Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Government Doesn’t Have Enough Money

Written by Jeff Johnson on February 23, 2010. Posted in Golden Hydrant

Golden Hydrant goes to Feds for spending $145 Million on stupid TV commercials to market Census 2010goldenhydrant

As I was paying bills the other night during the Olympics, I saw yet another of those annoying 2010 U.S. Census commercials and decided – as I was grumbling about government waste under my breath – that it was time to award another Golden Fire Hydrant.

The U.S. government is spending $340 million to market the 2010 Census. About $145 million of that is for the creation and airing of television commercials, which can be seen during the most expensive time slots in TV (including a $2.5 million 30-second spot during the Super Bowl).

The ads stink, by anyone’s definition. They use marginally famous actors in a painfully unsuccessful attempt to be humorous. They share practically no useful information (not even telling viewers to fill out their census forms) and are unlikely to convince anyone who is opposed to or disinterested in completing the form to do so.

The Hydrant usually goes to a Hennepin County expenditure and, in the past, I have avoided calling out federal programs (as I would be posting on wasteful spending four times a day). But the combination of paying my bills and seeing one of these annoying multi-million dollar commercials for the umpteenth time put me over the edge.

Should there be an effort to inform people about the census? Of course. The government should be providing information to groups throughout the country explaining the Census’ simplicity and importance in allocating federal money and congressional representation. Hennepin County, for example, is actively doing that all around the county.

These silly commercials, however, are a great (yet sad) example of how completely out of touch some in government are. They don’t seem to have any concept that the money they spend actually has to come out of someone’s paycheck. It’s like pretend money – to be spent on anything and everything that seems cool, fun, well-intentioned or exciting (see, e.g., garbage burner beautification, “signature” bridges, bike helmet subsidies, artsy water fountains, etc.).

Until those in government start to understand that the money they’re playing with is real, don’t let them tell you they’re broke and you should pony up a little more.

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