Mike the Mad Biologist

The Republican War on Art

Lest the humanities feel neglected, the Republican War on Art keeps chugging along. In Bush’s 2009 budget, the arts take massive hits across the board, with the sole exception of much needed maintenance funding of the Smithsonian. But first, by way of the Boston Phoenix, let’s look at the most unconscionable part of the budget:

…nothing exemplifies the right wing’s embrace of public ignorance more than its opposition to funding arts education in the schools. This position is beyond primitive. Even cave dwellers probably delighted in the animal figures they painted on their walls; not Bush, who has once again denied funding for school-based arts programs.

So ingrained is Bush and the right wing’s suspicion of culture and the arts that they ignore the very real and positive contribution the nonprofit arts community (in other words, not Hollywood and not Broadway) makes to the national economy.

Wouldn’t want the kids turning into sissies or something. But wait, did they mention money? Let’s hear more about the economic…stimulus provided by the arts (italics mine):

It may not sound like much, but more than one percent of the American workforce is supported by nonprofit arts groups. That means more people make their living from the arts than from accountancy and law. The field of arts employs more people than the nation’s police forces, farms, and fisheries. Arts workers outnumber computer programmers, postal workers, and firefighters. When viewed in the proper context, the number of arts workers is staggering.

Undeniable too is the economic impact of the nonprofit arts sector. Total spending exceeds $53 billion by organizations and $80 billion by audiences. The tax revenues they generate exceed $10 billion for the federal government, $7.3 billion for states, and $6.6 billion for cities and towns.

So why would Republicans slash the NEA budget and other arts programs given the economic stimulus? Here’s a hint:

This impact is even more pronounced in Boston. In 2002, the city’s so-called creative industry — its seventh largest industry– added $10.7 billion to Boston’s total economic output, and $12.7 billion to the greater metro area.[*]

That’s right, arts funding is one of those sissy, Massachusetts things:

Also included in Bush’s budget, almost for good measure and for the eighth year in a row, is an attempted assault on public broadcasting, an emblematic target of right wingers’ scorn for anything that doesn’t cater to lowest-common-denominator culture.

Taken as a whole, these measures reveal a conservative penchant for stupidity. A stupid public is a compliant populace. And compliant voters trend right wing. Let them watch O’Reilly and listen to Limbaugh. It is triangulation, Republican style.

But what’s worse is that this is Mayberry Machiavellism run rampant. If you examine the NEA grants website, Democratic states receive far more funding for the arts than Republican ones–because these states have a long tradition of supporting the arts. Like everything else Little Lord Pontchartrain’s administration does, if it does not directly reward their own political supporters, it does not matter, the overall welfare of the Republic be damned.

And Republicans and conservatives still claim that they are the ones defending American culture. They’re not culture warriors, they’re culture killers.

*Incidentally, that’s more than the AFC Champion New England Patriots, World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, and resurgent Boston Celtics combined.

Comments

  1. #1 freds
    February 18, 2008

    After eight years, this is not surprising. But it is still infuriating. Obstinately close minded to the bitter end.

  2. #2 sinned34
    February 18, 2008

    Incidentally, that’s more than the AFC Champion New England Patriots, World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, and resurgent Boston Celtics combined

    Hey, what about the Boston Bruins? Might as well toss them on ths list, since they’re drawing about two dozen fans per game…

  3. #3 Anonymoustache
    February 18, 2008

    Great post. I didn’t have an appreciation for the demonstrable economic impact.
    Anyway, I think it is sad that in an ‘advanced’ country one has to justify the arts (or science or other enlightened pursuits, for that matter) in terms of tangible economic impact alone. It is sadder still that, in the face of demonstrably positive economic impact, the powers that be will nevertheless trample upon such pursuits. Another classic sign of a society in decadence.

  4. #4 Tioedong
    February 18, 2008

    One: Local school boards decide what kids learn. Criticizing the feds ignores that they can add art.
    Two:Complaining that Boston is losing art money from the feds essentially is complaining that working folks in rural Minnesota should pay higher taxes so rich Bostonians can see concerts. (I lived in Boston and never could afford tickets).

    When JesseVentura was governor of Minnesota, and the twin cities wanted the state to fund a sports stadium with the surplus in the budget, Jesse vetoed the idea, saying he was sending everyone a refund, and if they wanted to send it back to fund the stadium, it was their decision.

    Since at the time I lived in northern Minnesota, I preferred the money to funding stadiums that charged so much for tickets that ordinary people rarely attended…especially those of us 300 miles away.

  5. #5 Sophie Hirschfeld
    February 19, 2008

    In those numbers, what all qualifies as being employed in the ‘arts’? Would, for example, an exotic dancer or burlesque performer qualify? I’m wondering because I wonder if there is a line drawn for the adult industry and if this line or lack of it has a profound impact on the large numbers in the article.

  6. #6 vista
    August 22, 2009

    very thanks for article

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