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TAKING CARE OF THE SMITHSONIAN

Cowboy hat By Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer - Sun., 1/13/08
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Our national attic is caving in.

"America's attic" is the unofficial name of the venerable Smithsonian Institution. This is the 150-year-old complex of museums on the National Mall that houses an amazing array of artifacts and other irreplaceable treasures that mark significant developments in our country's rich history. This year, 24million people trekked through its public exhibits.

You might assume that a place that's so important to our national identity and so popular with the people would be well taken care of. You'd be wrong. The president and the Congress, Democrats as well as Republicans, have failed us as caretakers. They have squandered hundreds of billions of our tax dollars on wars, weaponry, corporate subsidies, and boondoggles, while turning a blind eye to the need for basic maintenance of America's attic.

As any homeowner knows, if you don't spend on repairs, you get collapsing roofs, endangered collections, and closed buildings. The Smithsonian is now two and a half billion dollars behind on necessary upkeep.

Yet, Democrat Dianne Feinstein told Smithsonian officials at a recent Senate hearing that they're on their own. "I see no way that that two-and-a-half-billion-dollar shortfall is ever going to be picked up by the public sector," she said.

Excuse me? The Smithsonian is public sector, it belongs to the people, and it's a public responsibility. Instead of forcing it to charge entrance fees, hustle corporate sponsorships, or hold bake sales, nix a few corporate tax breaks, Senator, then do your duty to care for America's attic.



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