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Why is the U.S. Government buying pointless ads on Facebook?

Toward the end of this post, I'm going to share with you the advertising budget for the U.S. Census Bureau. Before you read it, make sure you're sitting down. You're going to be appalled.

Whenever I see various government agencies buying ad space on TV, radio, or internet, I get a little annoyed. Last year, Medicare aired this TV spot:

There are very few occasions, if any, where the government should be paying for TV ads (with the exception of recruiting videos for programs like the Armed Forces). As such, I see very rare need for government agencies to spend tax dollars on advertising.

Today, I saw a Facebook ad posted by the Census Bureau, announcing results of the 2010 census.

There is absolutely no reason the government should be wasting money on promoting the Census website. The Census is taken a couple reasons: to apportion the correct number of state representatives and to divy up government funds. While the information found in the census results might be interesting, it's not the role of the Census Bureau to pay to advertise its results.

One of the reasons we have free press in America is so the government isn't feeding us news. While the Obama Administration claims to be "more open and transparent" than previous administrations, the proper channel to disseminate information like census data is to share it with the news media. They, in turn, can analyze the data and share it with viewers.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with having a website to share information (unless said website cost taxpayers $18 million *cough* *cough*), but spending tax dollars to promote the results crosses the line.

The Census Bureau isn't new to this whole marketing thing. If you're in the United States, I'm sure you remember the constant TV ads they ran during the census, reminding you to fill out the census form so they didn't have to send agents to your door. Oh, and then there was the direct mail campaign, before the census, telling you that they were going to send you the census form the next week. Huge waste.

So I decided to do a little digging (okay, I googled "census bureau advertising budget"). Here's what I found:

The 2010 advertising budget for the U.S. Census Bureau was over $140 million.


It's pretty appalling that the U.S. Government is spending $140 million on what are essentially free public service announcements.

If Congress wants to seriously look into a government agencies that waste money, I'd suggest the Census Bureau as a good candidate. Aside from the huge controversy and fraud that took place when the government hired thousands of census takers, there's this whole $140 million that could have easily been saved.