Monday, January 28, 2013

Drug Testing Unemployed Kansans

Huffington Post reporters John Celock and Arthur Delaney report that “Lawmakers seeking to abolish income taxes and stymie unions in Kansas think it might also be worthwhile to make the poor and unemployed pee in cups to prove they’re not wasting taxpayer money on drugs.” (See article here)

Unfortunately, Congress has given its blessing to the concept of drug testing the unemployed, at least to a degree (see the article for more details).

During the New Deal, when Kansas and the federal government focused on creating work opportunities for the jobless—instead of casting them as potential drug abusers—there were positive results (to say the least): Unemployed men hired into the CCC planted millions of trees in Kansas and worked the land with check dams, contour plowing, and planting to stop sheet & gully erosion. Jobless Kansans hired into the WPA, meanwhile, created about 5.6 million articles of clothing for low-income families & individuals, served over 13 million lunches to schoolchildren, worked on 20,000 miles of road, and built or improved 232 playgrounds & athletic fields. And these are just some of the accomplishments of New Deal work & building programs in Kansas, from 1933 to 1943.

What a shame that we seem to have learned nothing from our own nation’s history. Instead of taking pride in, and learning from, what was certainly the most monumental period of work & construction in human history, the best we can come up with these days, apparently, is to subject laid-off workers to the embarrassment of coerced urinalysis. Now that is pathetic. Where is our creativity? Our courage? Our compassion?

(Image above is from the U.S. Geological Survey, courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries. CCC information is from “Roosevelt’s Forest Army: A History of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942,” by Perry H. Merrill, 1981. WPA information if from the “Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43,” by the Federal Works Agency, 1946.)

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