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By Barry Rubin

I keep coming across–on Internet and radio–ads produced by the U.S. government on every conceivable health and behavioral issue. They may be carried for free on sites and channels but there are still tax-paid employees producing and distributing them. They serve as fitting examples of what’s wrong with government today. And it’s really funny when they turn up in huge quantity on local radio broadcasts of Rush Limbaugh and other anti-big government programs.

Sure they are for nominally good causes, for example the don’t take your toys into the bedroom because they cause asthma attacks campaign. Then there are unforgettable ad campaigns over a guy who died because he ate too many fatty foods, why we should ride bicycles to work, warnings against crooked house mortgage companies, insistence that we go get medical check-ups, and countless others.

But the one that set me off is on Yahoo today. It shows an orange and yellow fish and says: “Dry off tub toys and bath area to prevent mildew.” And below it are logos for the Ad Council and the EPA. If you click you get to this site:

http://www.noattacks.org/

which also carries the EPA logo. And if you click there you get here: http://www.epa.gov/ which tells us all the wonderful things EPA is doing to police the air, water, etc.

Now, I’m not for childhood asthma, I have a touch of it myself, but is the purpose of the U.S. government to tell us to dry off bath toys? Besides, let’s face it, while these messages are nominally good do they have any effect on the real world? Are we defending the poor kids with asthma or obesity or the jobs of Federal bureaucrats running these programs that, I assume, don’t really help anyone. I’d bet that this kind of thing costs a good half billion or so in ad-writing, distribution, site-maintaining, and other time.

The test of any government program should be:

–Is it within the rightful, legal, and Constitutional tasks of the U.S. government?

–Do they really do any good in the real world?

–Are the costs of these programs worth paying, especially in a time of massive deficits and borrowing?

Could some investigative reporter look into this and total up all the money involved.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com 

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