What Real Class Warfare Looks Like

So it looks as though Republicans are going to cave on the extension of the payroll tax cut, pretty much the only tax cut they don't like, seeing as it doesn't do much for the wealthy. But on their way to that capitulation, they made sure they could exact a price: drug testing of people applying for unemployment compensation! After all, we need to send these people a message.

The bill, which looks like it will pass soon, now includes a provision that allows states to drug test anyone applying for unemployment compensation if they're looking for a job in an industry where testing occurs, which is pretty much any industry there is. So it isn't enough that you might get tested before you can get a job, you'll now have to get tested before you even start looking. The rationale Republicans offer isn't that there's some kind of epidemic of drug abuse among the unemployed. It's just if you're going to get a government benefit, paid for by the taxpayers, then you should have to prove you haven't taken a puff on a joint in the last month. If there's some humiliation involved, so much the better. The lucky duckies who have chosen to lose their jobs need to understand that the rest of us hold them in contempt, in the hopes that they'll get off their lazy duffs and start contributing again.

But why stop at people on unemployment? After all, I don't want my tax dollars going to anyone who might possibly be on drugs. So let's make the board of directors and senior executives of every company that has a government contract pee into a cup (those folks at Lockheed Martin get an awful lot of our money, after all). And how about hedge fund managers—they benefit from the preferential "carried interest" loophole, meaning they pay Romneyesque low tax rates on their income. Unzip and give us a sample before you head to the Hamptons for the weekend, buddy. I'm sure we won't find any cocaine use among that crowd! And what about the mortgage interest deduction? We the taxpayers pay a portion of tens of millions of people's mortgages. I can't stand the idea that some of those people might be on drugs, so they better get tested, too. As Mitt Romney says, "People who are receiving ... government benefits, we should make sure they’re not using those benefits to pay for drugs."

Demanding drug tests from government contractors or people who take advantage of tax deductions would be crazy, of course. On the other hand, testing people on welfare or people who are unemployed makes perfect sense. Why? Because they're poor.

Republicans get dreadfully offended if anyone proposes increasing taxes on the wealthy. The very suggestion is ghastly "class warfare," and it tears the nation apart. But this is what real class warfare looks like. This is how people with power tell people without power that they're nothing, that in order to access even the most modest help they'll have to submit to a ritual of abasement, treated like criminals and forced to hand over their bodily fluids.

And let's be clear—drug testing people on unemployment doesn't save any money, or reduce drug use, or solve any practical problem. But it does what it's intended to do: Put those people in their place. So Republicans may not have gotten everything they wanted out of this bill, but at least they got the chance to stick it to some of the people they hate.

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