There was a letter to the editor in the New York Daily News last week, after the National September 11 Memorial and Museum opened to the public in downtown Manhattan.   Those terrible terrorist attacks hit the Irish American community particularly hard, and so attention should be paid to the various controversies which have risen up around the museum.

“In the age of Obama,” this letter in the Daily News began, “when it’s certainly fashionable to embrace excessive government spending, does it strike anyone else as ludicrous that we’re whacking folks $24 a head to view the 9/11 Museum?”

The letter continued, “Why is it we can squander money in the most inappropriate ways, but when it comes to providing access to the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center terror attack, federal funding is conspicuously MIA?” It’s certainly easy to agree with this guy.  Many people were venting this week about the 9/11 Museum.  

Some New Yorkers – still traumatized by the horror – will never go to such a museum, whatever it costs.  Others may want to pay their respects, but the price is indeed too steep.  Some 9/11 families did not like that unidentified remains were moved to the site and placed underground. Others still were offended by the crass museum gift shop.

All perfectly understandable.  I was in Manhattan that day. I watched the second tower fall.  

For all of my passion for history, I doubt I will feel a strong need to visit the 9/11 Museum anytime soon.  And if you’re asking me if it’s tacky to hawk 9/11 Museum coffee mugs and baseball caps, of course it is.

But back to that letter. It did have a very specific question about federal funding.  And the writer was courteous enough to provide his own answer.

“My message to the people in the Obama administration: Please pull your ideological noggins out of your collective behinds and immediately do what is responsible and right. Provide the roughly $60 million per year it will take to make the museum, located seven stories down at bedrock where the great towers once stood, free.  

“Do this not for the obvious political kudos you would receive but rather out of respect for the loved and lost of 9/11, as well as the good of ‘We the People’ who will flock to see this tribute to our honored dead.”
It is very interesting for this fellow to slam Obama and his supposed “ideological” reasons for not coming up with federal funding.  Because this letter actually is the perfect explanation of why federal funding is not available. 

Anti-government critics have become so rabid and anti-spending advocates have become so vociferous that even in the so-called “age of Obama,” federal officials don’t want to be labeled as “big spenders.”

The amazing thing here is that people like this chowderhead letter writer love to slam the government for spending too much money, but then claim to be shocked – shocked! – when they actually have to pony up because the government, you know, has tightened up the purse strings.

Why else do you think they have to sell 9/11 Museum t-shirts and coffee mugs to tourists?

And let’s be honest here.  Like them or not, Obama and the Democrats probably would have come up with the money for the 9/11 Museum.  But the right wing of the Republican Party is so adamantly opposed to any and all spending that they’ve frightened many more moderate elected representatives.

And it’s not all Republicans, because Irish American and Long Island Republican Congressman Pete King is among those who have called for a free entrance to the museum.

The trouble is there are too many hypocrites out there whining about out-of-control government spending, who then turn around and complain when a government service they actually like is either cut or becomes too costly.

Solidly Republican states like Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi and even Sarah Palin’s Alaska love to grip about federal spending.  But they are actually “donor states” that receive way more in federal taxpayer money than they pay.

If you think the 9/11 Museum should be free, by all means, write to Congress and tell them.  But this is a smaller part of a much bigger problem.

(Contact “Sidewalks” at