Everybody can shut the hell up because I love the IRS's Star Trek and Gilligan's Island videos. Don't get me wrong. I regularly benefit from the IRS being a convenient whipping-boy and joke-butt, and these videos suck major donk. But that's why I love them … because the IRS took a risk.
The stink surrounding these two videos–that together are less than 22 minutes long and cost around $60,000 to make–illustrates some of the major problems we're facing as a nation: government spending, eduction, and innovation.
First off, the videos are cast as quintessential examples of government waste. Spending $60,000 for IRS employees to dress up like older, uglier versions of the Star Trek crew while delivering sub-laffy-taffy quality jokes and no actual content might SEEM like government waste, but let's put it in perspective.
- It costs $4 million to air one 30-second Super Bowl ad (which does not include production costs). As a result, Beck's Sapphire wasted $4 million making 108 million viewers think that their beer tastes like fish water.
- The 2012 movie Battleship cost $209 million to make, so clearly much worse movies have been made for a lot more money1.
- In 2011 the federal government spent $175,587 to study the effects of cocaine on the mating habits of quail. The study was wasteful, and they didn't even release the video.
- Just this month the National Institutes of Health awarded a $1.5 million grant to determine why three-quarters of lesbians are obese and why gay males are not. How gay is that?
- In 1987 the Department of Defense spent $640 for a toilet seat. In 2011 the IRS spent $60,000 on a couple of turds.
Not only are there bigger targets than the $60,000 price tag on the IRS parody videos, the IRS also did a decent job defending them. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) was the first red-faced congressman to demand that the IRS release the videos. The IRS replied to his request, but failed to release the videos for a month-and-a-half. Last week Boustany gave the following statement:
In your letter you state that the IRS’s goal of "making voluntary compliance with the country’s tax laws as easy as possible," requires effective employee training, and further that the IRS’s production studio "allows the IRS to provide education and training to large audiences, both within the IRS and to the public, often while reducing travel and other costs associated with such programs." This explanation sounds both plausible and reasonable.
Yeah. Good answer, IRS. But what pissed off Boustany was the way the IRS was dragging its feet and not coughing up the video; however, the IRS needed that time to edit out the porn.
So the next question is, "Did these videos help the IRS effectively train its employees?" Creativity and humor are often cited as effective tools to increase student retention and the overall quality of an educational experience. Now no one can deny that the videos suck ass; however, no one can deny that the IRS has never been more creative or humorous2.
Unfortunately, the IRS got the crap kicked out of them for trying to be innovative. We, as a country, are facing immense challenges. We need as much creativity and complex problem solving as possible, and it would be great to see innovative solutions coming out of any governmental agency, especially the IRS. But you don't foster creative problem solving by breaking off your foot in someone's ass when they try something unconventional and fail. Even though the IRS did a reasonable job defending the purpose of the videos, they caved in anticipation of the backlash of public perception and preemptively curtailed any future attempts at creativity.
“The IRS has instituted tough new standards for videos to prevent situations similar to the [Star Trek] video,” said the IRS.
It's really too bad. I was looking forward to more IRS parodies, like The Schedule A-Team, The Big Bank Theory, and My Three Sunset Provisions.
1 Rihanna's sub-par performance gave the movie a black eye. For once, Rihanna gave a black eye. 2 It's like saying Katy Perry has never been more intellectual than when she finished that chapter book.