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Trouble in North Carolina

I’ve been reading about the library closings in Charlotte, NC, also reported in LJ. They’ve had to close three branches, and might have to close a dozen more if they don’t get the funding. Things aren’t going well down there in Dixie. In addition to the heat, now they’re cutting off whatever links to education and culture some of them might have had.

It’s not like we’re talking about South Carolina, either, the state that still flies the Confederate battle flag at the capitol building. As far as I know, South Carolina doesn’t even have any libraries, or at least no one in the government uses them. Maybe they stopped buying books in 1864 and don’t realize the Civil War’s over, and they lost. Of course, these days if they tried to secede I’m not sure who would bother to stop them.

But North Carolina was supposed to be different. At least that’s what I’ve always heard, a vale of humidity between two peaks of arrogance. Or was that humility? Probably both. And Charlotte! It seemed like such a civilized place that time I flew through it. After all, any place that puts rows of rocking chairs in their airport can’t be all bad.

The library might be a place people to educate themselves, but it’s pretty clear from the comments that not all avail themselves of this educational opportunity. The comments also allow us to see what kind of vocal yet dimwitted opposition they’re up against.

Take, for example, the commenter calling himself (it has to be a him) "JT Lancer." There’s already something a bit odd about naming yourself after a fictional television character played by a fictional movie character. It shows one’s mind is significantly divorced from reality. Here’s one comment:

"If public libraries were in such great demand by so many citizens, they would survive on their own, without picking the pockets of the people who don’t use the service.

Simply charge user fees to those who do.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, does it?"

Boy, howdy, JT sure has put those libraries in their place! You’ll notice from this and the next comment that ol’ JT is fond of the rhetorical question. He attempts to use it as a weapon to stop conversation he can’t deal with.

But that’s neither here nor there. Pay attention to his clumsy use of metaphor. "Picking the pockets of the people," indeed. That’s right, those librarians sneak out into the community at night and pick ol’ JT’s pockets while he’s busy picking his nose. I’m assuming his is one of the "picked pockets," because it’s pretty clear that he’s never set foot in a library. In fact, I’m a little surprised he can read and write. He probably hires a little boy to be his amanuensis.

We could point out lots of things that are in great demand by citizens that wouldn’t survive on their own, even if they charged user fees. Social security. Medicare. Roads. Schools. In some cases, even banks.

Instead of pointing out how silly the statement is, another commenter pointed out that it’s against the law for libraries to charge fees for basic services. This got ol’JT hoppin’ mad, by gum.

"’It is against the law that created NC libraries to charge a fee for basic services.’:
But its OK to confiscate private property from the citizenry by force (via taxation) to pay for the libraries? Makes sense."

I don’t mean to disappoint ol’ JT, because he sure seems like a thoughtful and logical type of person, but it makes a lot more sense than the gobbeldygook he’s spouting. JT must be one of these so-called "tea partiers" who think that ignorance and populist rage make a good combination and that intelligent people should take them seriously, because, you know, they’re hoppin’ mad and all. And they don’t like big gumment. They give conservatism a bad name even among conservatives.

To be fair, I should say I can’t be sure, because I’ve never met any of these "tea partiers." I just know what I read about in the news, like this hilarious article last month from the New York Times. Those who say the MSM has a liberal bias might have some ammunition with this article. It certainly shows a anti-stupidity bias, but that’s not especially common in the media, including at the Times.

The article reports on a poll of "tea partiers" which supposedly shows that "Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public." As the rest of the article goes on to show, that ain’t saying much.

My favorite part of the article is this one:

“I just feel he’s [Obama's] getting away from what America is,” said Kathy Mayhugh, 67, a retired medical transcriber in Jacksonville. “He’s a socialist. And to tell you the truth, I think he’s a Muslim and trying to head us in that direction, I don’t care what he says. He’s been in office over a year and can’t find a church to go to. That doesn’t say much for him.”

If that’s better educated than the general public, then we’re in a sorry state, indeed. What I find hilarious is the thought that Obama’s going to make us all socialist Muslims. Is it even possible to be a socialist Muslim? Don’t you pretty much have to choose between them? I think I’d choose socialist if I absolutely had to, because Muslims don’t drink, but I feel pretty sure I don’t have to choose either.

My next favorite is the end, and I’m sure the Times writers had a great time writing this one.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Less Government! More Medicare! That’s good stuff. But let’s git back to ol’ JT before he wets his britches. It’s pretty clear that ol’ JT doesn’t like big gumment, or any gumment at all. Maybe he doesn’t even like Social Security or Medicare, and will avoid those services if he reaches his golden years.

If we consider both his question–is it okay for governments to tax citizens to provide public services — and the way it’s put–"confiscating property by force" — then it’s pretty clear what we’re dealing with here. Ol’ JT is a bonehead.

Answering JT is easy. Yes, it’s okay for governments to collect taxes to provide public service. You’d be hard pressed to find an example of a government that didn’t do so. Every government in the history of humankind has done this, and there’s never been a successful, prosperous, and independent society in which there wasn’t a government doing this. Ever. Even the unsuccessful societies tax you; they just don’t provide any public goods.

You don’t want to be taxed? Why don’t you move to…oh, wait…there’s not really any place to move. There might be some aboriginal tribes in the Amazon jungle you could hook up with. If h’de ever read a book, maybe yheou’d know that already.

The problem with JT’s "argument" is that it’s completely irrational and has nothing to do with reality. Other than that, it’s okay, I guess. He can’t be taken seriously as an opponent of libraries, because he’s not a proponent of funding anything, including schools or roads. JT thinks he’s on to something, but he’s just as ignorant and thoughtless as the day he was born. However, it seems these days there’s a lot like him.

So the North Carolina public libraries might have an uphill battle. The more gibbering loons there are out there like JT, the harder it will be to fund libraries or any other public good.

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Comments

  1. NJ says:

    Everyone has their pet government program to be against, but libraries seem targeted more than others. There are dozens of programs that people are taxed for and do not receive benefits for. Or in some cases receive varying degrees of benefit from but pay the same dollars amount in taxes. For example the family that has one child in a property the same sized as a family with two tends to pay the same amount in taxes to support education. I will guarantee that there are many government programs that JT benefits from that I never do, but I pay taxes for, and If HE had to pay “user fees” for, I would most certainly be much better off. Particularly if JT owns a business. Businesses cause a rather good deal more wear and tear on roads and other government funded infrastructure. They should be taxed or pay to the degree they use these government projects. They rarely do.

  2. Libertarian says:

    The government that governs least governs best.

  3. Raynor says:

    I’ll keep that in mind while my car belches out toxins as I bounce through crater-sized pot holes as I take my children to school to learn the 1 R (Religion). At least I’ll be able to get cheap gas by skimming it off the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. GeoGuy says:

    I’ve got the place for ol’ JT. No gummint. No taxes. No liberries. No police. No roads. Send him to Somalia. I’m sure he’s bigger and tougher than the pirates, so he won’t have to worry about them. Problem solved!

  5. NJ says:

    Not at all. The founders were very clear on who should be taxed and what for. They were, even before the revolution, strong supporters of progressive taxation to provide both social services and things like libraries.

    Tom Paine’s most influential work, “The Rights of Man” included among those rights and obligations:

    progressive taxation, family allowances, old age pensions, maternity grants.

    The fact is that without Paine, and these writings, there would have been no American Revolution. There was not much support for it until Paine, on the recommendation of Ben Franklin, came to the United States and started translating the extremely intellectual arguments of the founders like Jefferson and Madison, into a common language that could be understood by the common American of those times.

    The fact is that for all intents and purposes, the founders intended to crush the existence of corporations which were the primary causes of taxation in the America’s. The colonies were being forced to pay taxes to cover the costs of British corporations and their wars in India (the French and Indian Wars in the American colonies, the Seven Years War, world wide)

    In order to boot the French business interests out of India, the British East India Corporation went into near bankruptcy and the British government answer was to tax the colonial tea businesses, while exempting the BEIC from that taxation.

    Even Wikipedia’s short history of the BEIC points this out:

    “The desperate directors of the company attempted to avert bankruptcy by appealing to Parliament for financial help. This led to the passing of the Tea Act in 1773, which gave the Company greater autonomy in running its trade in America, and allowed it an exemption from the tea tax—which its colonial competitors were required to pay. When the American colonists, who included tea merchants, were told of the act, they tried to boycott it, claiming that, although the price had gone down on the tea when enforcing the act, it was a tax all the same, and the king should not have the right to just have a tax for no apparent reason. The arrival of tax-exempt Company tea, undercutting the local merchants, triggered the Boston Tea Party in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, one of the major events leading up to the American Revolution.”

    The tax really was not the issue. The exempting of the worlds largest multinational corporation of the 18th Century from that taxation because it had representation in the British House of Commons, while applying it to the colonials, who had no such representation, was the cause of the American Revolution.

  6. William says:

    What will the Tea Partiers think of The War is Making You Poor act?

  7. Libertarian Librarian says:

    The time has come for all of us to just work for the Guvmint and have all our needs taken care of cradle to grave.

    It is the only solution.

    Otherwise, smart talented people might do better and survive and stupid fat talentless hacks would sink.

    We don’t need evolution.

    No survival of the fittest.

    Everyone is just as good as everyone else.

    From soup to nuts.

    From Ghandi to Hitler.

    [AL: I'm allowing this even though it makes no sense whatsoever, since it makes the illogical leap from the public provision of useful and necessary public services that can't be otherwise provided to "cradle to grave" welfare. At least the commenter thinks it's on point.]

  8. NJ says:

    And as I said, there are probably dozens of things that people like JT benefit from out of local government services, that do not benefit me in any way, and yet I and others still must pay for their existence.

    In my own community for example, they just did away with the local fire department. Your house burns down, you are on your own. So are your neighbors if your house happens to set their’s alight.

    I live in an apartment so at worse, all I have to do is turn in my insurance claim on my renters policy, replace what I lost out of it, and that’s that. Why on earth should I pay anything to support a department to protect someone else’s property. Just because someone does not use a particular government service does not mean that they should not pay taxes to support them. Many who do not have children still pay the property taxes to support local schools. This does not merely extend to public schools, because private schools even private religious schools can and do benefit from government money (such as college grants…someone CAN choose to go to a religious college on a government educational grant) Should I be paying for it?

    Or business tax credits. Many businesses manage their taxes so well as to show negative incomes during the year and thus are eligible for tax credits from the government. Two out of three American corporations show either no profit or negative profit on their income tax returns every year.

    The government funds a very large amount of corporate research in the United States. In fact pharmaceutical companies insist that this is the most efficient way of having research done, as they claim it prevents costly duplication of research in very expensive areas. So the U.S. government funds a lot of research for new drugs that get sold on the private market for huge amounts of profit. I do not benefit from this research in any way that I can see. 8 out of the top 15 selling drugs on the market each year are totally funded by government research.

    Are the arguments of the pharmaceutical industry correct. Probably they make a good case. But many people who do not benefit from these medications end up paying for the research that creates them.

    No one benefits more from government taxation and transfer of tax dollars than businesses. Do I benefit. Maybe a little, but certainly not to the degree that I pay taxes for.

    So again, if we get down to a “pay for services” sort of scenario, I would be glad to pick up the tab for the things I think government should do, as long as others are willing to pick up the tab for what I do not think are things government should be involved in. At every level of government, the primary beneficiaries of government activities are businesses.

    Libraries, on the other hand, tend to not only use up a very small percent of the government budgets, but they are also usually the most efficiently run agencies in all governments.

    The largest local library systems in the United States rarely get more than one percent of the total government budgets for the areas they operate in, but in many cases, out of this one percent of budget, they will be hiring and paying the benefits for between 5 and 10 percent of all government employees and about ten percent of the government operated facilities. Far from being cut back they should be used as models of operation for other government agencies.

    I guarantee you that most conservatives will see their taxes go up, while I will see mine go way down, if I get to pay for what I use, and they have to pay for what they consider “necessary”

  9. NJ says:

    The “Smart talented” argument is another false conservative argument.

    The Supreme Court has looked at many cases suggesting that government Social Programs are “unconstitutional” and ruled them all false, largely on the principal that those

    “Talented smart” people were not talented and smart enough because they largely caused the social problems in the first place. That is to say most economic problems in the United States have come from smart and unethical people finding loopholes in the law that allow them to cheat their way to success.

    When the government makes errors which allow unscrupulous businesses to change the laws so that what would in any normal description of the word be considered theft or criminal, then it is necessary, and even an obligation, of government to fix what it broke.

    The Constitutional theories of property are based on the concept that under nature, all humans are born with an entitlement to the exact same percentage of the earth as any other. It is only civilization that changes this balance.
    The job of “good government” is to minimize the damage.

    Anyone who has read any of the writing of the founders on property would know that they differentiated between property and wealth and that they did NOT believe that the owner of a business was entitled to take, for an unlimited period of time, a portion of the property created by the labor of his employees.

    That is to say to the founders, the current argument made by conservatives that “businesses create jobs” was not a good enough argument for the founders or even most politicians right up until Lincoln. All of them understood that wealth was created by work, not merely by owning a business or owning property.

    This was why some of them had a problem with slavery. The slave owner was gaining wealth through the labor of another person, and the goods created by that labor were in fact, the PROPERTY of the slave, by the theories of the founders, not of the slave owner.

    The founders based their ideas on property on the ideas of John Locke. His theory was simple. Your work creates an item, you own 100 percent of the value of that item.

    [AL: "conservative argument," perhaps, but libertarians shouldn't be confused with real conservatives.]

  10. NJ says:

    Conservatives, libertarian or otherwise base their ideology on ideas that have been proven failures during every administration or legislative majority since the end of WWII.

    Since the end of WWII, it has been Democrats not Republicans, who have reduced both immediate budget deficits as well as the national debt over the last 60 plus years. Republicans on the other hand, hold the record for increasing government spending and national debt relative to GDP. The person who holds the best record of reducing national debt relative to GDP is the much despised Jimmy Carter who holds the record for the lowest debt to GDP ratio.

    No matter how you look at it, Republican and conservative theories that lowering the top marginal tax rates will in some way result in additional business investment or create new jobs has never, I repeat NEVER resulted in. Since 1919, net investment has consistently FALLEN. The empirical record is uniform. In an advanced economy, net investment keeps falling. No matter what. Second, tax cuts have never, I repeat, have never caused increased investment—not in the 1920s, not in the 1960s, not in the 1980s, and not in our own time. If you do not believe me consult with Peter G. Peterson, the co founder of the Blackstone Group, a private equity investment company that went public in 2007.

    There is no cause effect relationship between lower taxes and net investment because economic growth no longer needs, or even requires increasing net investment. At the macroeconomic level, we can improve productivity and output by simply replacing and maintaining our existing capital stock. There is no longer any need for additional investments to keep the economy running.

    After every tax cut, after the weathiest have gone and bought a new mansion or a new Mercedes, there is only one thing left for them to do with their excess money. They have no choice but to invest that money in some speculative market sector. Over the last 80 years, the single speculative market in which the excess capital was invested was in real estate. The Great Depression was kicked off by speculative investing in Florida Real Estate. The Reagan crash was triggered by investing in REIT’s based on Commercial Real Estate. And the current mess was based on investments in the new derivative’s which were based on home mortgages. But in ever case these economic crashes were the results of money being sucked out of businesses in the form of personal income as a result of dropping the top marginal tax rate causing what David Rosenberg of Merill Lynch called a “Liquidity Driven Bull Market”

    Which is investment jargon for what I just said. Tax cuts allowing those who benefited the most from the cuts to have a lot of extra money to gamble with. They did not gamble on opening another new store or factory or import export company or even opening a Mc Donald’s franchise. That’s hard work. It’s easier to open an investment account.

    In the end, every Democratic administration has been better for the economy, better at controlling government debt, better at job creation, and better overall for the economy at virtually every level except for the ultrawealthy.

  11. Elmer says:

    Could someone please ask NJ (Rahm Emanuel or Nancy Pelosi, I assume) to hold his or her breathless political posts to a minimum?

  12. On Tax Cuts..... says:

    In 2007, The American Enterprise Institute and the Bush Administration, released documentation that suggests a tax cut will reduce the tax income to the gov entity to about 7%. Cut the taxes, you cut funding. So, even the right-wing economists admit that cutting taxes will result in less revenue, not the lie perpetrated in the right-wing press (like the NYTimes, nothing liberal there), that tax cuts will eventually result in more growth and therefore more revenue. Just another one of those odd economic ideas that does not have the slightest credibility yet given endless promotion by the so-called liberal media.

    I gladly pay taxes, and Thomas Paine is one of the great minds of all time. Progressive/inheritance taxes provide a critical check against endless wealth accumulation by the super-rich.

    Lancer needs to join the infantry and serve his country if he thinks folks are getting a free ride. We all do in one form or another, and I got a feeling that person supports all these wars from a kitchen table, but never once considered making a real contribution.

    Let me guess – another person who receives gov’t funded medical care but would deny it to others for ideological reasons?

    USA – socialism for the rich and free markets for the rest.

  13. Libertarian Librarian says:

    Who gets to decide what is public provision of useful and necessary public services that can’t be otherwise provided”?

    My argument is, if the public really is that helpless, then the government should provide for everything for everyone.

  14. R says:

    For a blogger who has a negative attitude towards political librarians, this post seems…odd.

    [AL: I have a negative view of the ALA making noises on subjects that have nothing to do with librarianship. Arguments for eliminating libraries are relevant to librarianship.]

  15. How About says:

    There is a definite need for libraries to be eliminated in this day and age. Services need to be consolidated and better community service would be the result.

    How, you may ask?

    Eliminate libraries in wealthier communities where the people there can afford high speed internet access, books, entertainment, private tutors, etc. Once these libraries are eliminated, services could be increased to inner city and rural libraries where there is a desperate need for information literacy.

    Some of these places have never heard of Neil Gaiman!!!!

    Let the haves really pay for the have nots.

  16. common sense says:

    Elmer and ilk appear to have benefited so much from their presumably private education that they are incapable of following and responding to in-depth analysis. Perhaps they rely too much on the Rush Limbaughs of the world. I recently heard a local right-wing talk show host call for elimination of tax support for libraries. Along with the fact that he is a public university dropout and a chickenhawk (quite typical of conservative talk show hosts), this sums up his commitment to the common good. Empty, but dangerous anti-guvmint rhetoric but this is where these wingnuts are getting their talking points.

  17. MyHeadHurts says:

    We could of course talk about the “red” states which receive more than a dollar of federal aid for each dollar they send to DC. Which means that the “blue” states receive less. Go figure.

    We could also talk about the patron who was hoppin’ mad that we hadn’t yet ordered Newt Gingrich’s latest masterpiece, TO SAVE AMERICA: STOPPING OBAMA’S SECULAR-SOCIALIST MACHINE. Why haven’t we ordered it yet? Because we’ve had a huge materials budget cut, and sometimes we wait to see if there is demand before we order. That went WAY over his head. He was just mad that the public library didn’t have it for him RIGHT NOW.

  18. Corporate Devil says:

    The WPA made a lasting impact by supporting the arts in a time of economic strife. Many have concluded that the cultural efforts of those times were a lifeline to people, and at minimum documented the struggle of the times. All the more reason to up government investment now for museums and libraries. I wish I heard more arguments defending libraries that consider the cultural impacts of these institutions. Support them why? Because they are innately good and given particularly well to assessment. The IMLS certainly has done a poor job with their outcomes based program. Well I’m being paged back to work.

  19. Librariman says:

    I stopped reading this after the insulting [i]paragraph[/i] about SC libraries. Having worked for one of the most used libraries for ten years and having been an even longer patron to them, I was a little suprised. I suppose it is meant to be funny. Well good show. Use prejudice and generalizations for the sake of a laugh. No one has done [i]that[/i] before.

    [AL: I find it amusing that you bother to tell me when you stopped reading. If you didn't read the post, then you really have nothing relevant to say about it. Continue flying your Confederate flag with pride!]

  20. Been There, Done That says:

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
    Not all budget cuts to libraries are bad. A cut is a good opportunity to trim the deadwood – the low-use library branch in the disappearing neighborhood that couldn’t be closed for political reasons; an opportunity to honestly access jobs that may no longer be needed, and to redesign services.
    Slamming South Carolina libraries is a slam on southern libraries and reveals the ethnocentric bias of AL. Our new director belittled our southern MLIS degrees compared to his Midwest and California credentials, despite the fact that our libraries are innovative, well used, maintained, and fiscally sound. He had come from the California budget crisis and couldn’t believe we had funds in reserve to finish our tax cycle.
    Regarding Tea Party – this is not in its purest form about conservatism or Republicans. If you believe that, you are buying the spin of news organizations. This is about taxation without representation – our elected representatives consistently favor the interests of large corporations over the interests of citizens. We need to vote out all incumbents regardless of party affiliation. BTW, real Tea Party people don’t care about your sexual orientation, religion or nation of origin.
    If you want to get an idea about how government really works read “Parliament of Whores” by P.J. O’Rourke. I’ve been through 2 hurricanes, fixing to go through an oil spill, and know first-hand the impossibility of the “government” running anything efficiently or fairly. Anyone who thinks otherwise is incredibly naïve and will probably only learn by the hardest that government lackeys do not have the wisdom of Solomon and don’t particularly care about you and your problems. A good example for librarians is working with the federal erate program. (How many forms do you want to fill out?)

  21. overmatik says:

    The danger I see with this budget cutting process is that we will be depriving people from accessing libraries in a time which they need them the most. The response for the excessive taxation is fiscal responsibility, America has had too many free lunches in the last decades. I’m sorry, but the party is over!

  22. Michigan J Frog, Librarian says:

    Um, what free lunch did libraries get in the last decade(s)?

    I must have missed something. In the last decade(s), I have seen my budget spiral downward (in real dollars), my staff slashed, and my duties increase.

    Free lunch? I think that it was eaten somewhere else by somebody else.

  23. Southern Librarian says:

    Well, that was offensive and bigoted to the South. People who live in glass houses and all that. I suppose I could forgive you if it was funny but alas it wasn’t.

  24. Picard says:

    I’m from the south and I thought it was mildly humorous.

  25. sidney says:

    It seems to me the comment was directed not at the South in general, but at South Carolina. Southerners are so touchy, though. They’re so used to people outside the South making fun of their accents and lynch mobs that anything sets them off. Flying that Confederate flag at the state capitol makes South Carolina look like a state of unregenerate bigots, no matter how many intelligent and kind people there might be there.

  26. overmatik says:

    “Free lunch? I think that it was eaten somewhere else by somebody else.”

    That’s exactly the point. Do I really need to point out who ate your lunches?

    [AL: I just had a free lunch. It was very tasty.]

  27. Debbie Wiley says:

    It’s “valley of humility between two peaks of arrogance” or at least that is what someone once told me on a amtrak train.