Gov Docs and the Financial Crisis

By Sarah Hogan


The current financial crisis has provoked unprecedented governmental intervention in the economy, with both Congressional publications and Executive Branch documents providing valuable background and primary source research material. Because of the wide ranging and seemingly intractable nature of the recession, these documents continue to be closely scrutinized by the academic and journalist communities and have become a focal point of public discussion generally. With the help of the O’Neill Library Government Documents department you can find lots of information on this topic.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R.1) is the latest piece of legislation to work its way through Congress and can be found at THOMAS, which is a database run by the Library of Congress. THOMAS provides access to the full text of Congressional legislation, including all amendments, conference reports, related bills, and cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

The sheer size and scope of the financial legislation that has been passed has led to several Congressional oversight hearings, the goal of which is to ensure that taxpayer funds are being spent responsibly. As chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank has played a key role in negotiations between the Congressional leadership and both the Bush and Obama Treasury Departments. The archived webcast of the latest hearing on TARP (the Troubled Assets Relief Program) can be found on the HFS committee webpage and selected transcripts from related hearings can be retrieved from LexisNexis Congressional. Once the full text of the hearings is released it will be available at Lexis.

On February 24, 2009 President Barak Obama gave an address to a joint session of Congress to underscore his administration's commitment to the financial package in Congress. The full text of this and many other presidential documents dating back to George Washington can be found at the American Presidency Project, run by the University of California at Santa Barbara. This site contains signing statements, radio addresses, press conferences, executive orders, and many other types of Executive Branch publications and is the best place to begin research on the presidency.

Further information and links to databases can be found on the Congressional Publications research guide.

The breadth of information covered by government documents makes them relevant for almost any research topic. Government information is almost always produced by specialists in their fields, and some government agencies (such as the National Institutes of Health) are simply an indispensable sources of research within their areas. If you require assistance in your research please contact Sarah Hogan, Government Documents librarian, for a consultation.

Sarah Hogan, Head Librarian, Government Documents and Microforms, O'Neill Library