Missing the Worst of a Speech to Concentrate on the Outlandish
Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, gave a speech and one paragraph is getting a lot of attention. In my view we are criticizing the wrong paragraph. It is an example of missing the worst of a speech while concentrating on an outlandish comment. Here is a link to the text of the speech. Here is the section people around the internet are laughing at:
My answer is pretty simple. There is a new president and a new NEA. The president first. This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.People are criticizing that statement for several reasons. Obviously, there is the growing speculation that Obama actually had a ghost writer. Then there is the fact that there were several presidents between Theodore Roosevelt and now who wrote several books. Eisenhower wrote Crusade in Europe after World War II. Nixon was a prolific writer with around ten books to his credit.
However, Landesman's speech included stupidity far beyond the historical ignorance he showed in complimenting the guy who gave him his current position.
My colleagues in Washington cringe when I use words like “pathetic” and “invisible” and “embarrassing” to describe the NEA budget, so let’s just say that the funds we have to work with are “not that large.” England is the European country that is the worst public supporter of the arts. Their budget? $900 million. That would translate with our population to an NEA budget of $4.6 billion. That’s not going to happen here in my great grand-kids lifetimes. But there are some significant things we can do with even modest amounts of new funding.So the standard of wasteful spending we should be aiming for is the European model? NO, NO, a hundred times NO! Not one dime should be stolen from tax payers and spent on the arts. If people want to fund the arts they can reach into their own pocket and fund the arts. Politicians reach into other people’s pockets and then act like they are personally being generous. Can any of the politicians in DC actually read the Constitution and explain to me where it authorizes funding of the arts? He cites Europe’s spending on the arts as a comparison to make it seem we are spending too little. Ridiculous. European history of funding the arts is a remnant of the days of monarchs. Our nation was formed as a representative democracy not a monarchy. Beyond that, government funding of arts (or newspapers, auto manufacturers, etc) leads naturally to censorship and other forms of controls. Additionally, what Landesman fails to acknowledge is the citizens of this country individually fund the arts voluntarily with a whole lot more money than the NEA. People going to a Rolling Stones concert or to a local club with a band or who pay admission to a museum are all funding the arts. Difference is that is money going to artists that actually earn their pay rather than being given it by some government grant board. If they can't make it without a government grant then they should go into another line of work.