Don’t Blame the Druggies, Tom Corbett

The governor's excuse for PA unemployment isn't supported by the numbers.

Sorry if this post is a little late. I’ve been spending all my free time recently getting stoned and not finding a job. The good news is, though, that a bunch of other Pennsylvanians are in the exact same position, apparently much preferring a fleeting toke of some ganj over something trivial like, oh, full-time employment. But what’s even better for all of us lazy Keystone State druggies is that we don’t have to blame our shortcomings on the marijuanas; Tom “The Jobs Are There” Corbett will do it for us. And for himself, but that’s beside the point—our low jobs numbers just can’t be Tommy’s fault.

Instead, blame the poor, degenerate druggies who can’t keep a pipe away from their lips long enough to complete a job application.

Earlier this week, Governor Corbett, in an appearance on “Ask the Governor,” defended our state’s lame recovery with cushy private sector job stats before adding this gem:

The other area is, there are many employers that say ‘we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test,’ a lot of them. And that’s a concern for me because we’re having a serious problem with that.

You read that right: We can’t find anybody to pass these drug tests and occupy these open jobs. It’s like his very own version of Reagan’s “Welfare Queen.” To be fair, Corbett was talking about the manufacturing industry specifically, and it’s undeniable that some people are passed over for jobs because of their inability (or willingness) to pass a drug test. In fact, some industry leaders have stepped up to support Corbett’s statements in kind. But we can’t find anybody? Come on, Guv. That anecdotal evidence is killing me inside.

It’s no secret that Pennsylvania is in a bit of a bind economically, with last week bringing us news that our state ranked 49th—ahead only of Wyoming—in job growth for March. That’s a huge fall from 2011, when PA outdid the national average for job creation. In fact, our economy really only started to tank when Governor Corbett took the top dog position, which has resulted in, among many other things, 20,000 public school teachers losing their jobs. Not exactly a vote of confidence.

But isn’t that just like our beloved governor? Slash budgets, start fracking, and push a drug war that’s failing just as bad as the two aforementioned economic strategies. Perhaps not surprisingly, Corbett’s accomplishing the latter with the knowledge that just 1.8 percent of federally regulated workers failed drug tests the year he took office. And that’s on top of the 19-county public assistance drug-testing program PA is currently considering, which has caught just two people thus far (much like other states). Oh, and, not to mention that just 3.8 percent of Pennsylvania workers fail drug tests on average. How such low numbers get extrapolated into “we’re having a serious problem with that” is beyond me.

As Drexel economist Paul Harrington told, it seems more likely that our employment rate is linked to having too many laborers and not enough jobs. In fact, roughly 75 percent of PA’s unemployment can be attributed to what’s called a “job deficit,” with drug test failures barely registering on the scale—“small potatoes” as Harrington says. To go the Corbett route on this issue is out of touch at best and disingenuous at worst. Depends who you ask.

Even if there is a drug problem, Corbett’s employment crisis based around drug testing is entirely self-imposed. We could collectively choose to ignore drug testing as a deciding factor for employment tomorrow and shoot those lame numbers right back up. That, or we could decriminalize marijuana use—after all, Colorado’s unemployment rate (7.1 percent) probably isn’t lower than ours for no reason.

Or, you know, drug users could learn how to beat drug tests to make Corbett look good without sacrificing anything—it’s not exactly hard to do. People, job or no job, aren’t going to stop using drugs any time soon. That Pennsylvania and New Jersey are home to some of the world’s most prevalent drug testing labs and lobbyists probably isn’t going to change that, but it might shed some light on why we’re so drug test-obsessed at a state level.