Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced an amendment to prohibit any funds in the economic stimulus bill from going to museums, theaters, or arts centers.
The language of the amendment, (Amendment No. 175, as filed) is, “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.”
Now, the subject of whether or not this is a prudent measure for the economy is not going to be debated here. A compelling case is made by my good friend Ken Woods for keeping the NEA money in the package.
What bothers me is that museums, arts centers, and theaters are lumped in with casinos, swimming pools, rotating pastel lights, and zero-gravity chairs. What in the holy living hell is the relation between the arts and a highway beautification project?
At the risk of sounding like Tom Coburn or any other idiot Senator of his ilk: the arts are what separate the evolved societies of the world with those stuck in the Stone Age, many of whom are nations or people we consider ourselves “at war” with. Now, the nature of that war is yet another subject not worth tackling at this musical hellhole, but we can all agree that we have progressed as a society since that time, and while it isn’t the only factor, the arts is one of the key factors of that progression. When’s the last time you went and saw the Saudi Arabia Philharmonic? What exactly is the Iranian government’s artistic commitment to the Tehran Symphony? And yet, a country like Israel, constantly embroiled in conflicts from all sides, has developed one of the very best orchestras and cultural landscapes in the entire world in 60 years. This is not meant as a declaration of culture war, but it simply illustrates that part of a progressive society is its commitment and support of the arts.
I urge you to read Maestro Woods’ blog post as he very clearly explains the economic ramifications of removing this provision. And you can write to your Senator here urging them to keep the NEA money in.
Let’s cross our fingers.