Minority of One blog

No state funds for Obama library

By any reasonable standard, Barack Obama's presidential library ought to be in Chicago, where he lived most of his adult life and undertook his political career, not New York or Honolulu. But if the price to Illinois taxpayers is going to be $100 million, as the state House executive committee proposes, the state should let it go elsewhere.

You can say a lot of bad things about George W. Bush, but as far as I can tell he built his library in Dallas entirely ith private donations, totaling some $500 million. The price tag for the Obama version is expected to be similar. But for some reason, we're supposed to think it needs a state subsidy.

It doesn't, and it doesn't warrant one. Yes, it would be nice for locals and tourists to have the chance to learn more about the Obama presidency. But the venture isn't likely to furnish much of an economic boost.

Interest in presidential libraries invariably drops off sharply after the first couple of years. Attendance at Bill Clinton's fell from 448,000 in its first year to 291,000 in 2011.

The Obama library may draw off people from city's other museums and cultural attractions. So the net impact on Chicago and Illinois is likely to be small.

Besides, the state is desperately overextended. Subsidizing this sort of institution would be a dubious idea in the best of fiscal times. Given today's budget realities, it would be an absurd extravagance.

CHICAGO

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