Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bobby Jindal Don't Like No Science And Don't Like No Art-- So That Makes Him A Bona Fide Redneck?


Last night Ken and I were trying to grapple with-- if not exactly "understand"-- some conventional wisdom, namely that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is very educated, very intelligent man and a "policy wonk," or at least what would pass for a Republican version of a policy wonk. His 100% Know Nothing attack on volcano monitoring made him sound like either an ignoramus or a two-bit craven hack pandering to the worst instincts of the purposefully ignorant anti-science crowd that had its day of quasi-respectability when George Bush sat in the White House. Soon after his snide comment about how the federal government (i.e., Barack Obama's new budget) "wastes" money on trying to understand volcano eruptions Alaska's Mount Redoubt exploded for the first time in decades. It's still exploding nearly a week later. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska sent Jindal an e-mail: "I sleep better knowing the scientists are at work ... keeping track of this activity." I suppose the Louisiana electorate is happy Jindal didn't denigrate hurricane monitoring. No amount of media hype will ever persuade me that a man who gratuitously addresses the nation by demeaning science and scientists-- a man, no less, claiming to be able to cure cancer by performing an exorcism-- is actually "intelligent," other than perhaps in a cunning and purely political, manipulative kind of way.

Yesterday Shaun Treat, who got his PhD at Louisiana State University in 2004 and is now an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Communication Studies at the University of North Texas, teamed up with Holley Vaughn, a doctoral candidate in his old department at LSU to warn us about the real life effects of Jindal's politically motivated budget cuts, another manifestation of his exalted status in GOP circles as a "policy wonk," I suppose. Their report:
Bobby Jindal is about to enact a shameful budget cut that will devastate Louisiana's economy by slashing the state budget for the Arts and Arts education by 83%.

Yes, you read that correctly... 83 percent!

This extremist Republican will virtually eliminate a $10 billion industry supporting 144,000 jobs. The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee will be meeting on April 2nd-- which is next week!-- and they are our last hope to stop Jindal from pressing this insane course of action!

We are working to persuade the media to cover this story and give desperately-needed assistance to those Louisianians fighting to keep the Arts and Arts Education alive in our communities and schools!

Investing in the arts is economically productive. It is paramount in revitalizing struggling urban centers and dilapidating historic districts. In terms of civics, these programs foster public discourse and debate and critically activate public memory. Moreover, these programs attract tourism, which is a vital part of Louisiana's struggling economy.

This shameful attack that shows Jindal's true NeoConservative colors!

Now keep in mind that aside from berating scientific pursuits like volcano monitoring, Jindal also gave the finger to funding the National Endowment for the Arts, a perennial Republican Party target. The U.S. Conference of Mayors blasted Jindal after his speech, pointing out that "Louisiana is home to 7,013 arts-related businesses that employ 27,117 people."
In Northwest Louisiana (10-parish region around Shreveport), nonprofit arts groups and their audiences generate $89.77 million in economic activity, support 2,367 jobs, and provide nearly $13 million in state and local tax revenue.

In addition to the arts contributing tremendously to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, the state launched the World Cultural Economic Forum this past fall to showcase the link between the arts, economy, and tourism. It will be expanded in 2009.

Louisiana's Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism launched the Louisiana Cultural Economy Initiative in 2004; in addition to promoting the arts, the program aims to attract businesses related to the arts to the state. Its 2004 report showed that for every state tax dollar spent, $5.86 is returned to the state treasury and citizens of Louisiana.

The National Endowment for the Arts will distribute $50 million of the stimulus funds to arts projects in all 50 states which specifically preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that have been most hurt by the economic downturn.

In 2008, Louisiana received 27 grants totaling $1,343,700 from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The "cultural economy" in Louisiana is very real and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu's office explains that the $2.5 million grants Jindal is trying to eliminate are a tremendous economic boost to every parish in the state. “The cultural economy is a $10 billion industry supporting 144,000 jobs. It’s certainly worth the investment, and the return on the investment has been significant. Our cultural stakeholders have made the industry a significant player in Louisiana’s economic health.”

I think it will surprise most DWT readers to know that I am an honorary officer of the Louisiana Highway Patrol. Even more shocking, the person who appointed me to my position was Governor David Treen, the first Republican governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction! And why would a conservative Republican governor appoint someone like me who leans slightly to the left and ran a punk rock record label in San Francisco's Mission District to such an exalted position? Bidness-- arts bidness. I signed a band from Metarie, the Red Rockers, to my label and their music and videos started getting airplay all over America, boosting Lousiana's image as a cultural center. I doubt Gov. Treen ever listened to their songs or grasped what it meant when critics termed them the "American Clash," but he sensed it was something that would bring Louisiana some business. Tony Award-winning actress Jane Alexander, who chaired the National Endowment for the Arts from 1993-1997, remembers when a Republican Congress gleefully slashed the organization's budget back then and disagrees with Jindal's claim that funding the arts are not in any way "Stimulus" for an ailing economy. Alexander:
What people forget is that there are over 2 million people in the United States of America who are professional artists. Those are jobs like any other jobs. The artists have families, they have people for whom they're responsible and they give to their communities.

We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The life part would be health and housing. The liberty part would be our civil rights. And the pursuit of happiness, the arts would come under that. And it's as vital a part of well-being in the United States as anything else... [W]hat he [Jindal] doesn't understand is that $50 million goes directly ... as a grant to organizations which employ people. It's quick and it's a system that works beautifully and it's done within a year.

There's a great deal that Bobby Jindal doesn't understand-- or makes believe he doesn't understand, which-- Ken reminded me-- is even worse. Like I said, I'm pretty sure Gov. Treen never listened to the Red Rockers and I'll bet Gov. Jindal never has either. I put together a short music clip last year they probably won't want to watch either. You may though:

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At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the coverage, DWT!

We're still spamming news outlets to cover this assinine and backwards political hackery, so we much appreciate the solidarity and commentary!

Sic semper tyrannis!

~Shaun Treat

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous John Scott Dot Net said...

As with other areas of life and the economy, the question isn't whether the thing (in this case the arts) is necessary, it's whether the government should be responsible for funding and helping to administrate it.

You mention revenue generated by the arts. There is indeed a demand. As such, The Arts should survive in the private sector with less federal funding. There may be a benefit to the government stepping back in certain areas.

In other words, what you call asinine might turn out to be "the government getting out of the way", promoting and furthering more that the people want, not what the government wants.

If Jindal cuts the budget in Louisiana enough, presumably the state can lower taxes, giving arts lovers more money to spend on arts. At any rate, there is more than one way to look at this.

Though I disagree with you, this was a good read. Thanks.

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous John Scott Dot Net said...

By the way, I like your Sinclair Lewis quote on the title bar of your site. But here's another one that might interest you.

"“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But under the name of Liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without knowing how it happened.”"

- Norman Thomas

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Scott,

I appreciate the conservative (or perhaps Libertarian) take on Arts funding but, keep in mind, we're also talking about Arts EDUCATION and public venues for cultural preservation (i.e. Cajun and Creole heritage as well as indigenous Native Americans, after school programs for kids, museums and theaters and dance, etc).

I of course philosophically disagree that Arts *should* be entirely dependent upon private patronage, largely because of awareness that most charities and foundations and endowments are also tax-shelters for our wealthiest. The health of a thriving Arts culture is good for all of us and, as such, as much a shared responsibility as traffic lights or public roads. It also attracts job candidates to culture centers and, as such, indirectly benefits ALL business.

A friendly counterpoint,

~Shaun Treat

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you read this, public universities across Louisiana are anguishing over the prospect of massive budget cuts. But, as was the case with "ethics reform," the governor's budgetary "reforms" have not affected his immediate circle of friends.

In fact, the governor pays his top aides like Wall Street bankers. "In the elite category of state workers with salaries of more than $100,000, the state's payroll grew by $96 million in one year," wrote the T-P's Robert Travis Scott. "That amounts to about one-fourth of this year's state budget shortfall."

The Louisiana budget deficit is approaching $3 Million.

At 7:33 PM, Anonymous John Scott Dot Net said...

Mr. Treat,

You make good points. One more from the Libertarian side:

It's seems logical that the arts are low hanging fruit for government cuts. An example: My church just had to cut its budget. What did it cut first? The accompanist for the 8AM service, and the assistant for children's choirs. Those people decided to stick around, but they weren't being paid until the shortfall was met. The arts are very important, but so are a lot of other things.

I'm surprised people aren't more angry about the Jindal Administration all but deciding to close the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH).

Because arts organizations are so well funded from the private sector, and because people of all walks of life support and participate in the arts, it's one of the easiest areas to cut, and also one of the easiest areas to sustain outside of government support.

That's all I'm saying.

I am with you on the thought that the arts are vitally important. But I'm not surprised when it is one of the first areas cut in anyone's budget. It simply makes logical sense.

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, When I saw Jindal in his response to Pres Obama, it seemed as if he intentionally portrayed himself as some sort of caricature of a respected individual. Namely Mr. Rogers. The level of response from a supposed well educated person was disappointing.

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Scott,

I might agree with the Libertarian perspective in good economic times, but a sour economy is another matter entirely for altruism. As mentioned, I feel Arts programs are a *shared* community responsibility, not to mention the jobs they also generate. In short, the Arts programs funded with federal and state money support artisans and programs which also nourish communities and culture.

A couple quick points. First, as far as your trimming-the-fat church analogy goes, the previous link on 'hypocricy watch' suggests the low-hanging fruit may need trimming far less than the high-hanging high-dollar cronies. Your church didn't cut two jobs to finance an obscene pay-raise for your pastor's assistant, right? Second, you seem to have a misconception about arts funding. Federal and state grants often operate as 'matching funds' for private donations, which dry up in times of economic downturns. This becomes self-perpetuating, obviously. Arts *cannot* survive on private sector donations in lean times, hence the necessity for communal (gov't) support to meet valuable cultural needs. You seem to share the value of these programs, and I'm sure you'd hate to see music and theater and art cut from schools, yes? Third, Arts and Education are indeed the first cuts made by conservatives BUT they often give the MOST bang for the buck. Halliburton-style no-bid government contracts and military expenditures are regularly exposed as the most obscenely wasteful and criminally lax, as are tax cuts to multinational corporations that evade taxes with Enron accounting and offshore accounts (even when they want a government bailout, ironically). I also tire of a system that seems to reward the WORST features of BOTH socialism and predatorial capitalism. Point is, Republicans tend to give the wealthiest 1% who control over 70% of American $$ *free passes* while they turn around and cut community or public projects that benefit scores more people. As a Libertarian, I'm sure you'd agree we should better enforce the laws we already have before we go chopping off the arms and legs of our public benefits? That is all I'm advocating.

For a list of specific programs that will be essentially eliminated by Jindal, see this site:

~Shaun Treat

At 7:29 AM, Blogger SFskies said...

I live in a state (New Mexico) and city (Santa Fe) that value their artistic communities. I suspect that if Republicans had their way, programs supporting Arts would be cut here also!

Art does much more than create jobs and tourism dollars. The Arts, in an all-encompassing definition, increase quality of life and enrich people as individuals. Although I cannot quote them off the top of my head, there are studies that show different parts of the brain are engaged by music or pictorial art. I suspect that is true for all sorts of creative endeavors.

It is sad that Gov. Jindal surrendered his intelligence upon converting to his current religion.

At 4:03 PM, Anonymous John Scott Dot Net said...

Mr. Treat:

This has turned into a really good discussion. We keep bringing up more and more that could be discussed in separate threads. Since we both have so much to offer here, I don't want to reply "exactly" tit for tat to everything you just mentioned in your latest comments, but I'll address a couple of things I agree with and a couple of things I disagree with from your latest.

First -
I agree with your comment that I may have left a lot to be desired in my argument about arts funding. I realize that the governmnet often matches private sector donations. I concede that I didn't fully address all the fine points and programs. We could get down to nuts and bolts if you and I were running things, and I bet we'd come to an agreement.

Second -

I certainly agree with the principle that the arts should be tought in schools. We could have a whole other argument about how funding for arts education could be solved. You and I both sharing the common "value" and "belief" of the arts being an integral part of education means that we could agree on a solution. I wish it was that simple. Again, If you and I ran the government, I assure you we could find the right solutions.

Third -

I agree with you that Republicans are *not* fiscally conservative. You gave a laundry list of wasteful (and corrupt) spending enacted by Republicans that I, too, can disagree with, particularly with no-bid contracts, military spending, etc.

You are correct that, as a Libertarian, I am a harsh critic of Republican cronyism.

Now, to what I don't agree with:

You cited tax cuts to corporations who evade taxes being "bad". Obama (and the Liberal Congress) seems to only have a "one pronged approach" to bringing jobs back to America and that is to penalize overseas tax shelters and to levy increased taxes on companies that outsource jobs. The Republicans also only have "a one pronged approach" which is to lower corporate taxes.

I think both approaches hold merit.

If we want jobs to come back to America, we not only need to penalize the exportation of jobs and capital. We also have to create incentives for companies to locate in this country, which means to loosen the Union noose and to lower corporate taxes. We have a staggering corporate tax rate (the 2nd highest in the world at 35%). Ours hasn't budged when the rest of the world's corporate tax rate has been declining for years. It's no wonder the rest of the world is becoming more competitive. We need to slash the corporate tax rate to bring more businesses to this country. More business in the US means more jobs, more tax revenue, and from that more funding for the arts (and other things).

Income from public companies gets taxed twice anyway. Once at the corporation level and once at the shareholder level. What a racket!

I don't view multi-billion dollar corporations as evil, I see them as a wealth of jobs and capital that need to stay within our borders as much as possible. We should endeavor to keep them within our borders by both punitive measures and incentive measures, not purely one or the other.

My second point of argument with you is that the wealthy, as defined by Obama, is a pretty low ceiling. Study after study shows that wealthy conservatives (and liberals, but to a greater degree, conservatives) beleive in private charity and donate heavily. Penalizing them with higher taxes and talking about closing charitable donation tax shelters by imposing a donation tax is a self perpetuating problem as much as the down economy is.

I'm tired of the evil rich rhetoric, when the top 5% of income earners pay 60% of federal income tax.

Charitable giving percentages are hard to give statistics on as succinctly as the tax figures above, because of the thousands upon thousands of organizations out there, but here's a good article by the Wall Street Journal that tells the story on giving. You'll see that a down economy doesn't stop everyone. But taxes might.

I think we disagree more on "background principle" of liberalism vs. conservatism than anything else.

My problem is, the more government does, the more it requires (and subsequently the more it confiscates). This inefficiency is a deflationary and detrimental phenomenon to the economy. (and of course to raising revenue for the organizations we need to support in the arts). Many economists agree with this point of view.

While you and I share some values, we widely differ on our implementation of a sound government.

I respect you, and I wish you well. Thanks for entertaining this discussion and I will check back for your final response.

This conversation has been a real "Treat".

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