Posted on Back Stage’s blog, 1/29/09
(borrowed from “You’ve Cott Mail”)
The House approved $50 million in additional funding for the NEA. The measure still has to pass in the Senate, but it’s a good first step. The bad news is there are people out there like Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation — you know, the people who brought you the Iraq war, at a cost of $10 billion a month — who think this is a waste of money. “Government policies that make people and workers more productive will increase productivity,” he told NPR this week. “But simply borrowing money out of the economy in order to transfer it to some artists doesn’t increase the economy’s productivity rate. It doesn’t help workers create more goods and services, and it won’t create economic growth.” Actually, for every $1 of federal, state, and local government funding that the nonprofit arts community receives, it helps to generate $7 in tax revenue, according to a report from Americans for the Arts, which says the NEA [also] generates at least $7 in additional giving for each dollar it grants. This $50 million isn’t a heedless giveaway to “some artists” (which we guess Riedl sees as self-indulgent, half-baked baristas reinterpreting Strindberg with finger puppets). It’s an investment in proven winners who give back much more than they receive. And if Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers were generating a 7:1 rate of return, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.