Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report passes on a story about public financing of advertising and PR campaigns. In the past two and a half years, the federal government has spent $1.6 billion on it. While that’s a drop in the federal bucket, it’s enough money to get excited about.
It’s framed by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman as if it the Bush Administration was spending over a billion dollars of public funds to promote his agenda. Steve is right to highlight cases in which this has, in fact, happened. But if you read the report (.pdf), it’s pretty hard to defend that characterization for the large majority of the money. Most of the money is spent by non-partisan government agencies- the military, the Census, the DEA, lots of things. Quite a lot of it is unobjectionable. The military really does need to buy advertisements to recruit soldiers. The NIH really should be promoting heart disease awareness. Some of these agencies exist just to create and promote public awareness campaigns about things like breastfeeding or child safety seats. And so on.
That doesn’t make it bulletproof, of course. Quite a lot of it is surely a waste of taxpayer’s money, like the $55 million the Bureau of Engraving and Printing spent promoting the new currency. It has the potential to be an enormous patronage machine. And, we’ve seen that some of it has been used inapproriately for partisan campaigning. But we’re not looking at $1.6 billion for An Army of Armstrongs. (ahem)
My first response was “This is why good people turn libertarian.” Upon reflection, that’s my second response, too.
P.S. I’ve spent a fair amount of time on government websites recently. Did you ever notice how many have a “For Kids” section? I really hope that there’s some teacher, somewhere, getting some use out of Energy Ant.
P.P.S. I’ve just defended the Bush Administration from a Democratic attack, and pushed for spending discipline. Why won’t the right reach out and engage a moderate like me? What I’ve noticed, over and over, is that the bloggers on the left link to you when they agree and ignore the disagreements, and the bloggers on the right link only for the things they disagree with, to denounce you with short posts saying you’re evil/stupid/crazy, and don’t even seem to notice all the times you’ve written posts that take their side. Why is this happening? I find it terribly, terribly sad, and in no way transparently self-serving.
WHAT’S MORE: The point of that last paragraph isn’t necessarily obvious if you don’t already live inside my head, which relatively few people do.
To be more straightforward, I’m not at all irritated with any lack of approving links from right-of-center bloggers. I think that’s just the way of the world. Rather, I’m poking fun at Professor Althouse and the alleluia chorus surrounding the post that I’ve linked to in the last sentence. It seems to me that Althouse is starting with the assumption that, since she is at the center of political discourse, any asymmetrical treatment that she recieves from the right and left blogosphere must be due to the personality and intellectual flaws of liberals. I think that the asymmetrical treatment is better explained by the perception that she’s a moderate conservative, and I’d point to her self-placement in the Conservative Blog Advertising Network and her pleasure at being named a Conservative Blog Diva, and her own asymmetrical concern about national security leaks, as evidence.
This is not to minimize the pleasure of the links from right-of-center blogs, which I do greatly appreciate.