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Unemployment benefits: Should drug testing be required?
Under new legislation, the jobless will have to undergo drug testing in certain cases. If Republicans had gotten their way, it would have been all cases
 
Job seekers at a Colorado employment fair: Congress extended unemployment benefits, but controversially mandated drug-testing for certain applicants.
Job seekers at a Colorado employment fair: Congress extended unemployment benefits, but controversially mandated drug-testing for certain applicants.
John Moore/Getty Images

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress passed a measure extending unemployment benefits through the end of 2012 — but the two parties made compromises to get the legislation through. Controversially, for instance, the bill allows states to subject certain applicants to drug testing: Namely, those who were laid off for flunking an employer's drug test, and those seeking jobs that require such tests. An earlier version passed by the GOP-controlled House would have allowed states to drug-test all applicants. Should Republicans have stuck to their guns?

Yes. Businesses shouldn
't have to subsidize illegal activity: Employers pay taxes to maintain the insurance fund, and they can't be asked to prop up "someone's drug habit," says Bill Hammond at The Dallas Morning News. Furthermore, if workers can prove that they are drug-free, it will "greatly increase the chance that they will be hired." In fact, drug-testing would "eliminate the people who aren't ready and available for work," and strengthen the job market.
"Why drug-testing job seekers matters"

Drug-testing is costly — and it just stigmatizes the jobless: A drug-testing regimen only "perpetuates myths and scapegoats the unemployed," says Christine L. Owens at U.S. News & World Report. These proposals "stem from false assumptions that the unemployed are lazy drug users who prefer unemployment checks to paychecks." And drug-testing is expensive at $25-$75 a pop: "Cash-strapped" states would have to put up millions to administer the program. "Is there a more frivolous or unnecessary way to spend taxpayer money?"
"Say no to drug testing the unemployed"

And blanket drug-testing would be unconstitutional: Remember, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, writes Andrew Rosenthal at The New York Times. A blanket drug-testing requirement "falls clearly" into the category of an unreasonable search, since the government has no "probable cause" to suspect all unemployment benefit applicants of abusing illegal drugs.
"Drug-testing and probable cause, a response to readers"

 

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