In the wake of President Trump submitting a budget proposal that calls for the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), an enterprising reporter from The Washington Post decided to attempt to generate support for continuing the NEA gravy train by investigating "arts" projects that didn’t involve funding plays where stabbing Trump to death is viewed as a positive plot development.
That pretty much eliminated any projects in the New York City to Washington, D.C. corridor, so he had to head south.
But before regaling us with tales of civilization being introduced in darkest "deplorables" land by missionaries from places overseas, he first had to show how unnecessary and futile the cuts are in the first place.
When a member of the opposition media is reporting on a government expenditure he opposes, say missile defense, the reporting stresses the fantastic cost the program represents, expressed in millions of dollars — without providing any favorable context.
When the opposition media is writing about an expenditure it supports, the NEA for instance, cost is always expressed as a miniscule portion of the gargantuan, bloated, impervious federal budget: "The total money at stake at the four agencies — about $970 million— is a drop in the $3.9 trillion federal budget."
With that out of the way, the story attempts to demonstrate how this mean-spirited, pointless cut will only create irreparable harm in the misguided states that voted for the pincushioned president.
Which is how he wound up reporting from Big Spring, Kermit, and Odessa, Texas while mentioning the University of Texas at the Permian Basin (UTPB). Your tax dollars were at work in a 16-ft. trailer sporting the logo, "Art Works. arts.gov." The caravan of culture departed from UTPB en route to a Big Spring arts festival.
Upon arrival out came a kiln, pottery wheels, silk-screen press, boxes of blank T-shirts and wet clay. Lines formed immediately, and why not? Everything was free! One local teacher explained her daughter was busily making a cup because," We’re trying to teach Madison that there’s a whole world outside of Big Spring, Texas."
In Kermit the trailer inspired a teacher to convince her administration to buy 18 pottery wheels for high school art classes.
Christopher Stanley, one of the beneficiaries of NEA funding, demands, "I know for four years we’ve been able to give a gift back to these communities that was funded by the federal government, and nobody else was doing it. . . . Show me where this is bad."
I’m glad he asked. It just so happens I’m perfectly positioned to offer a second opinion since my cousin was formerly sheriff of Big Spring County. I worked in Kermit, I lived in Odessa, and I’m a charter member of the first athletic team UTPB ever fielded.
I can understand how the reporter and arts functionaries might be unfamiliar with my example — we travel in different circles — but what they are doing is offered equally free in vacation bible schools around the country, including West Texas.
Kids make earnest but awkward pots and colorful T-shirts — all without any funding from Uncle Sam. Since it lasts a week there’s even time for macaroni art!
Unitarian parents who are interested in showing their children there is a "whole world outside Big Spring" can take little Belgium to the local YMCA or Boys and Girls Club and take crafts courses that last more than an afternoon.
Parents and local officials are more than competent to decide what cultural enrichment is to be offered locally without the great white father butting in. The fact the people getting the freebies are in favor of the program is irrelevant.
Who looks a gift horse in the mouth, particularly is someone else is buying the feed?
In an unintentionally damning aside, the reporter writes, "Culture agencies are as politically shrewd as the Pentagon at sowing taxpayer dollars in seemingly every congressional district." Exactly. A few pennies showered on deplorable districts will result in hot phone calls from local "arts" bureaucrats when the money is threatened.
The old spoils system existed back when government jobs were doled out to supporters of the winning political party. The new spoils system consists of government bureaucrats ensuring job security by showering spoils on enough congressional districts to make funding cut proof.
The Washington Post wonders how anyone can object to "just 92 cents per capita" that funds the NEA? A better question would be are you getting your 92 cents worth when 44 cents goes to overhead costs at the NEA?
Laundering tax dollars through Washington to support throwing pots in Big Spring or throwing knives at Trump is both inefficient and infantilizing. Local people can persuade local officials to support worthwhile projects as the Kermit art teacher proved.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher for the League of American Voters, and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.
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