Wow, the Washington Times must be onto something in this editorial today (titled “NEA Scandal Time Line”)…
Nov. 10, 2008: A former National Endowment for the Arts chief is named to the Obama transition team. Bill Ivey, NEA head under Bill Clinton, will handle arts and cultural issues in the transition.
Jan. 13, 2009: Arts groups lobby the Obama transition team for stimulus money. As part of a larger group, Americans for the Arts, the Literary Network and Theatre Communications Group propose to the transition team that more than $1 billion be funneled through the NEA as part of the stimulus plan. All three would later endorse the Obama administration’s health care initiative. Robert L. Lynch, head of Americans for the Arts, meets twice with transition officials.
Late January: An Obama transition official proposes linking NEA grantees to the White House. “I worked hard to try to forge a link between the arts agencies and mainstream policy in the West Wing of the White House. I know that there is serious consideration being given to placing an arts-and-culture portfolio within the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Engagement in the Domestic Policy Council. I worked hard to get that done and I think that will happen,” says former NEA chief Bill Ivey.
So…am I to understand that the head of the NEA under President Clinton, who also served as a member of the Obama transition team, lobbied for more than $1 billion of stimulus funding, and then “worked hard to try to forge a link between the arts agencies and mainstream policy in the West Wing of the White House”? And did I mention that he also worked for Bill Clinton?
OH MAW GAWD!!!! SOMEBODY CALLS THE NEW YORK TIMES IMMEDIATELY!!!
OK, OK, I’m messing around a bit here. The editorial calls it a “scandal” that, allegedly through the influence of that dastardly NEA, arts groups supported the Obama administration on health care reform.
And as far as the editorial is concerned, that’s pretty much it.
Well, I think what we have here is a case of wingnut media trying to work that teabaggin’ “base” into a lather over an alleged dustup with one of the right’s favorite targets (more on that in a minute).
And besides, if the NEA is really “in cahoots” as they say with the Obama Administration, then they have a funny way of showing it; as noted here, they oppose the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” program from Obama partly because it uses test scores for evaluating teachers and calls for an increase in the number of charter schools (kind of hard for me to work up opposition to that, as long as it’s balanced with funding for more teachers and better salaries – as far as I’m concerned, if we really paid people what they were worth in this country, teachers would make more money than anyone else).
Note: Sorry the Education Week link isn’t cooperating…
But more to the point, here is a list of “stim” grants to the NEA (including such “subversive” organizations as the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, Inc., and the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts).
And as noted here in a March story, the NEA puts people to work and keeps them in their jobs, and as a result…
The NEA says it receives far more requests than it is able to fund. During a grant cycle ended Oct. 31, 2008, one category—Access to Artistic Excellence—received more than 1,300 applications requesting $73.5 million. Of those requests, only 886 organizations received a total of just $20.3 million in funding.
“The same will happen with the stimulus fund program,” said a representative from the NEA Office of Communications. “It is very rare that an application is funded at the full amount requested.”
In Chicago, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations generate $1.09 billion in revenue, support 30,134 jobs, and deliver over $103 million in tax revenue to local and state government, according to the Illinois Arts Alliance. In Illinois, 23,643 creative enterprises employ 132,882 people, according to Americans for the Arts.
At the same time, approximately 129,000 artists were unemployed in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2008, a jump of 50,000, or 63 percent from 2007, according to NEA research.
While the artist unemployment rate is comparable to the 8.1 percent unemployment rate for the U.S. workforce in general, the unemployment rate among artists has risen more rapidly. Artist unemployment grew by 2.4 percentage points between the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008, while unemployment rates among professional workers and the general population grew by only 1.0 and 1.9 percentage points, respectively.
But as far as the NEA being a “target,” screeching from The Heritage Foundation and other conservative outlets is typical; this 1997 post tells us, with the requisite harrumphing, of an NEA-funded project called “Ten Cents a Dance,” a three-vignette video in which “two women awkwardly discuss their mutual attraction.” It “depicts anonymous bathroom sex between two men” and includes an “ironic episode of heterosexual phone sex” (funny coming from a source sympathetic to the political party of Larry Craig).
Also, I would argue that Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich’s attack on the NEA when he was former House Speaker was one of the reasons why he was removed from power – I believe people in this country, for the most part, have enough good sense to see the merit of public funding of the NEA (and, indirectly, public television).
And finally, this Fix Noise epistle tells us the following…
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, he said.”These sorts of programs (including the NEA of course) really do need to be funded by the patrons that go to the performances — not by the federal government.”
Which begs the question, who exactly do you think “the government” is?
Update 9/17/09: David Mastio, Senior Editor for Online Opinion of The Washington Times, replied today and told me the following…
“The NEA we were writing about and the NEA in the following paragraph are not the same NEA. Not that I am one to call the kettle black, cause I have written out the name of the teacher/NEA instead of the Art/NEA and then had to go back and fix it.”
I appreciate his response, but I reread the editorial and couldn’t find any reference to the NEA as the National Education Association. If I missed the reference and anyone else finds it, feel free to let me know.
Update 9/28/09: Sure sounds like the National Endowment for the Arts to me based on this.