Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) rebuked House Republicans yesterday for suggesting the government require drug tests of individuals seeking unemployment insurance, calling such proposals “insulting” and a “red herring” in the unemployment crisis:
VAN HOLLEN: I think the drug testing thing is a red herring. The reality is that people are not out of work because they have substance abuse problems, people are out of work because there are four people looking for every job that’s available in America.
We’re willing to look at reforms, but the Republican rhetoric has been insulting to a whole lot of working Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own… I have to say, this Republican effort to kind of blame people who lost jobs through no fault of their own shows a total insensitivity to the stories that we’re hearing from districts around the country. Frankly I think the American people are hearing that tone and they’re not very appreciative, because they know that everybody, but for the grace of God, could also be in that position.
Republican presidential candidates such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry have also endorsed drug testing for recipients of federal aid, but this is an invented problem that does not need a solution. Van Hollen was correct that there are four unemployed job seekers for every available job, suggesting the real reason unemployment benefits are needed is unemployment, not some fabricated reality where government benefits are supporting drug dependencies. Mandatory drug testing could create complications for employers and additional delays for job seekers but would do little to put more Americans back to work.