Anniversary Post: Library of Congress

Library of CongressOn this day in 1800, the United States Library of Congress was established by the Adams administration with a grant of $5,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress” and for renting and decorating a room. It’s grown a bit beyond that today. But the basic idea is very good — typically, it was one of James Madison’s. This used to be an idea that wasn’t controversial. You know: Congress needs to know stuff.

For most of our history, we saw Congress accruing more and more things to help it do it’s work — most especially staff. But in recent decades, this has been cut back. You know, we can’t spend actual money! As a result of this, more than anything else, our laws in Congress are now primarily written by lobbyists. This is even more true at the state level. This is what we in the business call “short sighted.”

So Congress (and other legislatures) don’t have to pay direct costs to get legislation written. Instead, it pays thousands of times more to special interests cutting in special deals for themselves, which both cause them not to be taxed as much and to be given more money directly. Ever wonder why Exxon and GE never seem to pay taxes? They’re just getting paid back for all the help that they provide Congress!

There is no doubt that today, the Republicans would never agree to fund the Library of Congress. The party, and the conservative movement more generally, has become totally anti-intellectual. This is what happens when your ideas just don’t stand up to scrutiny and you are unwilling to do anything about your bad ideas: you just ignore everyone who isn’t ideologically committed to your ideas. I understand why one would be a conservatives. I do not understand why one would support the Republicans at this time. It just isn’t rational.

Happy birthday Library of Congress!

2 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Library of Congress

  1. A common thing now (it’s big in Wisconsin and DC that I know of, and probably big in many other places) is cutting funding for people with disabilities that allows them to live in residential settings. Because if states refuse to pay for their housing, Medicaid will. So instead of living in a place with staff ratios at about 1:4, these individuals get to live in nursing homes where the staff ratios are often 1:20 or far worse. It’s cruel, and it’s way more expensive; nursing homes charge Medicare/Medicaid outrageous sums. But hey, the politicians who cut this human services funding get to pretend they’re saving the taxpayers money. The state’s budget goes down a tiny notch, while the US budget gets hit with the bill.

    Incidentally, one of Bush II’s signature moves as Texas governor was changing the required staff ratios for nursing homes; it went to 1:40. No need to ask who some of his biggest campaign contributors were, but if you must ask, several ran nursing-home fiefdoms.

    • That’s a standard thing: screwing the feds to make your state look good. It’s been interesting that the Republicans worked up their base so much on Obamacare that they haven’t been able to do that. It’s one of many examples of their own incompetence. But at this point, incompetence is about their only selling point.

      When Reagan was governor of California, he decimated funding for mental health — closing the vast majority of mental health hospitals. And then a few years later, California had this huge homeless problem. I still remember all these pundits wondering why this was. Apparently, they didn’t walk around the cities and see that most of the homeless people were insane. But I guess you just aren’t allowed to admit that Reagan made a mistake.

      This is all typical of America: short term shallow thinking. It’s like how Sanders gets beaten up about raising taxes, when it is really just changing people giving money to insurance companies to giving it to the government. The fact that they would save money in doing so doesn’t matter, because one of them is called “taxes.”

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