Menus Subscribe Search

Sticking to Your Resolutions, With Uncle Sam

• December 28, 2010 • 2:00 PM

USA.gov has tapped guidance from across government agencies to help you keep that New Year’s Resolution to manage your debt better, or quit smoking, or drink less alcohol.

Government has been getting a bum rap this year for trying to help us be our better selves. Eat less salt. Drink less soda. Turn off the lights. Exercise more. Be better parents. Don’t text while driving.

The goals are admirable, although, to some, the government nudging is not.

“Instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician’s wife’s priorities, just leave us alone,” Sarah Palin recently snapped, “get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions.”

Palin was talking about perhaps the least controversial of all of the above national aspirations — Michelle Obama’s campaign to get kids in danger of obesity moving around and eating better. (The tea party favorite must have been defending, some commentators concluded, Americans’ God-given right to be fat.)

Palin, then, probably won’t be taking advantage of this latest offer from Uncle Sam: If you’ve got a New Year’s resolution, the federal government would like to help you keep it.

The USA.gov website has tapped guidance from across government’s wide-ranging agencies to help you keep that promise to yourself in 2011 to manage your debt better, or quit smoking, or drink less alcohol.

[class name="dont_print_this"]

Idea Lobby

THE IDEA LOBBY
Miller-McCune’s Washington correspondent Emily Badger follows the ideas informing, explaining and influencing government, from the local think tank circuit to academic research that shapes D.C. policy from afar.

[/class] The site focuses on 11 popular New Year’s resolutions. Depending on how you look at the compilation, the project is either an excellent use for an avalanche of little-used government resources — or a disturbing nod to the reality that so many such resources exist (thanks to taxpayer dollars) in the first place.

If you’re aiming, say, to drink less alcohol, USA.gov links you to a slew of digital pamphlets and fact sheets from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. A couple topics on offer in English and Spanish: “Beyond Hangovers: Understanding Alcohol’s Impact on Your Health,” “A Family History of Alcoholism: Are You at Risk?” and “How To Cut Down On Your Drinking,”

If you’re trying to get fit, USA.gov directs you to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Those hoping to lose weight will find information from the Weight-control Information Network, an information service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. One site from the Federal Citizen Information Center offers “66 ways to save money” on everything from buying a home to arranging a funeral. And anyone “knee deep in debt” will find facts for consumers on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

There’s also an entire government website devoted to people who would like to kick the smoking habit: Smokefree.gov. It provides an interactive step-by-step guide to quitting, access to “smoking cessation counselors” at the National Cancer Institute, as well as some disturbing smoking facts for your next trivia night. The state of Kentucky may be disappointed to know it ranks No. 1 in the nation in smoking (with 25.6 percent of its population indulging), while the state of New York has the highest cigarette prices in the country, at $8.97 cents per pack.

Government is, if nothing else, better than just about anyone at corralling data like this on topics as diverse as cancer incidence and nutritional content. We can spend 2011 debating whether or not it’s government’s job to track all this stuff. But for now, as long as they’ve already got it, perhaps you’d like to click here if you’re interested this coming year in volunteering to help others.

Subscribe to Miller-McCune

Emily Badger
Emily Badger is a freelance writer living in the Washington, D.C. area who has contributed to The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor. She previously covered college sports for the Orlando Sentinel and lived and reported in France.

More From Emily Badger

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

July 25 • 4:00 PM

Flying Blind: The View From 30,000 Feet Puts Everything in Perspective

Next time you find yourself in an airplane, consider keeping your phone turned off and the window open.


July 25 • 2:00 PM

Trophy Scarves: Race, Gender, and the Woman-as-Prop Trope

Social inequality unapologetically laid bare.


July 25 • 1:51 PM

Confusing Population Change With Migration

A lot of population change is baked into a region from migration that happened decades ago.


July 25 • 1:37 PM

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.



July 25 • 11:07 AM

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.


July 25 • 10:00 AM

Shelf Help: New Book Reviews in 100 Words or Less

What you need to know about Bad Feminist, XL Love, and The Birth of Korean Cool.



July 25 • 8:00 AM

The Consequences of Curing Childhood Cancer

The majority of American children with cancer will be cured, but it may leave them unable to have children of their own. Should preserving fertility in cancer survivors be a research priority?


July 25 • 6:00 AM

Men Find Caring, Understanding Responses Sexy. Women, Not So Much

For women looking to attract a man, there are advantages to being a caring conversationalist. But new research finds it doesn’t work the other way around.


July 25 • 4:00 AM

Arizona’s Double-Talk on Execution and Torture

The state is certain that Joseph Wood’s death was totally constitutional. But they’re looking into it.


July 24 • 4:00 PM

Overweight Americans Have the Lowest Risk of Premature Death

Why do we use the term “normal weight” when talking about BMI? What’s presented as normal certainly isn’t the norm, and it may not even be what’s most healthy.


July 24 • 2:00 PM

California’s Lax Policing of the Fracking Industry Has Put the Drought-Stricken State in a Terrible Situation

The state’s drought has forced farmers to rely on groundwater, even as aquifers have been intentionally polluted due to exemptions for the oil industry.


July 24 • 12:00 PM

What’s in a Name? The Problem With Washington’s Football Team

A senior advisor to the National Congress of American Indians once threw an embarrassing themed party that involved headdresses. He regrets that costume now, but knows his experience is one many others can relate to.


July 24 • 11:00 AM

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that’s fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.


July 24 • 10:58 AM

How the Supremes Pick Their Cases—and Why Obamacare Is Safe for Now

The opponents of Obamacare who went one for two in circuit court rulings earlier this week are unlikely to see their cases reach the Supreme Court.



July 24 • 9:48 AM

The People Who Are Scared of Dogs

While more people fear snakes or spiders, with dogs everywhere, cynophobia makes everyday public life a constant challenge.


July 24 • 8:00 AM

Newton’s Needle: On Scientific Self-Experimentation

It is all too easy to treat science as a platform that allows the observer to hover over the messiness of life, unobserved and untouched. But by remembering the role of the body in science, perhaps we humanize it as well.


July 24 • 6:00 AM

Commercializing the Counterculture: How the Summer Music Festival Went Mainstream

With painted Volkswagen buses, talk of “free love,” and other reminders of the Woodstock era replaced by advertising and corporate sponsorships, hippie culture may be dying, but a new subculture—a sort of purgatory between hipster and hippie—is on the rise.


July 24 • 5:00 AM

In Praise of Our Short Attention Spans

Maybe there’s a good reason why it seems like there’s been a decline in our our ability to concentrate for a prolonged period of time.


July 24 • 4:00 AM

How Stereotypes Take Shape

New research from Scotland finds they’re an unfortunate product of the way we process and share information.


July 23 • 4:00 PM

Who Doesn’t Like Atheists?

The Pew Research Center asked Americans of varying religious affiliations how they felt about each other.


July 23 • 2:00 PM

We Need to Start Tracking Patient Harm and Medical Mistakes Now

Top patient-safety experts call on Congress to step in and, among other steps, give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wider responsibility for measuring medical mistakes.


July 23 • 12:19 PM

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Do Not Tell Your Kids That Eating Vegetables Will Make Them Stronger

Instead, hand them over in silence. Or, market them as the most delicious snack known to mankind.

The West’s Groundwater Is Being Sucked Dry

Scientists were stunned to discover just how much groundwater has been lost from beneath the Colorado River over the past 10 years.

How Wildlife Declines Are Leading to Slavery and Terrorism

As wildlife numbers dwindle, wildlife crimes are rising—and that's fueling a raft of heinous crimes committed against humans.

How a CEO’s Fiery Battle Speeches Can Shape Ethical Behavior

CEO war speech might inspire ethical decisions internally and unethical ones among competing companies.

Modern Technology Still Doesn’t Protect Americans From Deadly Landslides

No landslide monitoring or warning systems are being used to protect vulnerable communities.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.