While we are dealing with a reeling economy, the needs of the poor and disenfranchised, I am always struck by the involvement of our Federal Government in areas that, as a priority from the Federal Government’s perspective, and as such from that of the American Tax-payer, can be best served at a later time – or not at all. Today’s question: Should We the People be required to support the ARTS?
Now I love art, music, culture, but there are those in society that may prefer one over another, some few, some all, and the question comes down to who pays. Take the Symphony – gracious music, the sounds of Bach and Beethoven; then the Opera – wonderful voices telling stories in foreign languages, the idea of Wagner and Puccini; the paintings – beautiful renderings of portraits, landscapes, cityscapes and mental escapes, the vision of Miro, Warhol, Monet and Calder; we cannot forget many other artistic disciplines from sculptor to architecture. The lovers of the Arts are the supporters of the arts – right? Note: The President’s budget requests $161.3 million for the agency (The National Endowment for the Arts – ‘NEA’), an increase of $6.3 million or 4 percent over the NEA’s FY 2009 budget of $155 million. The proposed FY 2010 budget would allow for the distribution of approximately $133 million in grant awards to state and regional arts agencies as well as nonprofit arts organizations in all disciplines across the country to fund performances, exhibitions, tours, festivals, education programs, and other activities. On March 4, 2009 there was a news release from the NEA: “WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the National Endowment for the Arts announces the availability of grant guidelines for The Arts and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Public Law 111-5 (“Recovery Act”). This opportunity was created in response to passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (That’s the same group posting signs on highways around the Country), which includes $50 million to assist the nonprofit arts sector through funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. The new program will fund projects that focus on the preservation of jobs in the arts.” Another $50 million.
In total this may not seem like a large amount, but it is money that the Government and their partners, the tax-payers, might find more appropriately used in other areas. Since it is a small amount let those dedicated to the Arts make up the difference (the loss of Government funding) – let the patrons support directly their love for the arts, with their volunteerism, their dollars and their desire for more in their area of desire. In 1995 the appropriations for this government agency was reduced dramatically (over $62,000,000) and the Arts did not suffer. It can be cut again – even further or completely as the cost of the agency itself has not been factored into the numbers, such as the salary for the Chairman (Rocco Landesman, and his staff).
I do not know how many total employees are in each area but what follows is the Staff Director for the NEA – in parenthesis is the listed senior staff for that department:
- Arts Education (9)
- Dance/Design/Media Arts/Museums/Visual Arts (18)
- Music/Opera/Presenting (11)
- Folk & Traditional Arts/Literature/Musical Theater/Theater (14)
- National Reading Initiatives: The Big Read (4)
- States & Regions/Challenge America/Local Arts Agencies/AccessAbility (8)
- Chairman (4)
- Senior Deputy Chairman (2)
- Administrative Services (5)
- Budget (3)
- Civil Rights/EEO (2)
- Communications (13)
- Deputy Chairman for Grants & Awards (4)
- Deputy Chairman for Management and Budget (3)
- Deputy Chairman for States, Regions and Local Arts Agencies (1)
- Finance (8)
- General Counsel (3)
- Government Affairs (8)
- Government Affairs: Counsel Operations (3)
- Grants & Contracts: Contracts (2)
- Grants & Contracts: Grants (11)
- Guidelines & Panel Operations (4)
- Human Resources (8)
- Information and Technology Management (10)
- Inspector General (3)
- Research & Analysis (7)
There you have a listing of senior staff of 170 with salaries estimated averaging $80,000 or $13,600,000 and we have not included secretaries, other office personnel nor office supplies. If people gave money directly to the Arts they wish to support all of this expense would be eliminated. All this money would go directly to the Arts – the administrative cost eliminated – while also eliminating the bureaucratic maze that many must go through to obtain funding. From the budget noted above, with $161 million budgeted and $133 million going to grants, this suggests about $29 million to department operations. (The added $50 million not included in this figure).
American consumers spent more than $10 billion dollars on admissions to performing arts events in 1997. I cannot find the statistics for subsequent years, but it has grown. Now that is more than was spent on movies or spectator sports. With that in mind why must the Government get involved at all. Certainly as with movies and sports the revenues are more than sufficient to cover the production and staging, as well as staffing and equipping, of new events.
Another area where Uncle Sam can cut back. Just one tax-payer looking for ways to help all tax-payers and the Administration cut reduce expenses.