The Republican campaign to paint recipients of public support as drug abusers and “moochers” has gone entirely off the rails. Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin has just proposed drug testing Medicare and Medicaid recipients – demanding that we drug test senior citizens before we pay back the benefits that they have paid for in taxes their entire working lives.
“I firmly believe we frankly should drug test people that are on Medicaid and Medicare,” said Bevin at an April Tea Party rally. “We just should.” He doubled down on those comments again during an electoral debate with Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway, saying “there should be expectation of you as somebody who is a recipient, or, as it’s often referred to in this state, on the draw.”
The Lexington Herald reports that an incredulous Conway “interrupted Bevin to make clear that he was asking about Medicare and not Medicaid,” to which he replied “Understood.” Bevin later attempted to backtrack, but the damage was done – at an event co-sponsored by the AARP.
The idea that we would test our senior citizens on the suspicion of recreational drug use in order to receive benefits that they’ve paid taxes for their entire professional careers is so laughable that it is mind-boggling, but these are the types of absurdly inflammatory hyper-conservative drivel that comes out of the mouths of aspiring Tea Partiers. It is a distinct possibility that Bevin does not understand the difference between Medicaid and Medicare; if so, this man is clearly unqualified to run a clerk’s office, let alone the state of Kentucky.
Democrats have seized on the gaffe and are roundly berating him for it: “Over the years, I’ve witnessed countless attempts by Republicans to shred the social safety net, but I have to admit that supporting drug testing Medicare recipients is a new low,” said DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It is absolutely abhorrent that a Republican candidate for governor would stoop so low as to accuse our senior citizens of serious drug use in his efforts to undermine our benefits for the elderly, one of the last remaining tenets of the social contract that America has made with her citizens.
Conway is leading his Republican opponent by 5.3 points, according to the latest polls reported by RealClearPolitics. Bevin has previously lost a Senate election to Mitch McConnell. Let’s make sure he loses this one as well.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.