Posts tagged ‘Government Accountability Office’

Advertising Backfire

Many marketing analysts will argue that the famous Pepsi challenge advertisements helped Coke as much as Pepsi, by defining it in consumers minds as the standard to which other beverages should be compared, and by giving it nearly as many mentions to support name recognition as Pepsi gave itself.   The GAO reports that anti-drug advertising may be encountering the same type failure:

A Government Accountability Office report on research tracking the
impact of the federal government's $1.2 billion anti-drug ad campaign concludes
that "the evaluation provides credible evidence that the campaign was
not effective in reducing youth drug use, either during the entire
period of the campaign [1998 to 2004] or during the period from 2002 to
2004 when the campaign was redirected and focused on marijuana use."
The GAO adds that "exposure to the advertisements generally did not
lead youth to disapprove of using drugs and may have promoted
perceptions among exposed youth that others' drug use was
normal....Westat's evaluation indicates that exposure to the campaign
did not prevent initiation of marijuana use and had no effect on
curtailing current users' marijuana use, despite youth recall of and
favorable assessments of advertisements." In fact, during some periods
and for some subgroups, exposure to the ads was significantly
associated with an increased tendency to smoke pot.

Maybe It's Just Too Complicated

The US Congress is considering a federal licensing requirement for all paid tax preparers.  Apparently, even most paid preparers can't get the returns correct:

The senators heard from investigators at the Government Accountability
Office, who found mistakes in virtually every tax return filled out by
commercial chain preparers. The investigators said they looked at a
tiny number of tax returns, and that their conclusions could not be
generalized to the rest of the tax preparation industry.

You know why?  Because I would bet you that the same amount of scrutiny could find errors in every single return submitted.  There is just no way to get it all right.  How about, you know, actually spending some time in Congress making the return easy enough that individuals don't feel the need to seek out paid preparers.  Of course, the real reason for this initiative is that higher-dollar CPA firms and large accounting firms would like Congress to sit on its low-price competition  (note that only chain-type firms were investigated).  As Milton Freedman pointed out long ago about licensing:

The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason
is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for
the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are
invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of
the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone
else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is
hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary
motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who
may be a plumber.

Of course, the last paragraph of the article demonstrates there is already a solution in place for poor tax preparer service:

Had the IRS found these problems on real returns, many preparers would
have been subject to penalties for negligence and willful or reckless
disregard of tax rules

So why is licensing needed at all?