Defund the NEA? - The Art of the Matter


Oops, sorry, that's an alternative fact. But what if it wasn't? Unemployment would skyrocket, people would lose their homes, homeless families would flood the streets, the economy would falter and life as we know it would be over.

We all know that anger at government has become a national pastime so, really, no one in government is going to throw more than a million people out of work overnight, right? Wrong! Just ask our new President. Just ask the Republican members of Congress.

More than one million Americans work for the "not-for-profit" arts industry. Yet, Congress, once again, wants to shut down the NEA and now it has a President who agrees. (The Donald's not a big fan of the "arts" unless it's covered in gilt or has his face plastered somewhere. Sad.) Conservatives stubbornly cling to those tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and pledge to give them more, even though our new President pledged that the 1% would pay their fair share (we were so punked).

OK, so why go after arts spending? Why not slash subsidies for big oil or big pharma? Well, here's the Republican reasoning: the arts don't help the economy... they don't create jobs (Duh? What about those million jobs? But I digress). Only rich people create jobs. Wrong on all accounts! History has proven countless times that the rich just want to get richer and 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, workplace safety laws, or minimum wage laws. We wouldn't need regulatory agencies like the EPA, the FDA, the SEC, just a few of our "citizen" watchdog agencies that our new authoritarian President and Republican Congress want to disband or defund so they can divert that money into tax cuts to rich people. Sigh.

The truth is, though, we do need serious budget cutting, so why care if the NEA is shut down? NEA opponents say that they're not taking away "life threatening" services, though Trump and the Republican Congress are working on that as well, but I digress... again. Ballet and opera companies would shut down, community theaters would close their doors (theater alone contributes roughly $7.1 billon to the national economy), art exhibits would be canceled and small museums would disappear. But, hell, it's only some music, a little dancing, maybe paint, right? Wrong! The more than one million fired people would make unemployment skyrocket, make more families lose their homes, and add to the legions of homeless, making us all suffer. Without that music - that dance - that play - those books - those paintings, we'd lose our very soul. And 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... lord of the flies!

Critics argue: "You get all that stuff on TV. Kids get it in school." Where do these critics live, alternative America? If 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. Goodbye NPR. And forget about school arts' programs unless you're in that favored 1% and can afford to send your kid to private school. Since most Congresspersons graduated high school, art and music programs have all but disappeared from our public school system in a flurry of 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 moneyed elite - those tax break kids who are wealthy enough to subscribe to the opera or the symphony or who can afford expensive theater and ballet tickets.

The huge chasm between the haves and have nots, already escalating, will grow even wider and deeper. With more and more children denied the chance of being uplifted by the arts, challenged to think about the arts or soothed by the arts, hope will be lost for their future, crime will rise, membership in militias and gangs will go through the roof and the need to escape into a drugged stupor may become an American way of life.

The NEA's yearly budget is about .003% 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 taxpayer 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 children, our country and our souls.