Friday, February 6, 2009

The NEA - once again, a political football

I'm angry.

Here we are, in the midst of a huge economic crisis, talking about a $900 billion stimulus bill, and what has been a major focus of the attacks against the stimulus bill? The $50 million for the NEA.

Today's quote: "$50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — all of us are for the arts,” McCain said. “Tell me how that creates any significant number of jobs?"

Well, I can tell you: in fact, being an artist, whether in theater, or a writer, or a painter, or a composer - those are actually jobs. In theater alone, paying jobs, already scarce, are plummeting. Many artists who are unemployed don't even fall within the unemployment statistics, they are (like me) freelancers who are now receiving almost no money freelancing. But they need the money just as much as the construction workers or the bankers.

The NEA is arguably not the best institution to disseminate those funds. I think state governments, in the U. S., are much less likely to be caught in the ridiculous way that the arts is grabbed onto by any politician trying to demonstrate "wasteful" spending.

Why are the arts so hated? I think it has something to do with the sneer used when people talk about "the elite" and elevate "Joe the Plumber." What makes the statement "we all like the arts" so hollow in that it is such a clear stand-in for "We all know we should like the arts. And part of us deeply resents that."

I know that the arts may get the shaft. But Senator McCain, by picking out that tiny percentage of the bill and making it one of your main talking points on the irrational belief that helping the arts cannot possibly help the economy, you show that, while you say you like the arts, in your heart you can't stand the artists.


kasheri said...

Sheesh. When it comes to stretching a buck, few people can do it like artists can. Fifty mil. is going to make a lot more jobs in the arts than it would almost anywhere else.

Laura said...

But don't you know artists are supposed to starve. It's noble. Plumbers and bankers and car manufacturers don't expect unemployment or underemployment. I think the subtext is, "Well, come on, artists, these guys made a sensible career choice, and you're off in fluffy artsy land. The economy shouldn't really affect you because artists are supposed to be poor anyway. What do you expect?"