deducecanoe:

blackfemalecoders:

“Without Women, Computing as We Know It Would Not Exist.”

So, y’know, dudes who’re like “WHAT HAVE WOMEN CONTRIBUTED TO SCIENCE!?” as proof that men are “naturally” better at science and math? Well, suck it. Also, Grace Hopper is a military general.

Grace Hopper was a Rear Admiral in the Navy and quite possibly one of the most interesting figures of the 20th century.

deducecanoe:

blackfemalecoders:

“Without Women, Computing as We Know It Would Not Exist.”

So, y’know, dudes who’re like “WHAT HAVE WOMEN CONTRIBUTED TO SCIENCE!?” as proof that men are “naturally” better at science and math? Well, suck it. Also, Grace Hopper is a military general.

Grace Hopper was a Rear Admiral in the Navy and quite possibly one of the most interesting figures of the 20th century.

What is a wheelchair?

lindseyelarson:

It’s a chair on four wheels. It’s metal and plastic and rubber. Some are basic and fold in the middle. Some are high end works of engineering. Some are power operated. Some have a small motor just for that extra push. And others move only by the strength on the person who sits in it. A wheelchair is there to help you walk when you just can’t do it for yourself. 

A wheelchair is not sad and pathetic. The bent metal and spoked wheels don’t make the rider sad and pathetic. A wheelchair is a tool and it is our ability to invent and use tools that differentiates us from our ancestors. A wheelchair is freedom. A wheelchair is independence. A wheelchair is hope and strength for those who can’t stand on their own. 

A wheelchair is not giving up. A wheelchair is not a sign of weakness. A wheelchair does not make a person broken, or any less human. A wheelchair does not make a person anything other than who they are.

In and of itself a wheelchair is an object. In the eyes of society a wheelchair is a symbol of frailty. In reality a wheelchair is a tool, an adaptation. A wheelchair is a reclamation of life. 

 

On The 47%, And Short Memories

letterstomycountry:

It appears that Mitt Romney’s bit about the 47% of Americans who pay no federal taxes is exploding.  Much to Romney’s chagrine, a critical mass of people appear to have realized that there are multiple ways in which a person can end up with no federal tax liability despite, e.g., working full time, or in the case of 35,000 American households, even making upwards of $200,000/year.  What is ironic about this state of affairs is the fact that many of the tax incentives in the federal tax code are things that we theoretically want to reward people for doing.  So the fact that 47% of Americans have no federal tax liability is also theoretically something we should be celebrating.*

But what should shock people about this particular “attack” is not the fact that it overreaches and encompasses folks who are clearly not lazy, unemployed individuals that are content to suckle at the government teat.  What is more shocking is the short memory of Republicans who have used this line of attack before.  As I wrote back in June, the patron saint of the Republican party, Ronald Reagan, was actually trying to get as many people off the tax rolls as possible when he signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986, because he believed that taxing poor people was central factor in increasing the gravity of their poverty.  Here are the words of the Legislative Committee that recommended the bill to Congress:

An overriding goal of the Committee is to relieve families with the lowest incomes from Federal income tax liability.  Consequently, the Bill increases the amounts of both the personal exemption and the standard deduction…so that the income level at which individuals begin to have tax liability will be raised sufficiently to free millions of poverty-level individual from Federal income tax liability.

The entire point of Reagan-era tax reforms was to make it precisely so millions of Americans would be taken off the tax rolls completely.  It takes an extraordinary act of cognitive dissonance to praise Reagan dogmatically out of one side of your mouth—as Romney has (though he rejected Reagan’s policies in his former life)—and then proceed to complain about the inevitable and intentional result of his signature policy reforms. 

To be fair, one could reasonably object by pointing out that Reagan’s reforms also eliminated tax loopholes, which now exist in spades.  But Romney’s attack was not directed at middle class and wealthy people who utilize tax loopholes to eliminate their federal tax liability.  He was attacking an archetype of the American poor; the same individuals who Reagan believed would be helped by eliminating their federal tax liability.  Notably, Reagan also believed eliminating federal tax liability for low-income Americans would help incentivize people on public assistance to re-enter the workforce, by allowing poor Americans to keep more of their already modest paycheck.  Here again, Romney misses the mark by failing to understand Reagan’s intent and methodology, all the while counter-intuitively praising his example whenever the opportunity presents itself.

*theoretically of course.

ikenbot:

quantumaniac:

Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens
The story goes like this: Sometime in the 1940s, Enrico Fermi was talking about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence with some other physicists. They were impressed that life had evolved quickly and progressively on Earth. They figured our galaxy holds about 100 billion stars, and that an intelligent, exponentially-reproducing species could colonize the galaxy in just a few million years. They reasoned that extraterrestrial intelligence should be common by now. Fermi listened patiently, then asked, simply, “So, where is everybody?” That is, if extraterrestrial intelligence is common, why haven’t we met any bright aliens yet? This conundrum became known as Fermi’s Paradox.

Since then, the Paradox has become ever more baffling. Paleontology has shown that organic life evolved quickly after the Earth’s surface cooled and became life-hospitable. Given simple life forms, evolution shows progressive trends toward larger bodies, brains, and social complexity. Evolutionary psychology has revealed several credible paths from simpler social minds to human-level creative intelligence. So evolving intelligence seems likely, given a propitious habitat—and astronomers think such habitats are common. Moreover, at least 150 extrasolar planets have been identified in the last few years, suggesting that life-hospitable planets orbit most stars. Yet 40 years of intensive searching for extraterrestrial intelligence have yielded nothing: no radio signals, no credible spacecraft sightings, no close encounters of any kind.
It looks, then, as if we can answer Fermi in two ways. Perhaps our current science over-estimates the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence evolving. Or, perhaps evolved technical intelligence has some deep tendency to be self-limiting, even self-exterminating. After Hiroshima, some suggested that any aliens bright enough to make colonizing space ships would be bright enough to make thermonuclear bombs, and would use them on each other sooner or later. Maybe extraterrestrial intelligence always blows itself up. Indeed, Fermi’s Paradox became, for a while, a cautionary tale about Cold War geopolitics.
I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.
The fundamental problem is that an evolved mind must pay attention to indirect cues of biological fitness, rather than tracking fitness itself. This was a key insight of evolutionary psychology in the early 1990s; although evolution favors brains that tend to maximize fitness (as measured by numbers of great-grandkids), no brain has capacity enough to do so under every possible circumstance. Evolution simply could never have anticipated the novel environments, such as modern society, that our social primate would come to inhabit. That would be a computationally intractable problem, even for the new IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer that runs 280 trillion operations per second. Even long-term weather prediction is easy when compared to fitness prediction. As a result, brains must evolve short-cuts: fitness-promoting tricks, cons, recipes and heuristics that work, on average, under ancestrally normal conditions.
The result is that we don’t seek reproductive success directly; we seek tasty foods that have tended to promote survival, and luscious mates who have tended to produce bright, healthy babies. The modern result? Fast food and pornography. Technology is fairly good at controlling external reality to promote real biological fitness, but it’s even better at delivering fake fitness—subjective cues of survival and reproduction without the real-world effects. Having real friends is so much more effort than watching Friends. Actually colonizing the galaxy would be so much harder than pretending to have done it when filming Star Wars or Serenity. The business of humanity has become entertainment, and entertainment is the business of feeding fake fitness cues to our brains.
Fitness-faking technology tends to evolve much faster than our psychological resistance to it. With the invention of the printing press, people read more and have fewer kids. (Only a few curmudgeons lament this.) With the invention of Xbox 360, people would rather play a high-resolution virtual ape in Peter Jackson’s King Kong than be a perfect-resolution real human. Teens today must find their way through a carnival of addictively fitness-faking entertainment products: iPods, DVDs, TiVo, Sirius Satellite Radio, Motorola cellphones, the Spice channel, EverQuest, instant messaging, MDMA, BC bud. The traditional staples of physical, mental and social development—athletics, homework, dating—are neglected. The few young people with the self-control to pursue the meritocratic path often get distracted at the last minute. Take, for example, the MIT graduates who apply to do computer game design for Electronics Arts, rather than rocket science for NASA.
Around 1900, most inventions concerned physical reality: cars, airplanes, Zeppelins, electric lights, vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, bras, zippers. In 2005, most inventions concern virtual entertainment—the top 10 patent-recipients were IBM, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Matsushita, Samsung, Micron Technology, Intel, Hitachi, Toshiba and Fujitsu—not Boeing, Toyota or Victoria’s Secret. We have already shifted from a reality economy to a virtual economy, from physics to psychology as the value-driver and resource-allocator. We are already disappearing up our own brainstems. Our neurons over-stimulate each other, promiscuously, as our sperm and eggs decay, unused. Freud’s pleasure principle triumphs over the reality principle. Today we narrow-cast human-interest stories to each other, rather than broadcasting messages of universal peace and progress to other star systems.
Maybe the bright aliens did the same. I suspect that a certain period of fitness-faking narcissism is inevitable after any intelligent life evolves. This is the Great Temptation for any technological species—to shape their subjective reality to provide the cues of survival and reproductive success without the substance. Most bright alien species probably go extinct gradually, allocating more time and resources to their pleasures, and less to their children. They eventually die out when the game behind all games—the Game of Life—says “Game Over; you are out of lives and you forgot to reproduce.”
Heritable variation in personality might allow some lineages to resist the Great Temptation and last longer. Some individuals and families may start with an “irrational” Luddite abhorrence of entertainment technology, and they may evolve ever more self-control, conscientiousness and pragmatism. They will evolve a horror of virtual entertainment, psychoactive drugs and contraception. They will stress the values of hard work, delayed gratifica tion, child-rearing and environmental stewardship. They will combine the family values of the religious right with the sustainability values of the Greenpeace left. Their concerns about the Game of Life will baffle the political pollsters who only understand the rhetoric of status and power, individual and society, rights and duties, good and evil, us and them.
This, too, may be happening already. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and anti-consumerism activists already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulate themselves from our creative-class dreamworlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the Earth as like-minded aliens may have inherited a few other planets. When they finally achieve contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers and game-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox.
By: Geoffrey Miller


There are some really great points in here especially about consumerism and entertainment.

This is one of the silliest things I’ve read in a long time. While there maybe valid points about questioning the direction our culture is taking, it is surrounded by false pseudo-science making these questions seem silly and quite ridiculous.

ikenbot:

quantumaniac:

Why We Haven’t Met Any Aliens

The story goes like this: Sometime in the 1940s, Enrico Fermi was talking about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence with some other physicists. They were impressed that life had evolved quickly and progressively on Earth. They figured our galaxy holds about 100 billion stars, and that an intelligent, exponentially-reproducing species could colonize the galaxy in just a few million years. They reasoned that extraterrestrial intelligence should be common by now. Fermi listened patiently, then asked, simply, “So, where is everybody?” That is, if extraterrestrial intelligence is common, why haven’t we met any bright aliens yet? This conundrum became known as Fermi’s Paradox.

Since then, the Paradox has become ever more baffling. Paleontology has shown that organic life evolved quickly after the Earth’s surface cooled and became life-hospitable. Given simple life forms, evolution shows progressive trends toward larger bodies, brains, and social complexity. Evolutionary psychology has revealed several credible paths from simpler social minds to human-level creative intelligence. So evolving intelligence seems likely, given a propitious habitat—and astronomers think such habitats are common. Moreover, at least 150 extrasolar planets have been identified in the last few years, suggesting that life-hospitable planets orbit most stars. Yet 40 years of intensive searching for extraterrestrial intelligence have yielded nothing: no radio signals, no credible spacecraft sightings, no close encounters of any kind.

It looks, then, as if we can answer Fermi in two ways. Perhaps our current science over-estimates the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence evolving. Or, perhaps evolved technical intelligence has some deep tendency to be self-limiting, even self-exterminating. After Hiroshima, some suggested that any aliens bright enough to make colonizing space ships would be bright enough to make thermonuclear bombs, and would use them on each other sooner or later. Maybe extraterrestrial intelligence always blows itself up. Indeed, Fermi’s Paradox became, for a while, a cautionary tale about Cold War geopolitics.

I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

The fundamental problem is that an evolved mind must pay attention to indirect cues of biological fitness, rather than tracking fitness itself. This was a key insight of evolutionary psychology in the early 1990s; although evolution favors brains that tend to maximize fitness (as measured by numbers of great-grandkids), no brain has capacity enough to do so under every possible circumstance. Evolution simply could never have anticipated the novel environments, such as modern society, that our social primate would come to inhabit. That would be a computationally intractable problem, even for the new IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer that runs 280 trillion operations per second. Even long-term weather prediction is easy when compared to fitness prediction. As a result, brains must evolve short-cuts: fitness-promoting tricks, cons, recipes and heuristics that work, on average, under ancestrally normal conditions.

The result is that we don’t seek reproductive success directly; we seek tasty foods that have tended to promote survival, and luscious mates who have tended to produce bright, healthy babies. The modern result? Fast food and pornography. Technology is fairly good at controlling external reality to promote real biological fitness, but it’s even better at delivering fake fitness—subjective cues of survival and reproduction without the real-world effects. Having real friends is so much more effort than watching Friends. Actually colonizing the galaxy would be so much harder than pretending to have done it when filming Star Wars or Serenity. The business of humanity has become entertainment, and entertainment is the business of feeding fake fitness cues to our brains.

Fitness-faking technology tends to evolve much faster than our psychological resistance to it. With the invention of the printing press, people read more and have fewer kids. (Only a few curmudgeons lament this.) With the invention of Xbox 360, people would rather play a high-resolution virtual ape in Peter Jackson’s King Kong than be a perfect-resolution real human. Teens today must find their way through a carnival of addictively fitness-faking entertainment products: iPods, DVDs, TiVo, Sirius Satellite Radio, Motorola cellphones, the Spice channel, EverQuest, instant messaging, MDMA, BC bud. The traditional staples of physical, mental and social development—athletics, homework, dating—are neglected. The few young people with the self-control to pursue the meritocratic path often get distracted at the last minute. Take, for example, the MIT graduates who apply to do computer game design for Electronics Arts, rather than rocket science for NASA.

Around 1900, most inventions concerned physical reality: cars, airplanes, Zeppelins, electric lights, vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, bras, zippers. In 2005, most inventions concern virtual entertainment—the top 10 patent-recipients were IBM, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Matsushita, Samsung, Micron Technology, Intel, Hitachi, Toshiba and Fujitsu—not Boeing, Toyota or Victoria’s Secret. We have already shifted from a reality economy to a virtual economy, from physics to psychology as the value-driver and resource-allocator. We are already disappearing up our own brainstems. Our neurons over-stimulate each other, promiscuously, as our sperm and eggs decay, unused. Freud’s pleasure principle triumphs over the reality principle. Today we narrow-cast human-interest stories to each other, rather than broadcasting messages of universal peace and progress to other star systems.

Maybe the bright aliens did the same. I suspect that a certain period of fitness-faking narcissism is inevitable after any intelligent life evolves. This is the Great Temptation for any technological species—to shape their subjective reality to provide the cues of survival and reproductive success without the substance. Most bright alien species probably go extinct gradually, allocating more time and resources to their pleasures, and less to their children. They eventually die out when the game behind all games—the Game of Life—says “Game Over; you are out of lives and you forgot to reproduce.”

Heritable variation in personality might allow some lineages to resist the Great Temptation and last longer. Some individuals and families may start with an “irrational” Luddite abhorrence of entertainment technology, and they may evolve ever more self-control, conscientiousness and pragmatism. They will evolve a horror of virtual entertainment, psychoactive drugs and contraception. They will stress the values of hard work, delayed gratifica tion, child-rearing and environmental stewardship. They will combine the family values of the religious right with the sustainability values of the Greenpeace left. Their concerns about the Game of Life will baffle the political pollsters who only understand the rhetoric of status and power, individual and society, rights and duties, good and evil, us and them.

This, too, may be happening already. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and anti-consumerism activists already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulate themselves from our creative-class dreamworlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the Earth as like-minded aliens may have inherited a few other planets. When they finally achieve contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers and game-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox.

By: Geoffrey Miller

There are some really great points in here especially about consumerism and entertainment.

This is one of the silliest things I’ve read in a long time. While there maybe valid points about questioning the direction our culture is taking, it is surrounded by false pseudo-science making these questions seem silly and quite ridiculous.

atheist-overdose:

I was just arguing with a friend that didn’t know this. so, i wanted to share.follow for the best atheist posts on tumblr

atheist-overdose:

I was just arguing with a friend that didn’t know this. so, i wanted to share.

tastefullyoffensive:

[via]

robertreich:

The Five Reasons Why the Ryan-Romney Economic Plan Would Be A Disaster for America

 

Mitt Romney hasn’t provided details so  we should be grateful he’s selected as vice president a man with a detailed plan Romney says is “marvelous,” “bold and exciting,” “excellent,” “much needed,” and “consistent with” what he’s put out.

So let’s look at the five basic features of this “marvelous” Ryan plan.

FIRST: It  would boost unemployment because it slashes public spending next year and the year after, when the economy is still likely to need a boost, not a fiscal drag. It would be the same austerity trap now throwing Europe into recession. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Ryan’s plan would mean 1.3 million fewer jobs next year than otherwise, and 2.8 million fewer the year after.

SECOND: Ryan would take from lower-income Americans and give to the rich – who already have the biggest share of America’s total income and wealth in almost a century. His plan would raise taxes on families earning between 30 and 40 thousand dollars by almost $500 a year, and slash programs like Medicare, food stamps, and children’s health What would Ryan do with these savings? Reduce taxes on millionaires by an average of over $500,000 a year.

THIRD: Ryan wants to turn Medicare into vouchers that won’t keep up with the rising costs of health care – thereby shifting the burden onto seniors. By contrast, Obama’s Affordable Care Act saves money on Medicare by reducing payments to medical providers like hospitals and drug companies.

FOURTH: He wants to add money to defense while cutting spending on education, infrastructure, and basic research and development. America already spends more on defense than the next five biggest military spenders put together. Our future productivity depends on the public investments Ryan wants to cut.

FIFTH AND Finally, Ryan’s budget doesn’t even reduce the federal budget deficit – not for decades. Remember: He’s adding to military spending, giving huge additional tax cuts to the very rich, and stifling economic growth by cutting spending too early.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates Ryan’s Roadmap would push public debt to over 175 percent of GDP by 2050.

So there you have it. The Ryan – Ryan-ROMNEY – economic plan.

And the five reasons why it would be a disaster for America.

(Please watch the video — and share.)

I was already aware of your stance on devotees, but yesterday I came across your YouTube video addressing it (the one that's like, 5 years old). I just want to tell you that it made me very happy. Also, you're cute!
Anonymous

I’m glad, and thank you.  :)

nonplussedbyreligion:

rationalhub:

Yep, this. There was a Sagan quote on similar lines, but since I’ve not posted any Steven Pinker quotes. :)

This quote is part of Pinker’s answer to the question: Can You Believe in God and Evolution?  His complete answer was:
It’s natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity’s highest callings.
Our own bodies are riddled with quirks that no competent engineer would have planned but that disclose a history of trial-and-error tinkering: a retina installed backward, a seminal duct that hooks over the ureter like a garden hose snagged on a tree, goose bumps that uselessly try to warm us by fluffing up long-gone fur.
The moral design of nature is as bungled as its engineering design. What twisted sadist would have invented a parasite that blinds millions of people or a gene that covers babies with excruciating blisters? To adapt a Yiddish expression about God: If an intelligent designer lived on Earth, people would break his windows.
The theory of natural selection explains life as we find it, with all its quirks and tragedies. We can prove mathematically that it is capable of producing adaptive life forms and track it in computer simulations, lab experiments and real ecosystems. It doesn’t pretend to solve one mystery (the origin of complex life) by slipping in another (the origin of a complex designer).
Many people who accept evolution still feel that a belief in God is necessary to give life meaning and to justify morality. But that is exactly backward. In practice, religion has given us stonings, inquisitions and 9/11. Morality comes from a commitment to treat others as we wish to be treated, which follows from the realization that none of us is the sole occupant of the universe. Like physical evolution, it does not require a white-coated technician in the sky.
Can You Believe in God and Evolution? Time Magazine, August 7, 2005
~ Kim

nonplussedbyreligion:

rationalhub:

Yep, this. There was a Sagan quote on similar lines, but since I’ve not posted any Steven Pinker quotes. :)

This quote is part of Pinker’s answer to the question: Can You Believe in God and Evolution?  His complete answer was:

It’s natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity’s highest callings.

Our own bodies are riddled with quirks that no competent engineer would have planned but that disclose a history of trial-and-error tinkering: a retina installed backward, a seminal duct that hooks over the ureter like a garden hose snagged on a tree, goose bumps that uselessly try to warm us by fluffing up long-gone fur.

The moral design of nature is as bungled as its engineering design. What twisted sadist would have invented a parasite that blinds millions of people or a gene that covers babies with excruciating blisters? To adapt a Yiddish expression about God: If an intelligent designer lived on Earth, people would break his windows.

The theory of natural selection explains life as we find it, with all its quirks and tragedies. We can prove mathematically that it is capable of producing adaptive life forms and track it in computer simulations, lab experiments and real ecosystems. It doesn’t pretend to solve one mystery (the origin of complex life) by slipping in another (the origin of a complex designer).

Many people who accept evolution still feel that a belief in God is necessary to give life meaning and to justify morality. But that is exactly backward. In practice, religion has given us stonings, inquisitions and 9/11. Morality comes from a commitment to treat others as we wish to be treated, which follows from the realization that none of us is the sole occupant of the universe. Like physical evolution, it does not require a white-coated technician in the sky.

Can You Believe in God and Evolution? Time Magazine, August 7, 2005

~ Kim

On ‘States Rights’ And Bad Drug Policy

letterstomycountry:

A friend of mine recently posted the following tiresome message on facebook as evidence of why “states should be able to govern themselves:”

The irony of this message is that it is a better argument against states’ rights than vice versa.  But leaving states’ rights aside for a moment, I am confident that anyone who has spent two seconds examining the actual impact of welfare drug testing will discover that it’s literally one of the worst policies ever to be suggested in our body politic.  From a cost/benefit analysis standpoint, it is quite possibly one of the most inefficient, ineffective, and counterproductive policies that a governing body can implement.

Not long after drug testing was implemented in Florida, it was discovered that 98% of Florida welfare recipients passed their drug tests.  During follow-up investigation and exams, it was discovered that 96% of the testees were in-fact drug free.  That means that welfare recipients in Florida are representing drug use at a 25-50% smaller rate than the nation writ large:

According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, performed by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, 8.7 percent of the population nationally over age 12 uses illicit drugs. The rate was 6.3 percent for those ages 26 and up.

Furthermore, if 96% of welfare recipients are passing drug tests, it means that 96 cents out of every tax dollar spent on drug testing in Florida is wasted.

96 cents out of every tax dollar spent on drug testing in Florida is wasted.

96 cents out of every tax dollar spent on drug testing in Florida is wasted.

As the New York Times noted in April:

[A] Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.

And what happens to people who fail the drug tests?  They are cut off from welfare benefits for a year.  And what then?  Will the exigencies of their circumstances generate magical bootstraps and help them find jobs?  

Not really.  The majority of people on welfare are not persistent benificiaries, meaning that in most cases, they are people who fell on hard times that needed help because they couldn’t establish income in the first place.  “[T]he biggest reasons families apply for welfare are job instability, illness, disabilities and family problems, including abuse.”  And in the wake of Clinton’s 1996 welfare reforms, many states require you to seek work while receiving welfare, meaning that you cannot simply ride the dole.  If you want to stay on it, you actually have to try to get off it.  So cutting people off of welfare doesn’t actually create any new incentives to find work.  They are already required to demonstrate attempts to find employment as a condition of receiving welfare benefits in the first place.

So what happens then?  Some beg friends, family members and neighbors for help. others resort to criminal activity.  In the latter case, there’s a non-trivial chance they’ll end up in jail, where taxpayers will then pay close to $25,000 a year to pay for a former welfare-recipient’s housing, clothing, food, and healthcare, not to mention their legal representation.  Compare that to the $753 monthly TANF benefit that a family of three receives in New York.  It costs a lot more to throw somebody in prison than it does to give them public assistance.  And given the notoriously high recidivism rates in America’s prisons, a good portion of those individuals who end up in prison will cost taxpayers a great deal more than $25,000.  And much more than if they had simply been allowed to continue living on public assistance, where they’re also a lot more likely to end up becoming productive members of society again than if they get thrown in prison.

So in the end, what we are left with is a policy that wastes taxpayer money to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, at no material benefit to the taxpayers of the state.  Drug testing welfare recipients is literally cutting off your nose to spite your face.  Taxpayers in states that drug-test welfare recipients end up spending more in the long run than if they’d simply