Keeping up with the jonesing

My Favorite Thing That Is Getting as Much Money (50 Million Dollars) as The National Endowment for the Arts in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Monument and memorial repairs in national cemeteries

My Favorite Thing That Is Getting Three Times as Much Money as The National Endowment for the Arts in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

The alteration or removal of obstructive bridges

My Favorite Thing That Is Getting Thirteen Times as Much Money as The National Endowment for the Arts in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Costs associated with the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Program

My Favorite Thing That Is Getting Twenty Times as Much Money as The National Endowment for the Arts in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Expenses necessary for the manufacturing of advanced batteries

This is not an exercise in disparaging said projects, but just a reminder of where the arts stand in the priorities of our elected representatives. Again, it’s a question of proportionality, and a double standard about jobs in the arts as opposed to jobs in, say, the manufacturing sector. Though, last time I checked, artists still bought food and clothes and housing and cars, just like everybody else.

And, while we’re at it, a couple of objections to increased government funding of the arts that I’ve seen batted about lately. As for the objection that arts organizations are better off getting their funding from private philanthropy, I’ll remind you that such charitable foundations are finding their giving capacity diminished by the implosion of a banking industry that, despite already getting their incompetence covered by taxpayers, still gave out billions in bonuses rather than, perhaps, reimbursing some of the philanthropic organizations whose money they lost.

That’s rant material, though. What about a more structural objection—that increased government funding of the arts will correspondingly reduce private philanthropy, leaving funding stagnant or even worse off? Some economic theories predict such a “crowd-out” should happen, but as it turns out, the data shows otherwise: Thomas More Smith did the analysis in a 2007 paper on “The Impact of Government Funding on Private Contributions to Nonprofit Performing Arts Organizations.” His conclusion:

Under a number of estimating techniques – OLS, Tobit and Fixed-Effects – this research has provided evidence that, on average, government grants have the potential to crowd-in private donations to nonprofit performing arts organizations in the range of $0.14– $1.15.

Overall, there is a lack of evidence that government grants have a negative impact on private donations and some evidence that government grants have a small positive impact on private giving to performing arts organization.

One other thing: as of this writing, neither the Senate Appropriations Committee nor the Senate Finance Committee have approved drafts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that contain funding for the NEA.

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