This month's Bad Take Award goes to Panos Mourdoukoutas, a contributor to Forbes, who published an op-ed entitled, "Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money" over the weekend.
The headline says it all. Mourdoukoutas, an economist at Long Island University, argues that libraries are a waste of money and that the best way to save a few bucks for the bedraggled taxpayer is to close down all our local libraries and replace them with Amazon bookstores. Not only will this save the taxpayer money, it will help out Amazon's stock price, as Mourdoukoutas adds for some reason. What kind of American wouldn't want that?
A communist, that's who. The response to Mourdoukoutas was predictably scolding. And he kind of deserved it. He writes: "There was a time local libraries offered the local community lots of services in exchange for their tax money. They would bring books, magazines, and journals to the masses through a borrowing system. Residents could borrow any book they wanted, read it, and return it for someone else to read."
Mr. Mourdoukoutas: That time is not over. Libraries still offer all of these services (and more!). Have you been to one lately? It's not just homeless people using the outlets and strange men masturbating in the stacks. There are still books and videos and art and bathrooms and talks and all that good shit. Yes, that gets funded by property taxes, but in Seattle, 52 percent of property taxes go to fund schools, not libraries. If Mourdoukoutas really wanted to save money, perhaps he should advocate that Amazon take over schools as well. I mean, it would be great for the shareholders.
There is, however, another idea, one that would adequately fund both libraries and public schools without adding more to local property taxes: That's right, a goddamn income tax. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in modern history and the largest beneficiary of Amazon's wealth (he owns 16 percent of the company), is worth an estimated $150 billion, little (if any) of which goes to the very city that he has helped turn into a resort town, unaffordable to the plebians who make the city run but a pretty nice place to live if you can afford it.
Bezos, along with other tech titans, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight a 2010 state initiative that would have levied a 9 percent tax on those making over $200,000 a year. As Lester pointed out last week, this would have brought in at least $2 billion a year for Washington state. Instead, Bezos leverages his own power and wealth to fight any chance of a tax, whether it's on his business or his own wealth.
When asked about this bright idea to replace a civic institution with a for-profit mega corp, Andra Addison,
communications director of the Seattle Public Library, said:
Public libraries serve a unique and important role in our community, which is why libraries are such treasured institutions.
We value intellectual freedom, we respect and embrace the entire community, we protect patron confidentiality, we foster a healthy democracy, we support children and youth and promote literacy and a love of reading.
We are different than a business, agency or other community organizations, because we welcome everyone – no matter your age, gender, background, income—whether you come in a three-day old beard or three-piece suit. No Visa, membership, or fee is required when you walk through our doors.
We are also different because we provide universal access to information and ideas—no matter what subject or topic—we carry all viewpoints. We will answer your questions and provide you with information without scrutiny or judgment.
What also sets us apart is that we keep your use of the library confidential—we don’t share what you checkout, view online or discuss with a librarian.
The Library believes the power of knowledge improves people’s lives and we do it by giving everyone the opportunity to learn and excel. (We have online classes to master new skills, career and job-related resources, offer business support for entrepreneurs, computer classes in multiple languages, as well as 10,000 free educational programs attended by over 300,000 children, teens and adults annually, such as literacy activities, ESL workshops and homework help for students.)
We also help level the playing field for underserved populations. We provide Internet access and books to tent cities and shelters, we have a social worker that connects patrons to food, housing, health care and more, we provide free tax preparation assistance for low income residents, help newcomers to the U.S. study for citizenship and more.
We are constantly innovating and creating to meet the community’s changing needs and interests—we support local musicians through our PlayBack collection, we offer free admission to 15 museums with a Library Card, offer 3D print Workshops, we revamped our Summer Reading Program to Summer of Learning to give it a STEM focus and even helped publish a Somali children’s book.
We are a great return on investment—residents can always find a safe, well equipped library open seven days a week, the majority of residents have library cards and use them regularly, we’ve received the highest 5-star rating 8 consecutive years, we had more than 17 million in person and online visits in 2017 and have the strong support of a The Seattle Public Library Foundation and Friends of The Seattle Public Library.
While we have a collection of more than 2.3 million books and materials (and one of the largest and highest circulating digital collections in the nation), we offer so much more than books—as noted above (educational programs and services).
We also provide technology for people to use. Amazon does not provide people with computers, laptops and tablets.
They sure as shit don't. Fuck Jeff Bezos, fuck his dumb website, and long live public libraries and the saints and humans who staff them.