Less Than Zero

In the year ahead, Texas plans to reduce its arts budget by 77 percent; Wisconsin by 67 percent. Kansas will eliminate arts funding altogether. Even New York, with an economy that is driven by culture, will cut funding by 12 percent. Since National Endowment for the Arts statutes don’t allow a state to receive a distribution without an arts budget, Kansas will receive no appropriation from the NEA either, leaving the arts without a penny of public support in that state (“As Appropriations Dry Up, Arts Infrastructure Is Dismantled“).

One of the main reasons economics in general, and the discussion of politics in particular, bugs me so much is that so little energy seems to be devoted to what we want to do as opposed to what we are supposed to do. Or, at least, what we are told we are supposed to do. It’s an obvious point, but it’s worth asking: do we want the wealthy to get wealthier or do we want the arts in our schools and in our communities?

What we are supposed to do, what we are told we have to do, what Europe is being asked to do, and what the U.S. will be asked to do soon, is to set aside our desires so that material privilege and profits can be protected. In the schools, administrators rarely cut their own salaries or trim their own budgets in times of crisis, and in the economy at large corporations rarely accept reduced profits in the name of the public good.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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