This Is What the Business Lobby Looks Like on Drugs

Mark Price |

I just read this Mother Jones story on a letter from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) that focuses on whether or not auto insurance is affordable for low-income consumers.  In making the case for the affordability of the auto insurance products of its members, NAMIC quoted statistics from the Consumer Expenditures Survey:

These data reveal that households in the two lowest quintiles spent nearly as much on alcohol and tobacco products combined as on automobile insurance and that they spent more on audio and visual (A/V) equipment and services than on automobile insurance.

So if people got enough cash to buy booze then surely their car insurance is affordable?


Painfully, Mother Jones goes on to note that NAMIC got its numbers wrong: low-income consumers actually spend more on car insurance than cigarettes and booze.  Of course, that’s not the point, NAMIC is trying to change the conversation about car insurance affordability by implying that low-income consumers make bad spending choices. If they can’t afford car insurance, it’s their fault.

Which brings us back to Pennsylvania where our own Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association released a survey of manufacturing executives which claimed to find that 16% of Pennsylvania workers couldn’t pass a drug test. That’s more than 4 times the rate found by Quest Diagnostics which maintains a database of 125 million drug tests.

Drug addiction is a pressing problem in Pennsylvania but no reasonable person could conclude that our drug problem is more than 4 times greater than the national average [see update below].  The purpose of the Manufacturers’ Association survey is to provide some empirical support for the claim that high unemployment is the result of widespread drug use rather than the lingering effects of the worst recession since the great depression. If the unemployed can’t find jobs, it’s their fault.


This 2011 report from Quest summarizes the percentage of positive tests for the presence of drugs by sub-state region. You will note that almost all regions in Pennsylvania are blue, grey or white, indicating a percentage of positive test results for the presence of drugs in less than 4.3 percent of tests (click this link to see a bigger version of the map).