"While government bailouts are being offered or considered for financial institutions, the auto industry, homeowners and so many other needy and worthy sectors, one group is quickly and rather quietly falling apart: our nation’s arts organizations," writes Michael Kaiser, chief plutocrat of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at right, in a piece initially penned for The Washington Post and picked up on the Review-Journal's Commentary page today, Dec. 30.
"In the past few months, dozens of opera companies, theater companies, dance groups, museums and symphonies have either closed or suffered major cash crises," Mr. Kaiser whines. His solution? No surprise: "We need an emergency grant for arts organizations in America."
Why? Because "Unlike other industries, the arts cannot cover the cost of inflation by improving worker productivity," Mr. Kaiser explains. "This is why subsidies — in the form of government grants or private contributions — have long been required to help arts organizations balance their budgets." Meantime, "The arts have historically received short shrift from our political leaders, who all too often seem happy to offer bland endorsements of our work without backing those words with financial appropriations."
Unlike, say, Comrade Joe Stalin, who knew what he liked, funded what he liked with the confiscated wealth of the exiled or executed upper classes, and sent the creators of anything he didn't like to the salt mines, resulting in that great flowering of daring, innovative, breathtaking filmmaking, architecture, and statuary of Russia in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, now known appreciatively throughout the world as "the Gulag Renaissance."
Or were you asleep during that session of Art Appreciation 101?
Without the government subsidies he calls for -- and the political oversight such subsidies always bring -- "We are losing the entertainment and inspiration we need more than ever during this terribly scary time," Mr. Kaiser sobs, hopping from one foot to another like a little boy who should really visit the rest room. "As we try to rebuild America’s image abroad, we are losing our most potent goodwill ambassadors."
Oh, hogwash. From time to time the Kennedy Center honors someone who has created some good music in this country, and then managed to survive an extra 40 years beyond the time of that useful contribution, long enough to be considered "safe" and spirited out of the rest home, trotted out in tails or an evening gown to blink, confused and half-blind, before the appreciative stuffed shirts of Washington society, a jewel-bedecked crowd still basking in the glow of the martyred son of a bootlegger who had enough "culture" to invite someone to play the cello at the White House for God's sake, unlike those embarrassing Republicans who just eat pork rinds and play golf and watch "Victory At Sea."
All very nice. Why not just mail them a check, put them on postage stamps, and spend the rest of the money re-issuing a CD of the songs these old-timers once wailed about drinking wine and getting laid?
Mr. Kaiser convinces himself "the arts" are going bankrupt because he defines "the arts" as the "respectable" art forms of dead generations performed in sumptuous but technologically retrograde clamshell mortuaries -- opera, ballet, the symphony -- which cannot support themselves in free competition with the ticket sales or advertising revenues that support America's REAL "potent goodwill ambassadors" -- Hollywood movies, television shows, popular music, and video games.
All vibrant, constantly innovating art forms seem to be doing just fine, thank you, without a penny of "emergency taxpayer grants."