Friday, May 01, 2009

Libraries, Wiis and Pennies

Libraries, Wiis and Pennies

My boys love their Wii. They got it for Christmas of `07 and it just came back from repairs. They're playing a game that they checked out at the Iowa City Public Library. (Our family nicknames is "Füü" - pronounced "foo" as in bar or Fighters, because Koni called it that once and we thought it was funny.)

You could make fun of quality of life issues. You could say that you should pay for all that stuff out of your own pocket. Want a book? Want a game? Go buy one.

Public expenditures on Wii games have been a bone of contention for the Ax The Tax forces, but modern libraries have all sorts of non-print materials. Music, movies, computer software, artwork, toys, and, yes, games.

The games and movies pull my kids into the library, but you know what else they get when they get there? Books. My nine year old is devouring the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, and I can't wait till he starts reading Harry Potter and finds out all the stuff that was left out of the movies.

Libraries were among the very first public expenditures in America. And those quality of life things like books and, yes, games, are less accessible to those with lower incomes. It's funny to hear Republicans cynically bringing up the regressivity argument while they at the same time 1) blocked action on ending federal deductibility, which would have made Iowa's tax code much more progressive; and 2) bashing the city for quality of life programs like Wii games and concerts and parks and yes, even sculptures.

Those so-called "extras" aren't what's on the ballot Tuesday. But the criticism is revealing. Conservatives would remove the great equalizers, the joys of the public square, and confine the "extras" to those who could pay out of pocket.

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