Friday, February 12, 2010

Your tax dollars at work: Free Blackberries for smokers in DC

I'm hoping this is an urban legend. But given the boundless stupidity of the doling out of government money....

So, I'm just passing this along.

I am NOT making this up. It's on freaking CNN. Free Blackberries for smokers

ONE MILLION DOLLARS. ONE full-time employee. Free BLACKBERRIES. Not to reward people who have accomplished anything. To people who have chosen to fill their lungs with carcinogens day in and day out. Presumably on the grounds that they'll be healthier when they stop smoking.

If you haven't already quit smoking using all the help that's already available, a goddam Blackberry ain't gonna make the difference!

This is rewarding people for getting addicted.

Now, how many people, if you asked them on the street if they wanted to donate money to a "Free Blackberries for Smokers" charity, would be putting money in the pot?

Which is why you can only fund this sort of boondoggle with money taken by threat of prison from other people's pay checks.

Somebody tell me this isn't for real!


Unknown said...

None of the money for this program came from your taxes. It's 100% funded from a lawsuit against the tobacco companies. Are you deliberately trying to mislead people?

Christina Dunigan said...

The report said it was "stimulus money". Now you're saying that it's the tobacco lawsuit.

Which means that it's still a stupid idea, rewarding people for becoming addicts, but at least the money was seized from the people who encouraged, facilitated, and profited from the addiction rather than ordinary taxpayers.

But where is the report that this is under the Stimulus Money coming from?

Alex Cox said...

If you had paid attention they do keep saying stimulus money. However they also report that the money is coming from the tobacco lawsuit. It is stimulus money because they release money from that source to stimulate the economy. The money does however come from taxpayers as smokers, and tobacco companies pay taxes. They are not rewarding people to become smokers it not a free blackberry to start smoking. It's to quit. Will it work? I don't know, but at least someone is trying to do something. Other than complain that is.

Christina Dunigan said...

Will it work? I don't know, but at least someone is trying to do something.

That's part of the problem with the attitude people have toward "government money". That it's okay to just throw a bunch of it at a problem without any evidence that what they plan to do will work.

Would you donate to a charity that was doing something untested on a $1 million scale? Or would you want to see them do it on a smaller scale first and see what the results were?

Case in point with government money -- Low reading scores in kids. James Herndon wrote about it in "How to Survive in Your Native Land". He and three other teacher -- seen as renegade, oddball teachers -- were given all the kids other teachers wanted to get out of their classrooms -- troublesome, oddball kids. Kids who had started out bright enough but after years of public school had just gotten dumb. Reading below grade level. They hadn't eaten paint chips or been dropped on their heads or anything. The only thing that had happened to turn them from bright, eager first graders into dumb, sullen or troublesome fifth and sixth graders, was that they'd been in school for five or six years.

Herndon and his team decided that there was little point in trying to improve their math and science and social studies scores if they couldn't even read the textbooks. The focus (not the sole activity, but the focus) would be to improve their reading.

That first year, they threw the book at those kids. They used every tool the experts had in their How To Teach Reading arsenal. All the latest and greatest in how to teach reading. And at the end of the year -- the kids were even dumber.

So Herndon and his crew spent some time using the stuff on each other.

They realized that it was stultifying, and that they spent very little time actually reading.

"If you did this to me all day for a year, I'd be dumb, too," was the conclusion they drew.

So the next year, the kids would READ. Two hours a day were devoted to reading time. The kids could read whatever they pleased. Supermarket tabloids. Comic books. Library books. Magazines. Whatever. The kids would sit quietly in the room and read, and the teachers would circulate and ask them questions about what they were reading and help the kids that needed help.

At the end of a year of this program -- which cost NOTHING, since the school and the kids themselves already had plenty of reading material -- ALL THE KIDS HAD VASTLY IMPROVED READING SCORES.

Guess what the school did?

They blew off this little experiment. They spent boucoup taxpayer dollars on yet another expensive reading program. After all, it wasn't THEIR money. Piss it away! As long as you look like you're doing something.


The "Well, at least they're doing SOMETHING" attitude is why the government sucks at so much. The value is placed on looking good -- looking innovative, looking compassionate, looking progressive, looking cutting-edge, looking busy. And if it doesn't work, well then the problem is bigger and we throw more money at it and do SOMETHING.

Nobody with ten brain cells firing would donate up to 60% of their income to charities that worked like that. But the government does it and we say, "Well, it's nice that they're TRYING."

You can have that attitude toward a toddler who's trying to figure out how to stack blocks. But millions of dollars, and people freaking LIVES, deserve a little better than, "Well, at least they're TRYING."