Another indignity

May 1, 2013 

They’re poor, so they must be on drugs, right? There’s the not-so-subtle implication of a bill passed by the North Carolina Senate this week that would require those who apply for North Carolina’s good Work First program, which offers case and worker training for the poor who are trying to find jobs, to take a drug screening test for which they have to pay.

Republican legislators, who’ve already cut Medicaid availability and unemployment compensation, are on a roll this session, and this measure would roll over disadvantaged people in an insulting and demeaning way.

Basically, Republicans claim they’re just trying to keep people who need money for their families from spending it on drugs. That’s very close to basically implying that everyone getting public assistance is on drugs. What a horrible implication.

And to boot, the state already requires social service agencies to screen for substance abusers among clients, though no out-and-out testing is involved. Those who are determined to be addicts to drugs or alcohol have to complete a treatment program to qualify for benefits.

So what’s the purpose, then, of the GOP-backed drug testing requirement? It’s just another chance to beat up for purposes of political grandstanding some people who can’t defend themselves very well.

And as some Democrats noted, it might be that some people would be scared off from applying for a program that’s geared not to just paying people but to helping them find work because they couldn’t afford to pay for a drug test. (The bill says the cost of the initial test would be reimbursed to people later, but that doesn’t help people with no resources to begin with.)

This is more mean-spirited stuff from Republicans, who appear to be drifting ever further to the fringes as they consider legislation that is gratuitously harsh.

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