Arts Banned in Stimulus Bill

Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma pasted an amendment into the stimulus package banning it from funding museums, arts centers, theaters, stadiums, parks, casinos or golf courses. James S. Russell says, 'starving the arts is suicidal.'

"There's hope that the bill will pass without this gratuitous kicking of the arts, yet you do wonder what goes on in minds that lump together an institution like a scrappy regional theater and a municipal golf course. The Senate last week voted for the amendment 73-24. Until a text of the final compromise bill is released, we won't know whether Coburn's ban remains.

From an economic standpoint, starving the arts is suicidal. Consider the case of the High Line, the park in the Meatpacking District. The City of New York invested $170 million in the project, which directly inspired as many as 50 major residential projects worth as much as $5 billion. And the park isn't even open yet."

Full Story: Arts Ban in Stimulus Bill Is Stupid Economics: James S. Russell

Comments

Comments

Arts = Employment

As much as some, mainly those who like to make a spectacle of their Republicanness, would hate to admit it, "artist" is a state of employment. True, it doesn't involve a shovel (usually), but it is nevertheless employment.

If this bill is meant to stimulate jobs, regardless of the sector, just jobs, jobs, jobs, it ought to stimulate the arts, which is as valid a sector of the American work force as the manufacturing sector.

Any Senator worth his salt...

Should know bread and circuses will get him more votes than bread alone...

What is it with (most) Republicans, anyway? Given the slightest opportunity, they try to defund anything that isn't going to grease the skids of the K-Street crowd....

Why not write that in? Who

Why not write that in? Who knows what was 'pasted in' (or cut out as the case may be) at the last minute ... no one has read it. Why not 'paste in' whatever you want or don't want? Maybe the arts got pasted in in one place and cut out somwhere else.

Who knows?
Who cares?

It's a %$#@&^% free-for-all.

Art Funding Isn't Fundamental

I'd rather have a bill with a better chance of passing that will create jobs, protect the environment, and make critical infrastructure investments, than a bill with some art funding which nobody will touch.

Art is nice, but it's not fundamental. It's not a necessity. That's why you see this resistance. Creating jobs, environment and infrastructure must come before art. It's a matter of economic and political constraints.

Art is great, but asking people to subsidize it though taxes is a stretch. Some of these people don't even want to invest in schools, let alone art. You have to respect the fact that this is public money we're talking about.

Specious arguments, given historical accomplishments...

Take a tour through many of the public buildings or facilities (water/wastewater plants, etc.) built during the WPA days and you'll see great art and craft serving and enhancing critical infrastructure. Then, of course there were the Federal Writers' and Arts and Theater Projects:

"By March, 1936, the WPA rolls had reached a total of more than 3,400,000 persons; after initial cuts in June 1939, it averaged 2,300,000 monthly; and by June 30, 1943, when it was officially terminated, the WPA had employed more than 8,500,000 different persons on 1,410,000 individual projects, and had spent about $11 billion. During its 8-year history, the WPA built 651,087 miles of highways, roads, and streets; and constructed, repaired, or improved 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, 8,192 parks, and 853 airport landing fields."

http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/wpa/wpa_info.html

Which Is Fundamental - Art Or Freeways

People haven't lived without art for at least the last 50,000 years.

Most people in other developed nations today live with less than 50% as much urban freeway mileage per capita as Americans have - and their cities are more livable as a result.

How can anyone claim that art is not essential but more freeways capacity is?

Charles Siegel

I believe what DJB is saying

I believe what DJB is saying is that DIRECT funding of the arts through this stimulus bill is lest justifiable than the other elements that made it through.

Yes - the WPA gave loads of money to support the arts through the Depression. Maybe this senator thought that such an investment, at this point is unnecessary. In this way, arts will be supported by a stimulated free market. There was a lot of controversy during the WPA due to the political implications that developed as a result of government investment in the arts - government determining what would and would not be funded along political affiliations, messages, etc.

Art IS a legitimate sector of the economy. So are a lot of things - a lot of things that AREN'T getting stimulus money. Would we be having this conversation if there simply hadn't been any money delegated to the arts, or is this discussion simply taking place because it was specifically denied?

Art exists because we enjoy it. If we enjoy it enough, we won't let the recession affect our own personal investments in it. The question is not whether it deserves funding, but whether it deserves to be part of this stimulus package, which is meant to guide the future development of our economy and add investment to certain areas vital to a more efficient, sustainable future economy. We're not forgetting about or discounting the arts, we're just not making it "vital to shaping the future of our economy."

Art Is Affected By The Recession

"Art exists because we enjoy it. If we enjoy it enough, we won't let the recession affect our own personal investments in it."

Nothing could be further from the truth. In hard times, one of the first things people will do is cut their spending on concerts, plays, and other events.

If someone trains as a musician all their life, spends long hours practicing, works hard, and produces something worthwhile, isn't it just as important to protect their job as to protect the job of a construction worker?

"this stimulus package, which is meant to guide the future development of our economy and add investment to certain areas vital to a more efficient, sustainable future economy."

Is building new freeways going to give us a more sustainable future economy? The rationale is purely that it creates immediate jobs.

I think you are quite wrong about the purpose of a stimulus bill.

Whether or not there is a recession, we need to invest in areas vital to a more efficient, sustainable economy: regardless of whether or not we need economic stimulus, we need to invest in high-speed rail, clean energy, a better power grid, and so on.

But because there is a severe recession, we have an immediate need to boost economic demand, avoid unemployment, and in short, to stimulate the economy - which is why it is called a stimulus package. We can do that by repairing roads, funding the arts, and doing other things that pump money into the economy quickly.

Most of the investments we need to move to a more efficient, sustainable economy require longer term planning and cannot be implemented soon enough to counter the current recession.

Charles Siegel

Stay on topic

"Whether or not there is a recession, we need to invest in areas vital to a more efficient, sustainable economy: regardless of whether or not we need economic stimulus, we need to invest in high-speed rail, clean energy, a better power grid, and so on."

Did I ever say we shouldn't?

"Is building new freeways going to give us a more sustainable future economy?"

Did I ever say we should? Let's not veer off-topic and make false claims about what I'm arguing. We're talking about arts. Not highways, not transit - I guarantee I'm more passionate than even you on those topics. Stay focused.

"In hard times, one of the first things people will do is cut their spending on concerts, plays, and other events. If someone trains as a musician all their life, spends long hours practicing, works hard, and produces something worthwhile, isn't it just as important to protect their job as to protect the job of a construction worker? "

This is contradictory. If someone trains themselves as an artist, they KNOW that their line of work is one of the first things that gets cut from individual budgets in hard times. That is not my problem. I am suggesting not that the arts should die because there is a recession, but that the stimulus bill should rely less on direct investment in such things, and focus more on relieving the budget burdens on consumers, so that they can still spend money on the arts if they choose to. Art is not art if it is simply for the sake of art - there must be an audience, there must be a purpose for the message. How can you justify if nobody is paying admission?

The definition of "stimulate" (or stimulus in this case): to rouse to action or effort, as by encouragement or pressure; spur on; incite. ENCOURAGING something is very different than PAYING for something.

By the way - if you read the article, it says nothing about starving artists. The amendment prohibits the stimulus from funding museums, arts centers, theaters, stadiums, parks, casinos or golf courses.

I Am On Topic

"Did I ever say we shouldn't?"

I am not talking about what you said. I am talking about what is in the stimulus bill and about what the Republicans in congress are saying should and should not be in the stimulus bill. That is the topic.

"the stimulus bill should rely less on direct investment in such things, and focus more on relieving the budget burdens on consumers, so that they can still spend money on the arts if they choose to."

Actually, economists generally agree that there is more of an immediate stimulus effect from direct spending than from giving consumers more to spend. If you give consumers more money in a serious recession like this one, they will save roughly half of it, so that half will not have a stimulus effect. The stimulus bill is about two-thirds spending and only about one-third tax cuts.

Charles Siegel

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