One of the persistent disappointments of the government’s response to the Gulf oil spill has been their refusal to immediately rescind the drilling moratorium. The tragedy of the initial spill and the resulting damage has only been magnified by the President’s decision. The moratorium has had a devastating ripple effect across the local Gulf economy with suppliers, service industry and port personnel joining their neighbors in the oil and gas field in the unemployment lines. Rigs have already left the Gulf as a result.

Several weeks ago, we reported that the President sent the Surgeon General to the Gulf to educate the public on the mental health problems which could result from spill-related stressors (including, no doubt, no longer having a job due to the President’s moratorium). Now, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has followed suit, producing a new guide, Tips for Talking to Children & Youth About the Oil Spill Disaster (PDF), which lays the blame for your children sucking their thumbs or trying to get out of chores on the possibility they heard the news of the spill. Next time your teenager begins to “resist authority” or “become disruptive or aggressive at home”, two of the listed “symptoms”, you’ll know the culprit. It’s not teenage angst, it’s the oil spill.

Whether or not you place much stock in the government’s diagnosis, the point remains that it will do little to help those in need. This guide simply exemplifies a typical government response to a problem: a waste of money that fails to provides solutions to real problems. If the federal government is really concerned about the stress on families affected by the Gulf oil spill, the President could immediately put an end to the drilling moratorium. Watching their livelihoods evaporate as a result of the President’s overreaction is probably a greater source of anxiety. Ending the moratorium and pursuing smart reform can provide something no government pamphlet can: real, lasting solutions.