Reading the Government

Because, you know, you paid for it

Government Printing Office

Earlier this week, Congress and President Obama agreed to raise the debt ceiling another few feet. It all seemed very exhausting, but fortunately most of the politicians were able to get right back up and pass new spending bills. Those leaders are tireless!

What do you get for all of this borrowed money? Well, some of it comes in the form of printed and bound reading material. Enter the Government Printing Office, the official publisher of the United States government. Created in 1860, the GPO’s main role is to fulfill the constitutional requirements of the Congress (Article 1, Section 5, Clause 3) in making a record of its proceedings available to the public. But it prints other things as well, including passports, Social Security checks, and consumer brochures such as Medicare and You, the woeful tale of the uninsured infirm.

If you don’t get excited about Medicare, there’s still plenty to read. In fact, according to a 2008 speech printed by the Public Printer of the United States, Robert C. Tapella, the GPO emits over three billion pages of content each year for the Congress. That doesn’t include those passports, Social Security checks, or any of the heartwarming brochures. It’s just the stuff that Congress uses. It works out to about ten pages per year for each American, but if you only count the 435 members of Congress, it’s close to seven million pages per person per year. It’s time for me to stop complaining about my paltry forty-two page reading requirement per day.

To find out more about the Government Printing Office, visit its web site or its online bookstore.


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