The National Endowment for the Arts and Congress

These past few weeks we’ve watched as the house of representatives, the senate and the respective parties that preside over them wrangle and discuss blow hot air over spending and tax cuts.  Originally, the House’s plan called for $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts which would be an unbelievable lift to artists everywhere.  Instead of supporting our cultural growth and influence, the Senate decided to cut it out, mostly in an attempt to bring over a few Republicans who had taken the line that (as Rep. Mike Simpson [R-ID] puts it) “Maybe there are other places that could be more effective in terms of economic stimulus.”  Mike Simpson, was not one of the three Republicans to vote with the bill even after the NEA’s funding was cut.  Rep. Simpson’s comments were actually mild compared to some of the other talking points being spewed by the Republican thinking apparatus, Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation thinks, “simply borrowing money out of the economy in order to transfer it to some artists doesn’t increase the economy’s productivity rate. It doesn’t help workers create more goods and services, and it won’t create economic growth.”

This line of thinking lacks foresight and does not address the important notion that each dollar we spend should be able to address multiple problems we face.  Funding the NEA would be just like providing incentives to produce green jobs.  Green jobs are often described as being able to produce new jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and clean up our environment all at the same time.  For every dollar we spend on something like this we get the beneficence of three different subjects.  In the case of funding the arts, not only are we creating jobs for artists, who buy art supplies, construct sets, or buy strings for their instruments but we are also receiving great works of art that preserve and grow our culture.  One of the greatest shames of the past decade has been the erosion of our so-called “soft power”.  Soft-power is basically cultural influence, where the Idea of the United States of America is thought of as a generally benevolent power that spreads freedom and fosters hope.  This construct has been built, cultivated and exported by our artists, and the only way we can regain our soft-power is by fostering a healthy culture.  How do we do this? By funding the arts.

Fortunately, during the conference between the House and the Senate, those $50 million have been put back into the final bill and is being voted on tonight.  The House has already passed it and the Senate is holding their vote open for the deciding vote to fly back from a memorial service.  Support our arts!

Update: The bill passed with the funding for the arts.  There maybe some funding in the bill that is iffy, but artists should be pleased with the inclusion of the money for the NEA in the final bill.

Comments are closed.