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 /hr with a Med Tech degree from a community college – is a complete joke.
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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.

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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…
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" 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.

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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.


  • This article would have been better without the community college-bashing. I completed two separate programs at my local community college because in my senior year of high school back in 1989 my parents informed me they hadn't saved a dime for my education so it was either go there or burden myself with massive debt. The first program was pharmacy technology and I used that education to finally crawl out of the minimum wage arena and make a low but respectable salary at a major university hospital preparing IV admixtures for patients and I did a damn good job of it with that community college education. Then I went back and got an A.S. in networking which allowed me to land a job managing one of the world's largest global networks and making nearly six figures. Maybe I didn't master Croatian or learn the essentials of basket-weaving nor did I learn the merits of women's studies at community college but was able to obtain real job skills and I didn't have to go into debt to get them.

  • What David said.

    You missed another little factor to this ugly little story. As easy to beat, they're as easy to f—up. Imagine being on unemployment and turning false positive because of an "oopsie" at the lab. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a quota of positive returns for testers to meet in order to get the Govt contract. How long and how much will that cost you to sort out? The employees at least have an infrastructure in place if they need to sue Scott's company and Fla for malpractice and unfair dismissal if necessary (probably part of Scott's reasoning to hamstring the unions), but if you're already organised you can more easily mobilise. So how much will these suits cost the state?

  • This makes me glad I don't live in Florida, but sadly it isn't as if this sort of idiocy isn't fashionable elsewhere. The stuff the Tennessee Legislature has been keen on for the last few years is hardly less depressing.

    Still, it would be nice if the next time elections rolled around, there was some sign that the voting public seemed to grasp that maybe picking people who make comic book super villains look plausible isn't a great plan.

    The false positive notion Xynzee floated seems exasperatingly plausible, since I have a feeling the false positives are going to be regarded as much less of a prob;em than false negatives.

  • Even private companies doing drug-tests are morons. Europe, Canada, and many countries around the world do not require drug tests- and they have not beome Mad-Max style wastelands. I can see where one employer might fear a lawsuit if you were stoned and got somebody killed, but such a lawsuit would probably get thrown out because a pre-employment drug test, or even random drug tests, cannot prevent a person from being at work under the influence of drugs- no matter how stupid a person would have to be. And suppose they do come up positive on the random drug test; this does not make them a "drug user", it only means they have some remnant of drugs in their system.

  • Major Kong says:

    What did they expect?

    When you elect a super-villain as your governor you shouldn't be surprised when he starts building a giant death ray on top of the state capitol.

  • Don't knock community colleges. Rush Limbaugh couldn't make it through community college.

    No, we're not really that smart here in FloriDUH, and I suspect things will get a whole lot worse before they get better (and they may never get better). After what Cantor was saying about not providing tornado relief without spending cuts, I'm just praying that we don't have a hurricane. It wouldn't surprise me if Scott turned down federal disaster relief money on teabagger principles.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I'm 53, and I've watched the sea-change in Conservative thought.
    Back in the day, they were the ones who were for individual liberties – for everyone, and not just themselves.
    Now, it's 'this is ok for me, but not for thee.'

    And there's a herd mentality that wasn't there 40 some odd years ago. And a threat of violence and annihilation that also wasn't there before – or at least they weren't as up front about it. They're like rabid lemmings following rabid leaders.

    Whether it's the 'ditto-head,' or 'Beckerhead,' or Malkinite followers, I think modern American Conservatism can be summed up as the following:
    'I vas just following zee orders.'

  • Personally, I've always thought most drug testing was about one of 3 things:

    1) Ass-covering….especially in high-risk-to-employer-if-something-happens occupations. To be fair, testing of a few high-risk-type jobs (pilots and such) might help find people who need drug treatment before they work under the influence and something bad happens…but this begs the obvious question: Why, then, don't we test surgeons?

    2) Money-making for the drug testers (see "Scott" above, but it money-mkaing off drug testing pre-dates him).

    and the one that is less-often mentioned:

    3) Ensuring a docile workforce. Drug testing weeds out (no pun intended) the principled trouble-makers. The people who are merely worried about getting a positive result will just temporarily abstain, or cheat the test. The high-minded I-could-pass-it-but-it-violates-my-4th-Amendment-rights, dammit! types will out themselves. Since those are probably the same types that will agitate about OSHA laws and workplace rights, and likely have certain unpleasant ideas about things called "unions", you want to make damn sure you don't accidently hire one of THOSE types.

  • The people mentioned in #3 are the ones that piss me off the most – it's like they've gotten so used to being shit on by The System that they can't even *imagine* an alternative and therefore feel the need to make sure everybody else gets shit on too. They're usually the same people who look at public-sector unions and think, "hey, I'M completely fucked and beholden to my boss; why should *they* get any better?" instead of trying to change their *own* situation…

  • Rick Scott should go for the gold and buy the Whizzinator company, y'know cover all aspects of the market.

  • Sick Monday-morning pwnage.

    Chicago-school libertarians and Tea Party revolutionaries, meet "right-wing social engineering." I see you guys already know each other.

    That's not far from the actual rhetoric I heard from "hard-working blue-collar conservatives" who supported Walker over the teacher's unions. "As long as I'm getting shit on and taking it, NO ONE should be defending themselves."

  • OliverWendelHolmslice says:

    The defining principle of American conservatism is: ME ME ME, I WANT IT, I WANT IT! It is the politics of a selfish, narcissistic, teenager; completely lacking in empathy for others.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    Any business large enough to bother with drug testing will have "liability insurance". Drug testing is just to lower the premiums. I worked a landscaping job that required the use of company vehicles, our drug-testing policy was very much a rubber stamp to save the owner some money.

  • @Oliver: let's see, age of those in power in politics? Oh yeah! Boomers aka the "Me Generation".

  • @Major Kong: given the shape of the Florida state capitol, having a death ray at the top will be just too deliciously Freudian.

  • Monkey Business says:

    Bashing Rick Scott and Florida is almost passe at this point. I mean, what else can the guy fuck up?

  • This issue has always boiled my blood. When they're trying to test for drugs, the most insidious ones such as meth and coke leave your body within 3 days. Weed, about 30. If you're an alcoholic, you'll pass the test if you abstain for a day. Basically, they're just looking for potheads that have a predilection towards anti-establishment ideals. What hasn't been mentioned is the fact that many employers get insurance incentives to hire a drug-free workforce as it's assumed that they'll be less of a health liability. Just watch, in due time these incentives will spill over into not hiring anyone over the age of 40 or with a pre-existing condition.

  • Strangepork says:

    So, if a single sentence in a post:

    . 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.

    makes Ed a community college basher, what does this sentence:

    Maybe I didn't master Croatian or learn the essentials of basket-weaving nor did I learn the merits of women's studies at community college but was able to obtain real job skills and I didn't have to go into debt to get them.

    make David re: traditional 4 year schools?

    Pharmacy tech, heal thyself.

  • I also think the CC remark was a bit harsh. I did my fist two years in CC before transferring to U of Michigan, and I'm glad I did it that way. I wasn't terribly offended but it makes sharing posts like this with conservative friends a bit difficult, since it feeds into that elitist asshole stereotype many conservatives wrongly have about people on the left.

  • @B-iLL:
    Most hardcore potheads I know have ways of beating piss tests that don't involve foregoing their medicine for anywhere close to a month. These things MIGHT catch duller smokers and the kind of fuckups who snort Scarface-sized rails before reporting to their POs. Mainly, they're about lowering liability and insurance premiums and pleasing meddlesome assholes. Gov. Batboy must know this, since it's his field.

    @Monkey Business:
    For my part, I'll keep kicking until the Tri-Cornered-Hat Revolution stops moving.

  • There is one consistent principle: It's your fault if you can't figure out how to stop me.

  • @Strangepork:

    Ed's statement implied incompetence on the part of the med tech and by explicit correlation community colleges. I did not mean to imply traditional 4 year schools were all fluff with no real-world training but my wording was a bit harsh so I apologize. Unfortunately for every engineer, medical doctor, lawyer, etc there seems to be someone who majored in philosophy, religion or some dead language who then whines about being unable to find a job to pay off their student loans.

    I know this is going to piss off many people but by and large majoring in liberal arts should be a hobby of the idle rich much as once was. As a society we consistently redefine ourselves to mask the reality of our class structure in attempts to pretend we're wealthy. We look down on farmers and factory workers as though they're less intelligent and less worthy of the benefits of society (read: wealth). The irony is we depend on both far more than they depend on us. Blue collar parents put their children through college so they could become white collar workers because this would provide upward class mobility. Even after achieving white collar status we find that upper class goalpost is still beyond our reach so we try to imitate the wealthy by buying luxuries on credit we cannot afford, a McMansion and a set of golf clubs hoping like Hyacinth Bucket one day the aristocracy will notice and accept us as one of them. I wish more people took pride in performing the labor which makes society run and not focus on the meaningless fluff in failed attempts to imitate the upper class.

  • johnsmith1882 says:

    What Major Kong said. You asked for it, Florida, and you got it. What did they think was going to happen when they elected the guy whose company was fined $1.7 Billion for defrauding Medicare? While he was CEO?

    I have no skin in this game, I live in Illinois. But I really think that the people in Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, etc. really need to see how bad the GOP is going to stick it to them. They need to see that "both sides" are not the same. This isn't me enjoying seeing people suffer. It's what every liberal like myself has been telling people for years and years, and people do not listen: the GOP is out to cut your throat. But people don't listen, because "both sides are just as bad". Well, they aren't. And here's proof. Maybe you will learn a lesson. Sorry if this is insensitive, but you brought this on yourselves, tough love and all that.

  • @David:
    Ed is using humor by playing off an exaggerated stereotype – in this case, the underachievers that many people associate with community colleges. He does this a lot, and it offends almost everyone at some point, but it keeps people reading who aren't into the much more dry, non-confrontational comic stylings of, say, Hendrik Hertzberg. Chill the fuck out.

  • People who follow politics in Florida could have told you about this months/weeks ago. Rick Scott is, hands down, the worst person I have ever seen run for office and win. This is just the most recent thing that has come out. He also removes Democrats from his events that are open to the public and has inexplicably canceled $2.4 billion for high-speed rail in Florida. Whether or not you believe in the efficacy of rail, it would have put a lot of people to work building and operating a rail line. This is a difficult position for a governor whose only real policy plank in his campaign was "Let's Get to Work!!1!"

    And don't get me on his hair-brained dredging plans for the port of Miami. You can read about that here: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/economicdevelopment/article1173452.ece

    Also @David, while I agree that there is plenty of value in a blue collar livelihood, I don't think you're in the right place if you want to start denigrating liberal arts education. I would hate to see what this country would look like if liberal arts was only a "hobby of the rich." And besides, there aren't a lot of jobs out there for medical assistants right now, any way, let alone philosophy majors.

  • Major Kong says:

    Unfortunately I live in Ohio and we have one of the other members of the Legion of Doom , John Kasich, as our supervillain-in-chief.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    I think community colleges are the butt of jokes because the courses are easy, the instructors ill-qualified, and they're basically a minimal public high-school level education in a world where a 4-year-degree is basically impossible not to get just by accident.

  • @ HoosierPoli.

    I am not sure what you mean by the "ill-qualified" instruction at community colleges- but as one instructor at BIG PUBLIC UNIVERSITY to another, I can vouch for the low level of concern that most of my peers have for undergraduate education. The same cannot be said for most community college instructors. It is a common mistake to assume that community colleges would kill to get some hot shot freshly-minted Ph.D.. In most cases they will simply toss out your application.

    Oh, and although I don't like to say that my undergraduate courses are easy, most everyone gets an A or B.

  • @HoosierPoli – There is nothing wrong with a community college education. It is a perfectly acceptable way to get an education without taking a substantial amount of loans, if that means something to you. And to be perfectly honest, the faculty at a community college have the same credentials that graduate students have and graduate students are teaching more and more classes at 4 year colleges.

    Ed uses these generalizations to make a humorous point and I can live with that. I'm pretty sure that he also knows that the things he makes these generalizations about are more nuanced than he makes them out to be. (Ed, if I'm wrong about this, let me know). You, on the other hand, seem to think the world is much more black and white and that makes for very dangerous thought.

  • @HossierPoli– that's a shitty and elitist thing to say. Community Colleges were founded so working class people could better themselves. The state public college in my town charges somewhere along the lines of $500 per credit hour– that'll get you a couple of classes at the local community college.

  • @A — I'm pretty sure Brainiacs proved it before Mythbusters

    and isn't the primary purpose of drug testing to show your control over the workers?

  • David said: "Unfortunately for every engineer, medical doctor, lawyer, etc there seems to be someone who majored in philosophy, religion or some dead language who then whines about being unable to find a job to pay off their student loans."

    Where do you think lawyers come from?

  • @johnsmith1882

    I live in Ohio as well. The presence of captain Fox News in Columbus has forced a lot of people to confront a lot of their mistaken beliefs, fortunately.
    Kasich can do a great deal less damage than Scott, thankfully. I'm immune to the bulk of it, so I welcome it as well, for the reasons you stated. I do feel sorry for the victims, though. Can't wait for SB 5 to be overturned this fall.

  • @ Ruthie

    Just a wild guess but I suspect they major in law.

    I'm sorry but spending tens of thousands of dollars obtaining a degree which doesn't provide real world job skills to me seems to be a status symbol much like a luxury car complete with the look of disdain when someone pulls up beside driving a Honda Civic. Again I'm not talking about all 4 year studies (or Masters/PhD) but mostly those in the liberal arts fields. I do not look down on someone with a PhD in philosophy but if they went $200,000 in debt doing it I must wonder at their sanity.

  • Neal Deesit says:

    David said: "Unfortunately for every engineer, medical doctor, lawyer, etc there seems to be someone who majored in philosophy, religion or some dead language who then whines about being unable to find a job to pay off their student loans."

    Where do you think lawyers come from?

    BA, Philosophy, University of Gilded Architecture, 1969

    J.D., University of Celebrated Bovines, 1976

  • @David

    Do you know any lawyers? Cause there's no such thing as majoring in law, at least not in the US. (I believe you can in England.) Law is a grad degree. You generally get a degree in something that provides good language and reasoning skills (philosophy, history, English), and then go to law school.

  • And God knows the world may have no use for philosophy majors, but we have a deep and insatiable need for lawyers!

  • @David – No, none of learned how to program a computer like you did with our fancy book lernin'. But on the other hand, I'm pretty sure I could do that on my own with a copy of "Networking for Dummies."

    But let me ask you a few questions. Is learning to write like someone that speaks English fluently a "real world job skill?" Is learning to think logically and/or critically not a "real world job skill?" Is learning to be tolerant of, or at least open to, new and different ideas not a "real world job skill?"

    It certainly looks like you missed out on some of these "real world job skills" or at least some skills the rest of us look for among pleasant people we would like to associate with.

  • I did include lawyers in my response to Strangepork 10 hours ago although honestly I believe we have far too many of them today anyway. The context of my comments is clearly about those whose major does not provide practical job skills. That the one 'exception' you mention requires additional practical education somewhat illustrates my point.

  • black_rose says:

    "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."

    I believe this comment is an accurate depiction of reality, even though it is said in a somewhat condescending tone. It is indeed correct that employers and society, in general, do not regard a community college degree as a signal for high general intelligence. Therefore, the opportunity available to thse community college graduates is much less than the opportunies one has if they have a BA from Harvard.

    But the main point Ed was trying to convey is that the human administrators of the drug tests are merely pawns for the "system" – a system designed to denigrate the downtrodden such as the unemployed and also to protect the privileges of the elite including their property and political influence. They are keen aware of their own reality of despair, and know that "hard work" would not be a key for upward economic mobility. These community college graduates may be intelligent underachievers or dumbasses, but they would probably perform their job in a perfunctory, apathetic fashion, thus it would be easy for a moderately intelligent pothead to pass a urine test.

    If a pothead manages to circumvent the drug tests, then congratulations to him/her! They have committed no moral wrong by trying to evade a punitive statute. To the contrary, they have a moral obligation to apprise their fellow potheads on their methodology to evade the tests.

    To put it concisely: the community college graduates are easily "fooled" by the potheads, merely because they are apathetic, not unintelligent employees.

  • black_rose says:

    Efficiency wage theory: the employees would do a better job if they are paid more than $9 an hour.

  • Well-put. Also, too, gulag echoes my thought. The thing is, look at the history there; these guys keep losing, but somehow every loss is a win. Obama was pretty conservative (old definition) when he was elected (I disregarded most of his campaign rhetoric, so wasn't as disappointed as many of his followers, who don't seem to have paid attention to his record in Congress). As President, he keeps moving further to the right every time he's challenged. Maybe his apologists are correct and politically he has no choice. Personally, I doubt that; he rarely and barely fights for anything – you know he's truly a Democrat because he compromises before he even gets to the end of a sentence. His acomplishments (and they have been greater than I expected, to be fair) will only stand if he leaves a solid structure in place. Right now, it's built on sand. One GOP administration and it will be gone as if it never existed. And since the Democrats (with rare exceptions) don't seem to care about anything except avoiding blame, that day will come sooner than anyone anticipates. Lookit – how quickly we've gone from "Obama's a lock!" to "Obama's probably going to win, assuming X, Y and Z" Obama can easily lose. Whoever the GOP nominates will have essentially the entire national media effort behind him (or her, God forbid). Clinton only beat that because they hadn't mastered it, and he was personally very appealing. How often does it have to be pointed out that people believe what they're told over and over? Don't assume that embarassing GOP setbacks mean anything; they're 1-day stories unless they involve Democrat scandals.
    The only way to fight that is to get out and talk to everybody and write letters and call the papers and get them to cover demonstrations, etc. It's probably already too late, but it's still worth trying.

  • I'm late to this party but…. Scott, I haven't closely followed the post-and-response, but I assume you were defending college when you said: "Is learning to write like someone that speaks English fluently a "real world job skill?" Is learning to think logically and/or critically not a "real world job skill?" Is learning to be tolerant of, or at least open to, new and different ideas not a "real world job skill?""

    Yes, these are real world job skills, and I picked most of them up by the time I was 16. (Logic still escapes me, according to those who try to follow mine at dinner parties.) My college-dropout career – Gay Studies! Photography! Creative Writing! – taught me only a few more useful lessons, mostly unintended and mostly concerning the pitfalls of self-obsession. I think it's pretty sad that "writing" and "thinking" are considered "college-level" accomplishments.

    And the point may have been made already, but it doesn't matter in the slightest whether these or any drug tests "work" – that is, supply an accurate reading of drug usage which is then useful in predicting bad employment risks. The goal of the legislation is private profit with a bonus effect of underclass intimidation, much like the goal of most airport security "improvements" is private profit and generalized fear. You think we'll ever see a proposal to drug-test the Senate via an expansion of Medicare?

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