Meet the Federal Agency Propaganda Mascots That Cost Taxpayers a Fortune

Meet Sammy Soil. Sammy is one of the many official mascots of a federal government agency who, along with friends at other government departments like Franklin the Fair Housing Fox, Rex the Ready Kids’ Mountain Lion or Pedro the Penguin, serve as mascots intended to create a favorable public impression of the agencies.

These federal agencies use these mascots to market themselves to Americans of all ages, especially children. Mark Tapscott of The Epoch Times introduces a cast of obscure federal agency mascots before describing what they are costing U.S. taxpayers:

Everybody knows who “Smokey the Bear” is, but do you know about “The Green Reaper?” How about “Brite the Light Bulb?” Or “Rex the Ready Lion” and his buddies, “Eli and Layla the Mighty Minters?”

No? Well, don’t worry, because hardly anybody else has ever heard of these mascots either. They were paid for as part of the $1.4 billion federal bureaucrats spend annually trying to drum up public support and awareness for a multitude of obscure government programs.

Obscure is right. Sammy Soil has apparently been around for over 40 years, and I’ve never once encountered the character. Nor the Department of Housing’s Franklin the Fair Housing Fox. Nor NASA’s Cosmo the Astronaut, and I’ve worked in the aerospace industry for decades!

So what can be done? Fortunately, there is legislation that has been introduced to rein in the advertising and spending on the merchandise by federal government agencies:

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) says such wasteful spending should stop. To that end, Ernst introduced the “Stop Wasteful Advertising by the Government Act of 2019” (SWAG) to put an end to tax-paid, throw-away goodies like keychains, fidget spinners, and koozies.

“As an Iowa State Cyclone fan, I’ll be the first to say that mascots can be fun. But there is no justification for spending a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer money on mascots and millions more on swag,” Ernst said in a statement announcing her proposal.

No, there’s not. For every well-known mascot like Smokey Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog, who both benefit from having exceptionally clear and common sense missions, there are dozens of others who fail the test of public awareness.

These are the mascots that deserve to fall by the wayside because the only reason so many of them are even still around is that some obscure bureaucrat decided to start spending money on them decades ago and their successors have no intention of ever stopping what they started. Because having money to waste on advertising and merchandise is a bureaucratic status symbol!

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
Beacon Posts by Craig Eyermann | Full Biography and Publications
  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless