South Dakota Republicans continue to wage class warfare. Rep. Mark Kirkeby (R-35/Rapid City) wants to try again at requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests. Rep. Kirkeby proposed such a bill last year; it failed in the House 26-42. Rep. Mark Venner (R-24/Pierre) wants to revisit his 2011 proposal to test TANF recipients for drugs. That bill fell in the House as well by just three votes.

The assumption underlying these discriminatory and likely illegal bills is that poor people are more likely to use illegal drugs. An HHS brief cites research finding rates of drug use among recipients of government assistance to be "somewhat" but not "greatly" higher than rates among the general population. Richard Florida has some graphs correlating drug use and economic class that suggest folks with higher income potential may be slightly more likely to use marijuana and cocaine.

Rep. Kirkeby* tries to persuade us that he's not waging class warfare by picking on poor people; he's just trying to be a responsible steward of the people's money:

Why in God's green pastures would we ever allow $1 of tax-supported assistance to go to an individual that is using illegal drugs? [Rep. Mark Kirkeby, quoted in David Montgomery, "Lawmaker Wants Welfare Recipients Drug Tested," Rapid City Journal, 2012.01.16]

If keeping government money out of druggies' hands is really Rep. Kirkeby's primary concern, then why doesn't he pee in a cup before accepting his payment for serving in the Legislature? Why doesn't he march down to the Governor's office and make similar demands of Dennis Daugaard, Tony Venhuizen, Dusty Johnson, and the other fine folks deriving their entire livelihood from the taxpayers? Why didn't Rep. Kirkeby or Rep. Venner move to amend HB 1230 last year to require all corporate executives taking advantage of the Governor's "Large Project Development Fund"?

The answer is obvious: Rep. Kirkeby, Rep. Venner, and other Republicans believe that if you need government assistance to feed your kids, you're clearly a moral failure and doing something wrong. But if you need government assistance to start or expand your business in South Dakota, you're not a free-market failure; you're our new best friend.

That, my friends, is class warfare.

*Update 2012.01.19 17:28 MST: The above text originally attributed the "God's green pastures" quote to Rep. Mark Venner. Reporter David Montgomery made the same attribution in his original article. Mr. Montgomery notes that he made a mistake; the quote came from Rep. Mark Kirkeby. He and I both have revised our text, and we both regret the error.