Ridiculous Spending on Museums May Be Here To Stay
With federal spending and the debt limit shaping up to be the pivotal political fights of the next two years, federal handouts for tourist-trap museums could be an unexpectedly telling battleground.
On February 28, the House Appropriations Committee released guidelines for earmarked spending requests in the upcoming FY 2024 spending bills.
Earmarks, which were banned in 2011 but returned in 2022, are often referred to as pork-barrel projects. Members of Congress use earmarks to shower local constituencies with “free” federal dollars for a wide variety of things, most of which are not proper federal responsibilities.
A perennial recipient of wasteful earmark funds, and one which the House Appropriations Committee has now banned from receiving them, is local museums.
In FY 2022, museum earmarks included $3 million for a decrepit prison in Illinois, $3 million for a Gandhi museum in Houston, and $3 million for a history museum in wealthy Palo Alto, California.
The FY 2023 omnibus package featured $750,000 for the Connecticut Trolley Museum, $2 million for Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, and $3.3 million for the Door County Granary in Wisconsin.
As a case study, the Door County Granary is perhaps the best example of how federal funds are used to make local boondoggle projects possible.
Built in 1901, the granary became obsolete and was set to be torn down as a fire hazard in 2017. However, the local historical society pushed to have the granary added to the national register of historical places and began an effort to turn the site into a historical museum and “event space.”
The society claimed that the project would be “funded 100% through private donations and grants,” specifically without local tax dollars. However, the project had only reached about half of its funding goal as of August 2022, primarily from a single wealthy patron.
There’s a good reason why locals might have hesitated to fully fund the project by choice: It’s exceedingly unlikely to receive many visitors due to unfortunate geography.
Door County is located on a rural peninsula northeast of Green Bay, and as such it does not have a naturally high traffic volume that would pass by the site. Green Bay’s population is barely into six digits, and Milwaukee is over a two-hour drive away, so there will probably not be steady
Article from Reason.com