Posted in Rants on June 6th, 2011 by Ed

A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook recently:

After reading that Gov. Scott wants random drug tests for Government employees, and mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients, my cynical response was, "What, does he own a drug testing facility?"

Ha! Funny, but no. Of course he doesn't.

He transferred his $62 million stake in Solantic, a walk-in clinic chain that contracts with employers and government agencies to provide drug screening, to his wife – in a revocable trust, so the moment he leaves office he can regain control of the company. So you see, Rick Scott does not own a drug testing facility. He merely founded a chain of fast food-style walk-in clinics and transferred his ownership share to his wife. (This kind of "share shuffle" is prohibited by federal law and in most states wherein at least the pretense of preventing cronyism and conflicts of interest is maintained. But in Florida it's A-OK. Way to go, Shitshine State.)

Yes, Rick Scott is quite proud of his measure requiring drug testing for all welfare recipients as well as random drug testing for state employees. Finally, Florida will be chock full of personal responsibility. Let's briefly note three aspects of this policy that get ignored in our rush to argue about "welfare" and the morality of drug use:

1. Drug testing in this context – cheap, quick tests administered and performed by someone making $9/hr with a Med Tech degree from a community college – is a complete joke. It has accuracy problems and more importantly it is laughably easy to beat. We see evidence everywhere, from professional athletes to your college roommate "Bongzilla", that testing amounts to an inconvenience to drug users. They'll catch a few knuckleheads here and there, but this is little more than a moneymaking racket for the for-profit medical industry.

2. People on welfare can still get drunk and smoke, right? So with drug testing in place they can still A) waste money on expensive intoxicants they can't afford, B) lay around shitfaced all day if they are so inclined, and C) exercise a near total lack of personal responsibility.

3. "Well, my boss drug tests me, so why shouldn't blah blah blah…" is a false equivalency. Your employer drug tests you because if you are stoned at work and you kill someone (or do anything else legally actionable) they are liable. They are not drug testing you because Nancy Reagan and McGruff the Crime Dog visited them and handed out some colorful pamphlets. They are covering their ass, period.

It does not take much thought to expose the holes in the logic allegedly behind this legislation. That this is stupid and pointless is hardly worth discussing. The more interesting aspect is that Teatard support for people like Scott and proposals like this (Read the comments on the CNN story. I dare you.) casts the failings of modern American conservatism in high relief. In my opinion, the American flavor of conservatism fails to adhere to any meaningful definition of the term and produces failed policy outcomes for three reasons, one of which is directly relevant here:

First, it is vehemently anti-intellectual. This is inherent in appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Second, it profanes institutions it is supposed to defend. Rather than instilling a culture of respect for the institutions of the state and society – which is a basic, foundational aspect of conservatism historically – it throws them under the bus in favor of defending an ideology. If the Supreme Court makes a decision they don't like, conservative leaders say "Screw the Supreme Court." They undermine what they should be defending.

Finally, it surrenders the moral high ground as a party of individual liberty, because Republicans and American conservatives more broadly believe this only selectively. They will howl like stuck pigs about their own 2nd Amendment rights or the tyranny of their personal tax "burden" but they will sell out others' rights at the drop of a hat. Rather than recognize the troubling 4th Amendment implications of subjecting individuals to a search of their body in order to receive something to which they are entitled by statute, they support laws that infringe upon rights based on whatever combination of insecurity, fear, and prejudice shapes their view of the targeted social group. Sure, conservatives would be shitting white phosphorus if the state decided to drug test them, but man, screw them welfare queens.

We need people like Rick Scott, if for no reason other than to remind us periodically that the ideology he represents knows no limits and has no consistent principles. It's the politics of blood and tribal identity, of defining who is Us and then using the power of the state to lash out at Them.