What the Presidential candidates have said about federal support of the arts

Chronicle of Philanthropy's Campaign 2012 special section, 9/7/12

BARACK OBAMA proposed slight increases in spending on the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities in his 2013 budget, although they would still be getting less than when Mr. Obama entered Office. Proposed flat spending for Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

MITT ROMNEY would seek "deep reductions" or end federal spending for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Public Broadcasting System. Would tell PBS to seek advertising in place of government subsidies, saying: "We're not going to kill Big Bird, but Big Bird is going to have advertisements." Repeated at the 1st presidential debate he would "stop the subsidy to PBS."


Related: Who in the U.S. Congress supports the arts?

Rob Maguire, ArtThreat.net, 10/13/12

Other than the outrage caused by Mitt Romney's promise to fire Big Bird, there's been virtually no discussion on arts issues leading up to the Nov 6 elections in the United States. Cultural topics have been nearly absent in an election campaign dominated by the economy -- despite the fact roughly 5 million Americans work in the arts in some capacity. With so little to go on, how does one know whether their local representatives support the arts? Fortunately, Americans for the Arts has just released their Congressional Report Card for 2012, which gives each representative a grade from A to F based on their track record. As one might expect, there are plenty of Republicans with F's, and many Democrats with A's, but it is also clear the support for the arts is often a local or personal issue, as congressional votes do always fall upon party lines. You can read or download the full report to find your own representatives through an interactive map.


Commentary: Both parties eye cutting tax deduction for charitable contributions

John H. Graham IV, The Nonprofit Times, 10/15/12

In the middle of an acrimonious election season, policymakers in Washington, D.C., are faced with a looming "fiscal cliff". [The U.S. needs] to determine the best path forward for long-term, sustained economic growth. Regardless of what mix of "revenue enhancements" and spending cuts are used, a healthy nonprofit sector will be critical to these changes. Disturbingly, politicians of both parties are seriously considering plans that undermine the nonprofit sector. Throughout the debates of the past few years, the idea of using the deduction for charitable contributions has been considered a potential "revenue raiser" by both parties, with both casually tossing the term about and ignoring the actual consequences of such a decision. Members of Congress have discussed closing so-called tax loopholes for years, but to classify the charitable deduction as a loophole is disingenuous. In 1917, Congress created the personal income tax deduction for the specific purpose of alleviating concerns about charitable giving at a time of changing tax policy. Progressives were concerned the new income tax rates would discourage people from giving after-tax money to nonprofits, and thus saw the deduction as an incentive for people to donate while reducing the tax hit. Conservatives, likewise, saw the deduction as "an efficient way to distribute public money to charities, as it cut out the government middlemen". It is thus ironic that members of both parties [now] see eliminating the deduction as a way to increase federal revenues and reduce government.


Commentary: What's sad about conservatives' war on Public Television

Alyssa Rosenberg, ThinkProgress.org, 10/4/12

Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon.com has [an] unnerving story about a battle over the future of Alabama Public Television, where a conservative board pushed the network to air videos by a discredited evangelical historian [and rolled] back its long-standing statement in favor of diversity. Alex writes the fight, which is consistent with conservative efforts to demand bogus history and science be accorded equal respect with rigorously tested conclusions, may be a pretext for something much larger. Across the country, public broadcasting budgets are on the chopping block. Republicans in Washington tried to strip funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR has long been a bugaboo of conservative activists, and anti-spending Tea Partyers are opposed on principle to taxpayer funding for public broadcasting. Part of what's sad about efforts to either use public television to advance a particular point of view or to eliminate it entirely is they lose sight of what these programs are actually about: equity of access. As James Poniewozik pointed out, cutting funding for public broadcasting doesn't mean all stations everywhere will go away. Instead, stations with narrower supporter bases, often those that serve poorer or rural communities, will disappear [while] public networks in urban areas with a large pool of donors to draw from will survive. The people going after public television in Alabama may only see their ability to air arguments that America's roots are actually Christianist at stake. It's too bad they can't widen their focus and see that in the process, they may jeopardize children's access to educational programing, and a low-priced way for adults to see sophisticated, family-friendly shows that conservatives and fans of good television alike ought to be on board for.


Commentary: Too risky for candidates to address what divides the U.S.?

Barry Hessenius on his WESTAF Blog, 10/14/12

[S]omething is dreadfully wrong in America.  It goes beyond the economic crisis, the gridlock in Congress, and a world constantly at war; beyond even the growing disparity in wealth or the deepening divide over fundamental beliefs and civil rights. Something is wrong with us as a people. We don't just disagree; we are at each other's throats. We have somehow made each other the enemy.  We are skidding away from being a nation wherein the nation itself is more important than the wellbeing of any one interest. Fame trumps accomplishment; fashion trumps thought; and wealth trumps the need to give a damn about anyone else. [W]e no longer have values which unite us. [Former NEA Chairman] Bill Ivey, in his new book Handmaking America,offers a prescription of what needs to be done to address the challenges. [This book] isn't a step-by-step blueprint.  It IS a vision about how to move forward to re-establish values for America -- values that can bring us a sense of worth and satisfaction that can unite us, that can help us to repurpose life in the 21st Century to the benefit of all. [He] does not center on the value of the arts to our future per se, though he makes a strong "stealth" kind of underlying argument for that very value. This book is really about vision -- or rather a response to our lack of having any sense of where we are going and how we might get there. One hopes it will be a springboard for a wider, serious national discussion; but it will be enough if it is read and discussed.  This is the kind of thinking I would personally like to see come from our candidates.   Alas, it is very likely too risky for any of them to adopt.  


Commentary: What we can learn from the 'dance' of our public officials

Karen Bradley and Karen Studd, Dance/USA's From The Green Room blog, 10/15/12
One international peace negotiator has said all he has to do to understand group conflicts is preset chairs and tables randomly in the room. He leaves the two sides to "set up the space." When he enters, he can tell immediately where the conflicts are. Unsurprisingly, he is married to a dancer. The dancer's eye contains a visual, kinesthetic, and empathetic perspective for taking in much nonverbal information. But when we movement analysts observe [political] leaders and candidates, we are not talking simply about body language. We observe how candidates' verbal and nonverbal messages are either connected or disconnected and how this can support whether someone comes across authentically or not.Does he own the space or give it up? Does she mold and shape her message through three-dimensional use of posturally-supported gestural actions or does she drive home her points with two-dimensional precision? Does he take in the entire room, focus on a specific individual, or easily shift from taking in the whole to honing in on one person? Does she make long overlapping run-on movement phrases or short, deliberate discrete actions? As we observe this year's crop of candidates, we look for the details but also the overarching dance each one is performing. Nonverbal information matters, especially in a time of sound bites and glib verbal responses. As dancers we know the body does not lie, no matter how skilled the mover. We hope pointing such aspects out helps people think about behavior over rhetoric, how style informs substance, and, most of all, we hope our analysis helps people understand why they want to vote the way they want to vote.

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