Unhealthy Whoregon

taxes-by-typeAdvertising. Marketing. Sales. These are a few of the things I hate.

Life is meant to be more than simply persuading each other into spending money and consuming goods and services.

The fact that “sales” is the artifice of lies, pressure and Jedi mind tricks to compel people to do things they don’t really want doesn’t help its case.

Advertising can, theoretically, be something good. If you are in the market for a thing and there’s information about that thing at a certain price, that can actually be helpful. Unfortunately, most advertising has devolved into petulant attempts at distraction and attacks on the subconscious. Not just merely advertising, they are better classified as “persuasion attempts.” Some estimates claim the average American is subjected to 15,000 persuasion attempts per day. That’s hinky.

It seems obvious the game has shifted from being informative (advertising) to persuasion warfare (psychology). And it doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of the Geneva Convention or even be honest. Not content to simply remain available in case you might need something, the free market win-based transaction paradigm is now hunting you down to make the kill. The consumer is prey.

Taxes are funds taken by the awesome power of governmental force. As such, they are sacred in my mind. Taxes must not be used frivolously. Taxes must always be respected. Taxes must not be used to benefit some at the detriment of others. There are certain things taxes should be used for and certain things that must never be allowed to happen. Because taxes are monies taken by force that’s just the way it has to be.

What happens when tax dollars are used on advertising? Bad shit.

Oregon voters approved an initiative to establish a government-operated lottery. Dumb, but it’s the initiative process. Give ’em what they want. Some, like me, call lotteries “unfair taxation of the stupid.” The program was sold as an opportunity to “do good things” with a portion of proceeds going to economic development, public education and natural resource programs. Oregonians chuck $1 billion of their wealth at the lottery each year.

Insanely, one percent of proceeds is dedicated to gambling prevention. At the same time the government runs advertising campaigns promoting lottery games. Say what? Yeah, that.

The government is running advertising to persuade the citizenry into spending more money on gambling. All hail the holy world of the dollar where anything goes. I may think it’s nuts but at least it’s the voters fault. They deliberately asked for this. I’m assuming the text of the initiative dictated that some proceeds would be spent on advertising.

So far we’ve covered advertising, taxes and Oregon. It’s time to tie it all together.

As the whole world knows, my beloved home state of Oregon is worst at Obamacare. Given $248 million to solve a problem, at the end of the day, and after a special one-month extension (neener, neener) the best and brightest in the Oregon government said, “Our bad. We’re giving up and surrendering the program back to the federal government.”

Remember when we thought it was bad when government employees treated themselves to lavish vacations or spent tax dollars on badly acted Star Trek training videos? That was child’s play! Oregon doesn’t fuck around.

Sure, the ads were cut and quintessentially Oregon. Personally I would have featured more kale, fedoras, tattoos, beards, body modification and microbrews. Maybe there could have been a tie-in to the lottery. Whatever. We should be proud of who we are.

The problem is that, ultimately, government is just another form of an organization comprised of people. Like a corporation, church, tiddlywinks club, etc. And, as such, it likes to prioritize the fun stuff first. Who wouldn’t? “This website sounds complicated. Let’s make the commercials first. I’m feeling oh-so-very creative.” It’s kind of like spending your rent money on cigarettes. We can worry about the rent later.

Normally this would be hilarious. Except for one little detail. It’s $248 million of that sacred money. That tax money taken by force. The public’s trust. And, in my mind, that makes the whole thing a lot worse than just bad judgement. That makes it criminal.

In all, approximately $28 million was spent on Oregon’s top dollar Cover Oregon program. That’s over 10 percent of all program expenditures.

For these reasons, and so much, I believe that government should not be in the advertising business. It is not the function of government to persuade the citizenry. At least it shouldn’t be. (For now, let’s leave the most powerful social engineering machine ever built, the U.S. Tax Code, out of the discussion.)

The government shouldn’t be advertising. No “Fly like an Eagle.” No “lottery does good things.” And, certainly, no cutesy (and irrelevant) advertising for something which will never exist.

Cover Oregon is a monumental failure. $248 million wasted. That’s criminal. In my opinion, people should be in jail for this and the money returned. That’s just one idiot’s opinion, though.

And, this is true, Cover Oregon continues to this very day to run more commercials promoting itself. Have they no shame? I guess they need to use up all of the allocated funds or something. Meanwhile the City of Portland is telling us there has to be a new monthly tax or they won’t be able to fix the potholes in the roads. Something is seriously fucked. The people we hire, pay and trust to run things are not doing their jobs.

In the end, what we bought for one-quarter billion dollars is a few YouTube clips for posterity. I plan to enjoy them. Introducing the neighborhood Cover Oregon Film Festival at my house. Think of it like a Tupperware party for modern times. We be advanced like that.

5 responses

  1. You may want to check this out:


    This concerns the entire country.


    1. Thanks for the link. That looks like my kind of gig!


      1. You are most welcome.

        It’s going to be big. Professor Lessig is a good guy.


  2. Congrats, Oregon! We saw that bit on John Oliver — pretty bad situation. Honestly, I would have thought they would have done a better job. Didn’t they hire Oracle?


    1. I strongly suspect Oracle took the opportunity to gorge themselves on the public teat. They reportedly did not send their “A Team.” Ultimate it’s a lack of oversight and bad project management on the part of Oregon officials. They allowed themselves to get taken to the cleaners. Is there a public funds fairy that will make everything write? No. Oracle, advertising firms, and others with contracts will keep their money, even though the project itself failed.


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