Ask Congress To Make Public Domain Congressional Research Service's Reports Public

from the yes,-please dept

A couple of years ago, we wrote about how the Congressional Research Service's reports were technically public domain, but were often hidden from the public by a Congress, who doesn't want you to see the CRS reports. That's because CRS is known for publishing research that is non-partisan, extremely credible and useful. And, of course, our elected officials in Congress don't want that sort of information out there. They prefer the information that's been spun to their political advantage first. Wikileaks has been able to publish some CRS reports, but a ton of CRS stuff still remains hidden, even though it's technically public domain.

A bunch of organizations are trying to change that. 38 groups have sent a letter to Congress asking them to open up and release CRS research. The full letter is included after the jump, but this is a proposal that really should be supported by the public. Check it out, and if you agree, add your voices to those pushing to finally open up this valuable resource to the public who paid for it.February 25, 2010

James H. Billington
Librarian of Congress
The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20540

Dear Dr. Billington:

We the undersigned organizations concerned with government openness and accountability are writing to urge you to appoint a Director of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) who will work with Congress to provide online free public access to the unclassified, non-confidential, taxpayer-funded reports produced by CRS.

The public needs access to these non-confidential CRS reports in order to discharge their civic duties. American taxpayers spend over $100 million a year to fund the CRS, which generates detailed reports relevant to current political events for lawmakers. But while the reports are non-classified, and play a critical role in our legislative process, they have never been made available in a consistent and official way to members of the public.

Predictably, to fill the public void left by the CRS, several private companies now sell copies of these reports at a price. This means that non-confidential CRS reports are readily available to lobbyists, executives and others who can afford to pay. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people lack the information necessary to even request reports from their Members of Congress.

In 1822, James Madison explained why citizens must have government information: "A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." In the spirit of Madison, we ask you to appoint a Director of CRS who will help advance the goal of online free public access to CRS reports.

Representatives from the undersigned organizations would be happy to meet with you or your staff at any time to discuss this important issue. Please contact Amy Bennett, Program Associate, ( or 202-332-6736), at your convenience.


American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
American Society of News Editors
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Responsive Politics
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Defending Dissent Foundation, Inc.
Essential Information
Federation of American Scientists
Free Government Information
Government Accountability Project (GAP)
Knowledge Ecology International
Liberty Coalition
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Security Counselors
No More Guantanamos
OMB Watch
Point of Order
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
Public Citizen
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Academic Law Library Directors
Society of Professional Journalists
Special Libraries Association
Sunlight Foundation
University of Missouri Freedom of Information Center
Washington Coalition for Open Government

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  1. identicon
    Jose_X, 2 Mar 2011 @ 11:21pm

    Re: Re:

    [Keep in mind this comment is to throw out ideas; there are many details the devil can ruin.]

    What about the fact that disposable money is very different than money needed for basic needs? These two should be distinct moneys. We have some of that today with food stamps for those at the very bottom (social security for later years in life; progressive taxes to some degree; etc), but that system does not enable everyone to have basic security on a not too long work week. We have significant inflation in house prices and food prices for example (and with people working many hours, this ups the ante.. rather than these being set off a say 20 hour work week).

    If we had to types of earnings. Earning for basic needs where there was a significant attempt to value all skills and keep salaries within say a small factor (4x), find jobs for everyone, and keep the price of certain basic goods within a certain relative range to match this type of income.. And then type two would be earnings for disposables where there would be much greater flexibility.

    Everyone would be required to work at the "basic" rates/dollars for part of their yearly income. The end result might be that those with less skill or less desire to work, for whatever the reason, would still be able to cover all their basics with low risk and without having to work a full week. The rest of the week would be much more lopsided. All would have incentive to work in order to gain any disposable income. If you did not work hard enough in your basic commitment, you would be shooting yourself in the foot if you expected to work the rest of the week for decent or even any disposable income.

    What this does is it creates distinct market interactions for markets like "basic" housing and "basic" food vs for many other goods that might be considered extras (a very decent house, car, food, plus boats, planes, furs, money to go out frequently, etc).

    Again, note that we do have this system to the degree we guarantee some sort of safety net for people, but the problem with our implementation (moral hazards) is that there is a wide gap between the work you put in and what you get at that low level. Everyone should be covered. You shouldn't be covered only if you make very little or nothing. Everyone should be covered and jobs should be guaranteed for all.

    To sustain this, the second-half-of-week market is tapped. But note that there is no reason to have a weak standard of living. We have enough land in the US. Barring poisoning or destroying it, there is enough for our population many times over. Ditto for housing. Maintenance of a house is not a savage cost. Many skilled people can build and improve houses, so labor and supplies should not be a problem. Same thing for farming to get the basics for the nation.

    Many people might not work the rest of the week at some point in time in their lives, but they would have time to develop skills and try to come up with their own jobs (entrepreneurship).

    The motivation for this system is that business, trade skill, and accumulated inheritance (from the lives of others or from earlier years in your life) are the main reason some people work not too much harder or longer than others (if at all) yet make much much much much more money. Why is a nation that requires many services and products and where the general population is in theory ultimately in control all the land and resources, going to favor by so much a minority of people with fortunate condition and/or skill in one very narrow area?

    You could say that a "free market" separates income and wealth based on value to society, but that is nonsense because of the starting lopsidedness in early childhood; the lopsidedness throughout life (eg, information access possible once you have accumulated money or power); and the feed forward system of those ahead to more easily move even further ahead [eg, the *same skill level* in investing will yield a millionaire much more money than will be the case for someone with $10K; thus, the relative gains of these two individuals will diverge further all else being equal].

    If the wealthy need "incentives", how about the many workers who don't get to share in profits of their labor? What motivation do they have to work hard when they know that someone else reap the vast majority of fruits?

    At the end of the day, all money is the People's money. All who have money or land require the full strength of the People's military and police/judiciary to protect those assets from those who have different beliefs about who "deserves" what.

    BTW, why do corporations frequently get similar laws and standards as humans? This only happens because, as a People with representatives in government, we have decided to tickle the fancies of the very wealthy rather than to give more people a fighting chance. Corporations are ideal for preserving wealth and that is the primary concern of those with wealth today (to preserve it).

    Anyway, sorry if I got *very* side-tracked. There is much that can be considered here. Transparency for a broad audience helps that broad audience. A government of the People only makes sense if those managing the representation part are being transparent to the People.

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