How do the liberals defend the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio?
They usually find something worthwhile – an NEA grant for a gifted artist or musician with impact, an NEA financial incentive to a an undiscovered talented writer, a CPB allowance toward an innovative historical series, or perhaps an informative NPR public affairs report. There is good stuff, to be sure. But even a thief might use some of his ill-gotten loot to help someone in need. And when the government uses compulsory (what other kind is there?) taxation to decide winners and losers in “culture,” government is a thief.
We also are told how many pennies a day or week are spent, per person (calculated to include every man, woman and child, including infants and “undocumented residents”) in the U.S., for the budget of one of these agencies. How can you oppose spending pennies? Isn’t art and music – the soul of our civilization – worth a few pennies a day? You would think, absent this relatively small portion of “cultural” spending, art and music would disappear. Similarly, without CPB or NPR, where would people get their news?
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With that criterion you can trivialize hundreds if not thousands of dubious federal spending programs. You could spend a billion dollars on a program, and it’s just a penny a day!
The reality is there is nothing constitutional about the federal government’s funding of NEA NEH, CPRB or NPR? The central government is not in the business of picking winners and losers in the arts or literature or who should create, produce and direct television and radio programming.
The NEA and the NEH have funded some impressive artists and writers and meaningful projects. I’ve long been a fan of many programs on public television and radio. And I’ve been a guest on these programs for decades and been treated courteously and fairly. I don’t oppose art, music, literature or news reporting. And I’ve spoken at a fundraiser for a local public radio station. People who watch and listen to these stations should support them, but taxpayers should not be forced to pay the tab, or part of it.
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The reality: money taken through taxation to fund what is not a proper function of the national government is, quite simply, unconstitutional, if not immoral. I am doubtful that state and local governments should use their taxpayer dollars to favor some artists, musicians or writers over others, but such decisions may be a state or local prerogative.
The stakes for liberty are high. I traveled in the Soviet Union at the height of communism. I learned firsthand that only artists and musicians and writers and “culture” were funded if the recipients passed a loyalty test to support what then was a totalitarian regime. We know that the Nazis subsidized pro-Hitler “culture” while exiling and even liquidating some of that nation’s most gifted artists, writers and composers, especially those who happened to be Jewish, or who generally and simply opposed Hitler. If you didn’t read George Orwell’s 1984 to understand how government can tell you what and how to think, perhaps you should consider the closest contemporary version — North Korea, where all culture is in the service of the nation’s supreme ruler. In other words, here’s a country where the government fully funds the arts. How wonderful!
Why should we continue a status quo in which the national government can, at least potentially, deploy federal dollars to support, it not now, then in theory and eventually, a political orthodoxy, perhaps even ultimately the government itself? Indeed when is the last time you saw one of these federal grants supporting, for example, a traditional Christian (man-woman) view of marriage?
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You would think with their arch-villain Donald Trump, the liberals and progressives would be weary of how the administration might deploy funds. Instead, they rallied and lobbied to keep all this funding in place, because the precedent of federal funding is their priority.
No matter that the great philanthropists of our nation, as well as millions of Americans of modest means, support the arts. Instead, the criterion for getting taxpayer money is not whether the art or music or literature has appeal in an increasingly competitive and open market, but whether it appeals to the crony bureaucrats who hand out the largesse.
If ever there were a practical case for public television and public radio, that case has long since collapsed, with the decline of the once dominant ABC/CBS/NBC oligarchy, the development of cable and then satellite television, and then the Internet, websites, blogs, and the social network and vast and real diversity that the free market provided.
So, why am I writing about all this again? Because a few weeks ago the Trump administration took the purist position that caused conservative intellectuals to rejoice. In the past we had too many political conservatives who merely attacked the substance; for example, they would object to taxpayers funding a “Piss Christ” art exhibit, or what they viewed as promoting the “homosexual agenda”; these opportunistic conservatives would question the fairness of reporting on public television or radio.
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But the issue is not substance, but the use of tax dollars in a way that offends the public conscience, no what what your beliefs. The Republicans should be opposing any use of federal tax dollars to favor some politically connected artists over others. This should be a matter of principle.
I just read that the Republican-controlled Congress not only funded, for example, the NEA, but actually increased its budget.
It is almost amusing to see how the liberal gloat. The Los Angeles Times suggests it’s because the NEA gave $499,000 in grants to cultural programs involving the military. You’ll love this: the newspaper reported, seriously, that NEA cuts would eliminate jobs for “chronically unemployed veterans.” Perhaps it would also eliminate jobs for women, African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, gays and, well, you get the picture.
I can recall in the past years certain Republicans in Congress who lobbied to keep these national programs because of a grant to, say, a local symphony; typically, the wealthy symphony’s patrons included Republican donors to the congressman’s campaign. This, in a different manifestation, is the corruption of crony capitalism.
The Designated Survivor television series on ABC is one of many popular fictional programs that regularly promote an ideology of liberalism or progressivism. Last week it even managed to insert into its plot a line about the National Endowment for the Arts not supporting an arts program for high school children in New Orleans. The idea of federal government support for this nexus is not merely a difference of viewpoint; it is ideological.
What does it all mean? Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the “Republicans” have managed to get all the bad press of, for example, eliminating the NEA. But they have not abolished the NEA. They have actually increased its budget! They get demonized for something they should have done but didn’t do.
Do you ever wonder why the Republican Party is called the stupid party?
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