Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst want to make passing a drug test a condition for receiving welfare or unemployment benefits. "This will prevent tax dollars going into the pockets of drug users and drug dealers," Perry said yesterday. "This isn't all about punishing. This is also an incentive to get people off these drugs." Dewhurst agreed that "extending taxpayer-funded benefits while ignoring a behavior that would make it virtually impossible for someone to enter the work force or finish school sends them down the road to a much bleaker future." In response, ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke complained that Perry and Dewhurst's proposal is "based on stereotypes about our state's neediest Texans."
Not to mention stereotypes about drug users. Apparently they can graduate from Columbia or Yale and get law or business degrees from Harvard, but they can't finish high school. They can ascend to the presidency but are not qualified for any other job. Except maybe governor of Texas. Or U.S. senator. And come to think of it, drug users reportedly have had some success in fields such as acting, singing, comedy, professional sports, writing, law, science, computer software, insurance, and currency trading. But that does not mean they are up to taking your order at Whataburger, selling clothes at the Galleria, or fixing your hail-damaged roof.
Among American adults who are below retirement age, current or past use of illegal drugs (mostly marijuana) is the rule, not the exception. Survey data indicate that nearly 40 million Americans have used illegal drugs in the last year. It is absurd to make generalizations about the educational and employment prospects of these vast, diverse groups of people based on this one characteristic they share, let alone write them all off as losers who will never amount to anything. Any politician who tries to do so should find that whatever he says next is drowned out by laughter.
[Thanks to Ron Steiner for the tip.]