The Bush administration has come under
scrutiny this week for a series of advertisements it produced to
promote the Medicare Modernization Act, a newly-enacted healthcare
law. These advertisements, designed to resemble news broadcasts,
feature Bush receiving a standing ovation, a pharmacist calling the
new Medicare policy “a good idea” and paid actors
posing as news reporters. They were designed to resemble sections
from actual TV news broadcasts and were sent to TV stations
nationwide.

Offering one-sided, unhelpful and potentially misleading views
of the new Medicare law, the advertisements serve one purpose: to
put a positive spin on the centerpiece of the Bush
administration’s domestic policy. The manner in which these
advertisements seek to accomplish their end is unethical. These and
other Medicare advertisements not only cost taxpayers, but also
offer them little benefit. While Bush’s re-election campaign
possesses millions in its war chest already, the administration has
decided that this money alone is not enough. The Medicare ads,
which waste valuable federal dollars, are an unacceptable way of
providing information to the public.

While the Department of Health and Human Services claims that
the advertisements serve the important purpose of informing
citizens about the Medicare Modernization Act, it is hard to
consider their content instructive. The advertisements’ use
of paid actors posing as reporters gives their content misleading
legitimacy, especially because the administration specifically
designed the ads to be aired during the commercial breaks of TV
news programs. The scripted actors demonstrate how impressed they
are with the new Medicare provisions, but remain curiously silent
about its numerous limitations. To classify this biased propaganda
as an informational message is a daring act of deception.

Funded by part of the $12.6 million advertising budget for the
Medicare Modernization Act, these ads share much more in common
with commercial advertisements than government informational
programming. Such programming is normally produced for the
objective purpose of alerting citizens about pressing concerns
— the danger of driving without a seatbelt, for example.

While resembling paid advertisements funded by the Bush
re-election campaign, these clips make full use of the
President’s incumbency advantage: administration access to
federal money. Not only is this an unethical abuse of office, it is
also wasteful and irresponsible — particularly in this time
of high deficits.

The Bush administration’s Medicare advertisements come at
a large expense and offer little benefit. They manipulate American
audiences using techniques usually reserved for the campaign trail.
Bush should leave self-promotion to the Bush-Cheney campaign and
demand legitimate public-service announcements from his
administration.

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