis Lebron, a navy veteran who is being represented by the ACLU in a lawsuit against the Florida law. Lebron, a father of two, explains that he is unwilling to submit to a drug test because it is a violation of his constitutional right to privacy under the 4th amendment.
Opportunistic elected officials around the country are capitalizing on Americans' economic insecurity by bringing back the "welfare queen" stereotype that President Reagan used so successfully to stigmatize the poor -- instead of looking at the real fiscal waste, like keeping more than 500,000 people behind bars for nothing more than a nonviolent drug offense.
There are now dozens of states that have introduced legislation to drug test people who receive welfare or unemployment benefits -- and more states will surely follow. We need to combat these divisive laws that erode privacy, waste taxpayer money and demonize people who are struggling the most.
Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)
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