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Home / Articles / News / Opinion /  Zane's World
culture-vulture
Congressional Republicans are hunting for cultural carrion once again.

Zane's World

Culture Works

January 26, 2011, 1:00 am

According to Edison Research, the company that conducts exit polls for national elections, two out of every five voters in the 2010 midterm elections ranked “spending to create jobs” as Congress’ top priority. Job creation was near the top of the congressional wish list for the remaining voters, as well. But it appears that, in 2011, as with 2010, only a barely discernible sliver of total gross domestic product will go toward active job creation and training, despite voters delivering to Congress a partisan power shift.


Fortunately for voters, newly invigorated Republicans do want Americans to have jobs. Unfortunately, they’d like those jobs to consist almost entirely of cheap labor. You won’t find any Republican plans out there that involve spending to create jobs and spark innovation, but you’ll find quite a few that aggressively attempt to eliminate employee rights, long-held labor tenets, safety and benefits and, of course, anything remotely related to culture.


I receive a panicked email or Facebook message every couple of weeks from someone sounding the alarm regarding a conservative attack on public broadcasting or the National Education Association. These missives usually are from internet novices who don’t realize they’re recycling an old petition or the same kind of irrational, alarmist propaganda that makes conservatives think the government is going to ban guns as soon as tomorrow.


But Republicans are steering us back toward the culture wars. Or, more aptly, the culture war of the mid-’90s never ended; it just went cold, and now some lawmakers are trying to push it to go hot again.


The Republican Study Committee’s Spending Reduction Act of 2011 may not have much chance of passing the current Congress but, as a no-holds-barred hit list of things Republicans would like to destroy, it’s pretty informative. And yes, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are right at the top of the list of cuts.


The plan, which aims to cut $2.5 trillion out of the federal budget over the next 10 years, also assaults community development and housing funds; heritage and preservation monies; public transportation; organic certification; health care; alternative energy; innovation stimulus; and the wage-guaranteeing Davis-Bacon Act, which Republicans actually do try to destroy even more often than the NEA and Public Broadcasting. Basically anything and everything that is not related to the military or the corporate interest status quo is in the crosshairs.


Oh, yeah, the other big component to the Spending Reduction Act is to radically cut the number of federal employees—kind of the opposite of “spending to create jobs.”


A lot of us liberal types think of the connection between jobs and government spending on culture this way: The $1.6 billion the federal government allocates to culture (approximately 40 percent less than before the “culture wars”), contributes to 5.7 million jobs, as well as the annual generation of approximately $30 billion in local, state and federal taxes.


But the far right thinks about culture spending differently. First, culture spending results in culture production, which has a direct correlation with independent thought. Independent thought, it turns out, is not a useful component for a docile, low-cost labor force. Second, the far right wants that money.


You see, money doesn’t actually exist, but it also never goes away. Money cut from existing programs might be theoretically chalked up against the deficit, but only a poor student of history would trust the Republicans on this front. Every presidential administration in history has increased the overall debt, but only Republicans have increased the debt relative to GDP. Whenever Democrats have increased debt, national income has outpaced that debt and the net result has been arguably positive.


Former Securities and Exchange Commissioner Bevis Longstreth penned on Jan. 20 for The Huffington Post an editorial in which he argues valiantly for a second Works Progress Administration. In other words, he’d like to see the government spending on job creation that many voters claim to desire. What’s more, he’d like to see some of that spending go to “cultural” jobs and projects, just as it did with Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal.


Republicans will tell you that the New Deal was socialism and entitlement charity of the worst kind, and that to consider such an endeavor would be the death of private business. But Longstreth reminds us of Roosevelt’s words before Congress:

Continued dependence on relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers.

I guess it’s a cultural difference.

Follow Zane’s World on Twitter: @Zanes_World

 

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