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Thursday, January 27, 2011

more for us

More evidence of Republican zealotry/insanity, as if more were needed: Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas wants to eliminate the state arts commission by spinning it off into a private entity. This would make Kansas the only state in the Union without a state entity to promote the arts. Even [fill in the state you like least] has a state arts commission. The state's annual budget for the arts: $574,000. The Kansas Arts Commission, which is not taking the governor's plan lying down, reports that the state would consequently lose
•$778,300 in direct funding from the National Endowment for the Arts

•$437,767 in indirect grants and services from Mid-America Arts Alliance, the Kansas Arts Commission's regional partner[.]
My math says that would be a net loss to the state of $642,067. Add the $200,000 that the state expects the spinoff to cost, and the total rises to $842,067. That's before taking into account lost jobs, lost taxes on those jobs, and so on, not to mention the impoverishment of Kansan society as creative professionals flee the state. I could, if I were inclined, supply copious, convincing data demonstrating the revenue boost that the arts supply to cities and states across the country, but that's not really the point today.

I am more interested in seeing this as an example of ideological opportunism by the Republicans. We don't need any more data to know that Brownback's costly plan forms no part of a genuine budget-cutting effort. He is simply using the state's economic downturn to carry on the Republican culture wars. (Let me also take this opportunity to remind readers that, as a U.S. Senator, Brownback supported a far-right Israeli plan to annex the West Bank and Gaza deport all Palestinians therefrom.)

In the past, I might have written letters to whomever in Kansas in defense of the arts commission. In college, I organized a postcard-writing campaign to support the National Endowment of the Arts. We generated over a thousand postcards to students' individual members of Congress, and this was during a summer term. And now? 63% of the Kansas electorate voted for Brownback last year. After his fourteen years in the U.S. Senate, they surely knew what they were getting. Making matters worse, the comments from local readers at the Topeka Capital-Journal's website mostly support Brownback's plan and sneer at the arts.

I feel for the good people of Kansas who may now lose the Topeka Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1946, and other cultural riches. But my sympathy is fairly limited, for this is exactly what the people of Kansas chose in their elections. This is democracy at work. If the people of Kansas want to be governed by anti-arts, anti-math maniacs, that is their right. The one note of solace that we can take from this sorry episode: there may be more arts funding for the rest of us, who support the arts not just in the comfort of our seats at the symphony but at the ballot box as well.

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Anonymous 42 said...

"... not to mention the impoverishment of Kansan society as creative professionals flee the state."

Funniest thing I have read since last week's caption contest in The New Yorker.

10:34 AM, January 28, 2011

Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

And that's funny why exactly?

1:15 PM, January 28, 2011

Anonymous 42 said...

The notion of there being creative professionals in Kansas & then a mass migration thereof, is hilarious.

4:51 PM, January 28, 2011

Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

The creative impulse is felt widely across our species, even in Kansas. Fear of creativity and imagination, alas, is also a common human trait.

5:03 PM, January 28, 2011


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