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.