Monday, February 23, 2009

Granholm Did Something Right...and More Thoughts on Government Support of the Arts

On the front page of yesterday's Kalamazoo Gazette was an article which tells us that the state contribution to arts organizations, already cut to $6.1 million in the current fiscal year, would be cut to only $1 million under Gov. Granholm's proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Furthermore, this million would be limited to construction projects.

I think it is fair that we commend the governor for taking an unnecessary state expenditure, small though it is in the scope of the state budget, and reducing it by 83.6%. She should also be commended for (in the current fiscal year) making Michigan 50th in state arts contributions—which in my book, amounts to a first place finish!

I do not believe that government has any business taking my hard earned money (via taxes) and giving it to organizations to produce "art." A lot of art, quite frankly, I find either offensive or void of positive value. Government support of the arts is simply not among its constitutional duties.

The article was rather lengthy, and a parallel editorial appeared at the back of the first section. Several observations come to mind in reading these:

  • As is customary in any story of this kind, "artists" and their supporters decry the prospect of diminished government funding. Their quotes usually, as is the case here, smack of entitlement—as if the government existed to support their artistic endeavors. It doesn't. They also decry that this remaining million dollars will be administered through the Michigan Economic Development Corp., instead of "people who know the arts."
  • Much of the state money apparently produces matching grants from (pause for dramatic effect...) the National Endowment for the Arts. Which is also supported by our tax dollars! So Gov. Granholm's cost savings will be multiplied!
  • The above dramatic effect is art. However, I will not condescend to ask the state of Michigan to reimburse me for my artistic contribution.
  • The very title of the article (Can the Arts Community Survive?) is misleading. Of course it will survive. It may not thrive in the same manner, but there is (and will be) a demand for what these folks produce. Capitalistic societies dictate that the demand will be supplied, and therefore the "arts community" will have something to do.
  • It is noted in the article that even in the current economic climate, shows are still selling tickets. Changes in ticket pricing and promotion seem to be successful at some theatres. But this is as it should be—when the market changes, "businesses" (for so they are) must respond to it!
Then there is the math encountered in the article. Consider the following two quotes; the first comes from the article and the second from the editorial:
Jennifer Goulet, president of the nonprofit arts advocacy group ArtServe Michigan....also pointed out that $3.2 million of that MCACA money went toward paying 9,000 full-time and 2,200 seasonal employees. "A cut in funding for MCACA means a cut in jobs for Michigan,'' Goulet said.

But state arts funding is also a job creator. More than 2,000 local jobs connected to the arts scene are dependent on state funding.

Let's discuss these in order. In the first, we are told that $3.2 million funds 9,000 full-time jobs. Even if we ignore the part-time jobs, this works out to an average of about $356 per full-time job! Is this really significant? Are people going to get fired over $356? And if they do, doesn't that tell us that these jobs really aren't that great, financially speaking?

The second "statistic" does not tell us how much of the state arts funding comes locally here to the Kalamazoo area, but let's just assume that we get $1 million (of the $6.1 million), which would be well in excess of our proportion based on the population of the state living in this region. Then we see that these 2,000 jobs get about $500 apiece. Again, is this a job you would want...dependent on the goodness of the state for $500?

And after all, doesn't Gov. Granholm want high-paying jobs coming to Michigan?

It is not the responsibility of government, at any level, to subsidize the arts community. It is the responsibility of all of us, however, to keep our math facts in order.

2 comments: said...

You're another one of those mean-spirited Republicans, aren't you?

Would probably oppose bailout funding going to the arts, too, woudln't you? No class. No culture.

Pfsh. Jobs. Who cares about jobs?


michelles2cents said...

You are quite funny. Once again, although I'm not residing in Michigan, I certainly agree and hold the same opinion. Thanks for doing the math for us!