Almost every American worker is subjected to drug testing. Most employers drug-test job applicants before hiring them. It is a requirement of employment. Even after being hired, many workers are subjected to unannounced random drug tests. In the interest of a drug-free environment employees agree to have their physical systems monitored this way.
There are many jobs where a drug-free worker is vital. Police and fire departments come to mind immediately, but there are many others: medical workers, teachers and school staffs, chefs and cooks, construction workers, aircraft pilots and airport personnel, transportation workers and others.
I was a subway conductor with responsibility for the lives of hundreds of passengers. My job required a drug-free environment. The Metropolitan Transit Authority developed a drug and alcohol test that was given periodically and whenever there was an accident. The program was commonly known as B.A.T. and the workers called it “Your turn at bat.” Whenever there was a question of public safety, the MTA cleared itself of liability by drug-testing the workers involved. If the worker’s test came back in a bad way, than the MTA could partly absolve itself by firing the worker and shifting the legal liability to the worker. I worked my entire career under that system and retired from it, so I know how such testing can clean up a workforce.
The most dysfunctional workforce in America today is the United States Congress. Here is how bad it is there: A Congressman named Trey Radel from Florida supported a bill in Congress to drug test recipients of food stamps. If you are using drugs that would disqualify you from eating. The purpose of the bill was to – I don’t know what the purpose of the bill was. What I want to point out here is that Radel was himself a drug addict (he went for rehab; causal users don’t often require drug rehabilitation). There is more than irony here; I see hypocrisy, deception and larceny lurking in the heart of that fair-skinned white man from Florida, whose perception of a SNAP recipient is darkly distorted, if you know what I mean.
I’ve seen this kind of hypocrisy at other times in other areas: Attack what you are to avert suspicion. Two of the most vocal public homophobics in America were men who were themselves homosexuals. One was Roy Cohn, an attorney and investigator for Senator Joseph McCarthy during the anti-Communist hearings of the ’50s. Cohn and McCarthy targeted many government officials and cultural figures not only for suspected Communist sympathies, but also for alleged homosexuality.
The other was the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from its inception until his death during the first term of Richard Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover portrayed himself as a man of puritan ethics. He required his agents to keep their personal lives squeaky clean and clear of sexual involvements with women. He kept sexual tabs on several American presidents and used the information to influence them. He held his own sexual preference so closely guarded that it wasn’t until after his death that it was more than hinted that Hoover was gay.
Trey Radel tried an old tired tactic: Attack the thing that you are to divert suspicion. Half of the members of Congress can be suspected of drug use if you judge by their behavior. It is time that they be drug tested. If we were to line up all 535 members, I’d like to start with that crazy Congresswoman who accused her colleagues of being Communists – I think many of them would agree that she should be the first one to pee in the cup. Of the 535, my guess is that nearly a hundred would be dirty – a little over 15 percent, just like in the general population.
The Congress ought to lead by example and initiate this requirement for themselves. After all, most American workers are drug tested. It would root out the bad apples and foster public approval. This is the one big move that Congress can do to win back at least a modest approval rating. It would buoy Congressional spirits and the next Congress could get to work. I’m all for a drug-free Congress. Make America strong. Drug-test politicians – all of them.