Stacey Campfield has put up a bill insisting that we drug test for unemployment benefits.
State Senator Stacey Campfield said in an interview Wednesday that Tennessee has one of the highest rates of fraud for the unemployment program. So Campfield is pushing to make sure everyone on the program, actually deserves to be getting the help, by making them take a drug test.
This idea is not original to him; other states have mounted the same bill lately. I can only imagine there is some sort of Breton Woods type place where these representatives sit around and get cockamamie privacy-violation ideas to make sound bites that appeal to the more conservative voters. There’s this stereotype floating around that says potheads are going to work in six-week chunks and then collecting unemployment so they can sit around and get paid to smoke pot. Meanwhile I think of all the people I know who are collecting unemployment. A few may smoke pot–I’m not sure. We don’t discuss it. But they all are grief-stricken about being out of work and busting their humps looking for something else. Not one of them collects her check with a Simon Legree laugh and a Montgomery Burns smirk.
Anyone who has collected unemployment can tell you that it quite simply is not enough to live on. It buys your groceries and maybe–maybe–pays a utility bill or two. But it doesn’t cover the expenses that make a life. If it couldn’t even cover our electric AND water bills when my husband drew it for six months, I fail to see how it’s going to underwrite an illegal drug habit. Those things aren’t cheap.
But all of that is beside the point.
We are testing for illegal drugs because, well, they’re ILLEGAL. That means that taking them is a crime. In this country it’s a crime punishable by everything just short of death. If you are found to be taking illegal drugs you can go to jail. Your property can be seized by the government. Your MAMA’S property can be seized by the government if they find drugs there. It’s a bigger deal to be caught using drugs than it is to be caught with child porn on your computer.
So from where I sit, it looks like the government’s tests for illegal drugs is pretty much a way to convict someone of a crime without a trial. And what happens when the police get a list of all the violators who couldn’t drop clean? I’ve seen how the State Police jump to conclusions around these parts. I’ve seen how they handle people they think are doing something wrong. I have visions of a despotic governor in the hazy future trying to earn points with the people of this state by announcing a crackdown on drug users, handing the list over to the cops and standing back while folks are dragged from the homes they are struggling to pay for…all because they peed into a cup to get some money they have coming to them.
No, I don’t trust the government. I don’t buy that because we have a high rate of unemployment fraud we need to violate the constitutional rights of everyone in the State of Tennessee.
This is the Fifth Amendment. I’ve bolded a couple of clauses.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Having someone pee in a cup to prove they didn’t commit a crime IS the exact definition of “be [ing] compelled to be a witness against himself.” Having someone not receive benefits to which the law says he is entitled is the exact definition of being deprived of property.
Here’s an idea: find the folks you claim are already guilty of the crime of fraudulent collection of benefits. Try and convict those people under the legal system of this country. It may sound like a nice idea to villainise drug takers. But when you crap all over the Constitution, YOU are are the bad guy.