Anyone who owns a tv, radio, magazine newspaper of is a resident of the United States has been exposed to the media craze that is the 2008 Presidential election. Throughout this entire election period (it almost seems like an era), we have become aware of John McCain's and Barack Obama's positions on policies including the death penalty, health care, education, the war in Iraq, and the environment, just to name a few.
Now before you sign off my blog with thoughts of, "It's only day 4 and she's gone political." Trust me this will not be a make-shift Meet the Press session as my knowledge of politics does not extend beyond the occasional Time magazine issue or the CNN live newsfeed playing at the YMCA.
However, the appropriate discussion to be had here is: where do the arts come into play? And, what are Obama's and McCain's positions on funding for the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and the arts in general.
Americans for the Arts, a non-profit organization for advancing the arts in America, recently asked both presidential candidates to provide their positions on the arts and culture in America. As of today, only Barack Obama provided an official statement to the Americans for the Arts. Therefore John McCain's stance will have to be derived from previous votes and discussions.
Barack Obama's position in his briefing (he provided three) is both promising and hopeful. His briefing included a list of legislation he has sponsored in support of the arts, a list of policy positions on arts issues, and a proposal to create a National Arts Policy Committee. His resume of sponsorship is impressive, but even more impressive are his initiatives including: reinvest in arts education, expand public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations, create an Artist Corps (a la the Peace Corps), publicly champion the importance of arts education, support increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, promote cultural diplomacy, attract foreign talent, provide health care to artists, and ensure tax fairness for artists. Despite John McCain not officially submitting a brief of his position of government supporting the arts, recent history can slightly indicate his position. In 1999, McCain voted for the Smith-Ashcroft amendment, hoping to cut all funding for the NEA from that year's budget. Long before that, McCain voted for the Helms Amendment, which hoped to deny funding to work considered “obscene.” Before we jump to the gun thinking McCain as an "arts hater", he justifies his point well. In a January interview on Meet the Press, McCain discussed government spending. He pointed out that government spending, is the key to tax cuts. If you want to pay fewer taxes, you have to settle for fewer government programs, which is our case is the arts. The National Endowment for the Arts is a perfect example to align this argument of how to improve the country. We can all agree that the arts are important. McCain, and other republicans, would agree that the NEA is not necessary because if the arts are important, people will realize it and they will financially support is providing no need for public funding. If no one is recognizing that the arts are important, then how is it possible for the government, which represents its people, create a programs for its advancement? My thoughts to this are, yes people should recognize, but is public funding and support enough to keep the lights on? It is interesting to see McCain’s standpoint as it is derived from tax and government spending mind-set. I think that McCain wants us to really define the arts for ourselves and create our priority list accordingly.
Whoever is elected this fall, I hope that they will follow President Bush's lead. Despite his disastrous reputation during his time in the Oval Office, the NEA has benefited tremendously. In 2008, the NEA was appropriated $144.7 million from Uncle Sam, this highest amount since 1995. There was also a $20.2 million increase in support from the previous year, the highest increase since 1979. Now those are some numbers worth setting fireworks off for.