If you’re wondering how out of touch Washington, DC is with the American people, look no further than the U.S. Capitol dome restoration. Roll Call reported yesterday that it will take at least a cool $60 million and two years to fix the symbol of democracy known the world over.
The dome is in need of a lot repair work. Has been for some time. But money from where? Of course, you and me. Tax dollars. Yet, that is all that Members of Congress seem to be fixated on, tax dollars. National symbols have been restored in the past and we will need to continue doing so. But there is no hard and fast rule that tax dollars should be the only source of funds to pay for these projects.
For example, in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan appointed Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca to head the Ellis Island Foundation to raise private sector dollars to restore the Statue of Liberty. The American people contributed $600 million to the foundation for the historic restoration. And, guess what, donations continue to this day.
As was the case with funding for the Capitol Visitor Center, there will be opposition to private donations. Work around them. Be patriotic. The CVC is not the dome. There is no Capitol without the dome; the CVC was a luxury that may or may not be needed in the long-term. Donor recognition issues? Get a website. Patriots do not care who gets credit, they just do it.
The federal government is carrying a $17,000,000,000,000 debt. Political leaders are supposed to be seeking solutions to these serious budgetary issues. Why not set a tone, albeit a symbolic one, by seeking private donations of all sizes to help defray the repair cost of the people’s house?