Bankrupting America's misleading government spending video ("Rebel Economist")

Gretchen Hamel - formerly part of the Trade Representative's office in the George W Bush administration and now with the website Bankrupting America - offers the video entitled "REAL or FAKE: Can you tell which of these government spending projects are real or fake?" ( ). It features woman-on-the-street interviews in which Michelle Muccio - the "Rebel Economist" - asks people to indicate whether strange-sounding government programs are real or fake. And, it's misleading about at least one of those programs.

One of those strange-sounding programs is described as "$2.6 million was spent to train American prostitutes to drink responsibly". Muccio then reveals that it's a real program, but it was actually designed to teach the same for Chinese prostitutes.

Sounds like a waste, doesn't it?

In fact, the study's goal is to reduce the spread of HIV, a major health concern (link). Prostitutes get drunk and then engage in risky behavior; "[t]he study's director says the information gained from the study will then be used to tailor HIV prevention programs for the bawds from Beihai, a coastal tourist town in Guangxi province, which has the third-highest HIV infection rate of China's 22 provinces." Spending $2.6 million now might save much more money in health costs later, and might help reduce human suffering and improve society. The video implies that the money's already been spent, and more importantly it doesn't say a thing about the goal of the program; HIV isn't mentioned anywhere in the video.

Now, the above doesn't mean that that's the best program to reduce the spread of HIV: there might be other programs that could have a greater impact. And, it certainly doesn't mean that we should be funding it in China rather than programs in the U.S. However, that's not the complaint that Bankrupting America has: their complaint is against such spending in the first place no matter how much benefit it will have long-term.

And, aside from the "zinger" about the program being in China, their concern isn't with us paying for something that the Chinese government should be paying for. That isn't surprising considering that they previously promoted free trade as a jobs program despite how the jobs that would be created would mostly be in China.

Note also that the "Rebel Economist" is with the Mercatus Center, part of George Mason University and closely linked to the Koch family (background at the links and here). According to a comment on the Youtube video, Mercatus has received millions from the federal government - including from the stimulus plan - but that hasn't been confirmed.

And, of course, the video is promoted by Glenn Reynolds:

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