I just want to make it very clear that I don’t intend to make fun of the US Government. I am an upstanding, patriotic citizen of the United States. Honest. In fact, here at MUO we have a very wide assortment of articles that promote some of the best online resources that the US Government has to offer, such as Mark’s list of 5 awesome government websites, or my list of data mashups offered at government websites.
With that said, I do have a very personal, intense dislike of bureaucracy and lack of common sense. So even though there are plenty of great websites and online resources offered by the US Government, there are also a whole lot of silly online sites as well. In some cases, the waste of resources is so blatant that US taxpayers should be outraged.
Entertaining Or “Educating” Children?
If you’re read the book 1984 by George Orwell, then you know how creepy it is to see any government in the world attempting to “educate” children. Visions of brainwashing and propaganda come to mind. Those of you that were students during the Cold War will remember the whole “Duck and Cover” campaign.
Well now that there’s terrorism, hurricanes and pandemic diseases to fear, the US Government is busy getting Americans “ready” for any catastrophe with Ready.gov. The creepiest part of the U.S. government site is the “Ready Kids” area that educates kids about all of the threats families can face and must be prepared for.
Yet another government agency that has no clue when it comes to communicating with children is the US Treasury. On the Treasury’s website for kids called TreasuryDirect Kids, you’ll find all sorts of explanations and definitions that no child younger than 18 would be likely to even understand.
It seems inconceivable to me that the folks putting together this page truly think it’s okay to use a phrase like “inflation-protected securities” on a website meant for small children to learn about the Treasury. I mean, seriously?
Then there’s the other extreme over at Census.gov, where the wonderful, intelligent folks that conduct the US Census figured they’d follow the trend of other government agencies and offer a section of their website for kids as well. There, kids will find a cute little game where they can….well….count things.
I don’t know – that just struck me as really funny.
Finally, one more website for older kids – college-aged kids to be exact – is a US Government website called CollegeDrinkingPrevention.org. While the concept is commendable, the entire premise of the website is just silly.
Yes, it is a great idea to educate college students about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol, but do you really think college students are going to visit a government website to watch goofy videos, or read a list of “Fact About Alcohol Poisoning?”
Silly & Wasteful Government Websites
Beyond the sites for kids, there are also lots of US Government websites intended for adults that are just as pointless and silly. One example, from the US Geological Survey is actually kind of scary. The USGS decided to provide a webpage where people could submit ideas about how to solve the Earth’s problem of over-population.
I’m actually afraid to learn what sort of “creative” suggestions people submitted to the USGS using the forms on this website.
Now, here’s a quick pop quiz. Do you know who prints US currency? The US Federal Reserve? The US Mint? No and no. It’s actually an obscure agency called the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
This website treats the production of US currency as though it’s some sort of business – complete with monthly production reports, and even an online store where you can buy limited edition currency. Seriously.
Then there’s probably the funniest government website of all, the Office of Government Ethics. It is the Office that comes up with the ethical rules and guidelines that politicians in the Executive Branch of government must follow.
Why is it such a funny site? Simple – because it’s one website that you can be sure most US politicians never visit.
Here’s pop-quiz #2: Do you remember Ronald Reagan’s famous “Star Wars” missile defense initiative? It was the talk of the day in the 1980s, and then as the years passed, you started to hear less and less about it. Well – just so you know – the entire initiative is alive and well in the Missile Defense Agency.
The Cold War may be over, but these folks at the DoD are working diligently on next generation interceptor missiles that can take out ballistic missiles. If you are looking to start your own ballistic missile business, the website has an entire “Business Opportunities” section, just for you.
The last site I wanted to cover is one that freaked me out a little bit. If you are a fan of Spongebob Squarepants (the popular children’s cartoon), then you may recall Plankton’s “evil plan Z” to take over the entire world. Well, the Department of Defense “Unified Command Plan” webpage looks to me like the US version of that plan.
You’ve got the “combatant commanders” covering each region of the world. It’s like one big world map of global domination.
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit sarcastic and overly critical of these websites. However, in all seriousness, is it really smart to be tossing money and resources into some of these government websites when there are so many major issues facing the country and the world? Shouldn’t the choice and development of government websites be at least a little bit more efficient and well thought out?
What’s your opinion about US Government websites, or some examples of silly government websites for your own country? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Photo credit: Boris15
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