Thursday, April 7, 2011


A Musing


What if you saw that headline tomorrow?  Unemployment would skyrocket, people would lose their homes and homeless families would flood the streets, the economy would falter and life as we know it would be over.  Oh, right – that’s already happened because of the greed emanating out of Wall Street and corporate America.   

But what if, during this year’s Federal budget debacle, that headline really did appear in the news media around the country.  Anarchy?  I know, I know, if anarchy couldn’t take hold in the ‘60s, it certainly couldn’t happen in today’s climate.  Right?  Wrong. 

Times are hard for those not in the top 2% of income earners, and unemployment is higher than it’s been in decades.  Anger at government has become a national pastime.  So no one’s going to throw more than a million people out of work!  Right?  Wrong!  Just ask some members of Congress. 

More than one million Americans work for the “not-for-profit” arts industry and Congress wants to fire them as it stubbornly clings to that tax break for the wealthiest Americans.  Why?  Because the arts don’t help the economy, they say.  The arts don’t create jobs.  Rich people create jobs. Wrong!  History has proven over and over (and again during the last ten years of the Bush tax cuts) that the rich really just want to get richer. They don’t relish the idea of ‘sharing’ with the workers who made them rich.  If they did we wouldn’t have needed child labor laws, labor unions, work place safety laws, minimum wage laws… the EPA, the FDA, the SEC, etc., etc.   And the rich don’t believe they should share their riches with the country whose principles allowed them to get rich in the first place. Just ask G.E. They claim that living under the tax rate they had during the Reagan or Clinton administration would be a hardship. Ha!  But, I digress…

The truth is our deficit has ballooned and we do need serious budget cutting… So why care if the NEA is shut down?  NEA opponents state that they’re not taking away ‘life threatening’ services here.  It’s only some music, a little dancing, maybe paint.  Wrong!  Besides the more than one million people who would make unemployment skyrocket, making more families lose their homes, adding to the legions of homeless, that music, that dance, that paint helps create a person’s soul.  Without a soul, we aren’t human.  If we aren’t human, we won’t behave as humans.  If we don’t behave as humans…  anarchy! 

Critics say we’ll get all that stuff on TV or in school.  I don’t know where these critics live, but it’s not in the United States of America.  After the NEA is eliminated, PBS, the only non-cable network that consistently highlights the arts, would soon be unable to fund those programs even if they managed to stay on the air.  And forget about school arts programs unless you're in that favored 2% and can afford to send your kid to a private school.  Since most Congressmen/women graduated high school, art and music programs have all but disappeared from our public school system.  Budget cuts.

So what’s the bottom line?  If we cut off funding to the arts, then art will truly become the property of the elite – not the cultural elite or the intellectual elite, but the money elite – those men and women wealthy enough to buy subscriptions to the opera or the symphony or who can afford expensive theater and ballet tickets.  Those with that big tax break. 

The chasm between the haves and have nots, already escalating, will grow even wider and deeper.  With more and more children not being uplifted by the arts, challenged to think about the arts or soothed by the arts, crime will rise, membership in militias and gangs will go through the roof and the need to escape into a drugged stupor will become an American way of life. More and more money will be needed for more and more police and more and more jails.  But we won’t have the money and if we don’t have the money… anarchy.

Ah, but that’s what this budget cut will give us, right – more money?  Wrong!

The NEA’s yearly budget is less that 2/100th of 1% of the Federal budget (about 54 - 64 cents per American every year, depending on the spin).  Putting over a million people out of work will cost the tax payer a helluva lot more in unemployment benefits, tax revenue and healthcare, and will stifle economic recovery.  Frankly, 64 cents a year is a cheap price to save our country and our souls.

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