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The Budget Ads are Better than the Super Bowl Ads

It seems the Administration has discovered a new deficit-reduction technique that just might work: Why not sell advertising right in the middle of the federal budget documents? If they can put ads at eye-level in men's rooms, and on airline baggage carousels, why not? And, needless to say, there are cash-rich advertisers who would love to buy space in a document that's been considered reliable and respected since 1948. For example, there's a little corporation called Bush-Cheney '04, Inc. that's sitting on about $100 million in cash and needs to boost a sinking brand name.

That's the only explanation for this, which jumped out from the section of the budget entitled "Upholding America's Values":

Good company. President Bush visits the St. Augustine Parish Hunger Center in Cleveland, Ohio in May 2001.

or this:

Caring for our seniors. President Bush meets with 94 year old Anna Tovcimak after a roundtable discussion on Medicare Liability Reform in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Caring for our seniors. President Bush meets with 94 year old Anna Tovcimak after a roundtable discussion on Medicare Liability Reform in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

or this:

Listen first, then act. President Bush takes a private moment to discuss Medicare. In December 2003 the President signed into law the first major improvement in Medicare since 1965.

or this:

Ready to read. President Bush helps a child with a reading assignment at Sullivant Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio.

The federal budget is far from a neutral statement of accounts. Of course it's an argument for the direction that the president wants to take the country. I've said before that it's a political document, and should be. But it is still a budget. It's not a campaign brochure. It's not an occasion to tout that the President "Listens, then acts" (even if there were the slightest reason to think that he or Congress listened to seniors in designing the Medicare bill), or reads to kids, or provides "good company" for hungry people!

The first Bush budget, for Fiscal Year 2003, was full of cartoons, including one depicting government as a bunch of Lilliputians tying down the American people. This one is full of these ridiculous campaign photos. No president in history has produced budgets like this, and there should be a little more outrage about this. Or, the Bush-Cheney Committee should just pay for the ads and maybe we'll reduce the deficit by 0.000003 percent.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on February 2, 2004 | Permalink


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Just for a little background, here: Is Bush the first president to introduce cartoons and campaign-flyer nonsense into his budget presentation?

If so, I think this demonstrates quite well the contempt in which this administration holds both lawmakers and the electorate.

Posted by: Derelict | Feb 2, 2004 5:50:14 PM

In response to Derelict, yes, this is the first. The FY 2003 budget (Bush's first) made a big deal about how they were changing the presentation and introducing graphics to make the numbers more "accessible."

Posted by: Mark Schmitt | Feb 2, 2004 7:48:46 PM

It probably would help Democrats like Kerry or Dean if Timberlake snatched off a wardrobe malfunction from crotch area in front of 90 million views to prove their manhood once and for all.

"even if there were the slightest reason to think that he or Congress listened to seniors in designing the Medicare bill" Didn't the old folk's group, AARP, who represents 33 million old codgers approve of the bill much to the dismay of the Democrats? I would be surprised if the AARP was not consulted about the bill. Wouldn't you?

Posted by: Dennis Slater | Feb 2, 2004 9:48:08 PM

Mark, thanks for the followup.

Dennis, you might recall that AARP's membership was not consulted about the Medicare Bill. Concurrent with the bill being voted on, AARP launched a massive PR-campaign to try to convince the membership that the bill was a good thing. The result? More than 15,000 AARP members quit in protest while almost 100,000 more protested vigorous.

Yep, AARP's Washington head was consulted, and he sold out the membership.

Posted by: Derelict | Feb 2, 2004 11:13:06 PM

They're laughing with the budget, not at it.

Posted by: Stentor | Feb 3, 2004 12:54:14 AM

This is great Mark. I was sure you made it up until I followed the link. Fire the Saturday Night Live writers, you can't get much better than this.

Posted by: Jordan Barab | Feb 3, 2004 9:40:06 AM

Today's Washington Post says the Admin has announced it will be spending about $9 million of taxpayer money this summer on television commercials telling citizens how good the Medicare bill will be and reassuring them that their concerns are unfounded. Supposedly the money is coming from the funds allocated for "education and implementation". The article also notes that the taxpayer funded media campaign will also include English and Spanish-language print media as well as network TV.

Posted by: walden | Feb 4, 2004 2:12:06 PM

Regarding that last photo: Who is teaching whom to read?

(Cheap shot, but I couldn't let it go.)

Posted by: Neil Sinhababu | Feb 10, 2004 4:49:46 AM


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