The one good thing our former president seemed to do during his presidency was de-politicize arts funding in the US. To my complete and total surprise, the NEA budget was safe from cuts during his tenure and gradually expanded, and we were spared the pathetic spectacle of redneck congressmen grandstanding against funding for “controversial” art that in some way challenged their world view. Not what I expected from a man who can’t read.
Why am I not surprised that that 2 weeks after ole Dubya left, his old pals in congress have discarded the single positive aspect of his bloody and evil legacy. Tom Coburn and his cronies are fighting to cut all funding for the arts from the stimulus bill, in spite of the fact that the arts are and have always been one of the most effective engines for economic renewal and development.
Let me make this clear- cutting arts funding isn’t a matter of bad politics- it’s bad economics.
Every dollar invested in the arts generates more economic activity than spending in virtually any other area of government expense or investment- that seed money helps engage artists, who spend their money on instruments, concert clothes, cars, parking, marketing and so on. They give concerts, which bring people into our city centers, where they go to restaurants, hotels and shop. Those shopkeepers and restauranteurs hire people who themselves tend to be active cultural participants- heck most of those waiters are actors or musicians. Arts dollars have been shown again and again to circultate faster and more times than defense dollars, infrastructure dollars, sports dollars. Only education investments, science investments and health investments pay off in the GDP with anything like the effectiveness of core arts funding.
And, this is the kind of brain smashing stupidity we’re dealing with.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced an amendment to prohibit any funds in the economic stimulus bill from going to museums, theaters, or arts centers.
The language of the amendment, (Amendment No. 175, as filed) is, “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.”
Sorry, National Endowment for the Arts — sure, Walker Evans may have taken a few pretty photos during the Great Depression, but you won’t miss that $50 million, right? This is what point-and-shoot digital cameras were made for, people.
$1 billion for the National Science Foundation? What do you think this is, Louis Pasteur, France?
$1 billion for Amtrak? Come on, it’s not like those trains ever run on time anyway. And surely funding from Congress, which forces them to operate unprofitable routes, couldn’t fix their problems.