General Question

Jaxk's avatar

Will the 'Cowboy Poets Festival' become a casualty of the draconian budget cuts?

Asked by Jaxk (9673 points ) March 9th, 2011

Harry Reid has been railing against the Republican budget cuts. His latest example is that the cuts might cripple the Cowboy Poets Festival in Elko Nevada. Can he really believe that this is a good use of federal funds? Has he cracked under the strain? Can anyone defend this logic?

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38 Answers

WasCy's avatar

Cutting the funds for the festival is mean-spirited enough, I guess, but according to Reid, “tens of thousands of people who attend the festival every year would not exist”.

Damn. Let’s save the tens of thousands of people. They won’t exist without that funding.

I heard it from a Senator, so it must be true.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@WasCy Even the tiniest drop of charitable reading would make it obvious that he means that tens of thousands of people would stop being regular tourists to that area of Nevada. His argument is bad enough—why lose your credibility pretending it’s even worse than it is?

BarnacleBill's avatar

Get your facts straight. Cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcast Corporation is what’s happening in Washington.

Funding for the Cowboy Poets Festival comes from a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m sure the economic impact of the Cowboy Poets Festival on the town of Elko, NV, population 47,071, is far greater than the ever-dwindling funding the federal government allots at it. Heck, let’s just kill a small town and move in the meth cookers and oxycontin traders, like in small town eastern KY.

While we’re at it, let’s quit federal funding to all the arts… Oh wait, that’s what they’re trying to do here.

cazzie's avatar

I think he meant their art wouldn’t exist or we wouldn’t see it so these people would be invisible. If I can use a Titanic metaphor,.... When the ship was sinking, you had a few different types of people. The Republicans are the ones launching unfilled life boats and the Tea Party members are the ones stealing the instruments from the orchestra and trying to row.

iamthemob's avatar

Can I ask why we should be using federal funding to supplement the arts? I think it’s a great thing if we have some extra money around…but we don’t…

cazzie's avatar

@iamthemob it’s called ‘supporting culture’.

WasCy's avatar

@cazzie

It’s sold as “supporting culture”, but what it is what nearly all taxation is, when we get down to it is taking money from some people and giving it to some others, and dressing up the transfer or theft, if you look at it more starkly with rhetoric. The rhetoric is failing here, and enough of the people paying the money to ‘some others’ have decided that in this case it’s insufficient, the money should not be ‘transferred’ to those others, and let’s have a listen to the next speech and decide if we like that one any better. And it’s about time, too.

Frankly, I can’t wait to hear the speeches justifying the two DoEs: Education and Energy, and give a thumbs-down to those cash dumps, too.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Because throughout history, the king and the Church have been the patron of the arts. In a democracy, we are the king. Life needs balance. There would be no Mozart, Bach or Michelangelo without patronage.

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie

That’s great – when it’s fully possible. However, I think the arguments are totally reasonable right now that working people shouldn’t have to contribute tax dollars to cultural ventures (there are plenty of wealthy art supporters) at a time of economic crisis. When art is inherently subjective, there’s no way to know whether or not you’re money is just being wasted. Further, it’s not like culture will “stop” without federal funding.

@BarnacleBill – The resources for the creation of so many art forms are now readily available to most. Live performances may be the exception. However, technology has opened up creative infrastructure such that patronage is not clearly as necessary. And again, although I’m not positive the Fed has a place in the arts anymore at all (well, perhaps on the education side with funding) we’re talking about the budget, which is a temporary measure. There will be another one.

@WasCy – We’ll split on the DoEs. Those are areas where I do think there’s a need for Fed support (both areas are essential to us as citizens), but I think there needs to be a drastic overhaul to the agencies to actually incentivize and innovate rather than just regulate. The uniformity that “No Child Left Behind” seemed to rest on for assessment proved quite unhelpful.

cazzie's avatar

I don’t think I can talk to Libertarians and tea baggers anymore… It’s seriously unsettling my even.

12Oaks's avatar

The festival should be privatized. Do that and watch how much better and more efficiently and better ran it will become.

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – Was that directed at me? Are you saying that my argument is a libertarian tea bagger one?

jlelandg's avatar

@cazzie That’s the way! Throw out sexual-innuendo names for people you don’t agree with. Then you can’t get upset when someone uses terms like Dim, democrat, or my personal favorite: lib-tard.

Jaxk's avatar

Good responsees. I remain however convinced that Harry Reid is cracking under the strain. There may be an argument that State or local governments have an incentive to help with some of these local events. State Fairs or even things like the Calaveras Frog Jumping Contest but not the Federal government. And to use this argument from the floor of the Senate shows a complete disconnect with reality. Pork of the most rancid kind.

iamthemob's avatar

In terms of the Cowboys – of course, if it’s actually a good event, it will continue. If it can’t survive without the government funding, then it shouldn’t have been surviving this long anyway. And the government would do the local economy a disservice to continue this artificial dependence on the event when they could have been developing or attempting to develop new local markets that could actually support the economy with a real, sustainable set of jobs.

cazzie's avatar

@jlelandg what sexual innuendo? That’s just out of line to accuse me of something like that. I did no such thing. I’m not a Democrat or a Liberal. I’m a socialist. I’m living in the top rated country in the world and it’s a social democracy.

edit my response was to anyone who refers to paying taxes as ‘theft’ by the government. utterly ludicrous.

SavoirFaire's avatar

I’m trying to think about this issue alongside something else I’ve got my eye on in a nearby area: the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, which has its own budget issues, has decided to completely eliminate its philosophy department. In response, both faculty members from other departments and philosophers from other universities have called on the school to forgo such “vertical cuts” in favor of more “horizontal cuts.” Yes, the department will have to cut down—even eliminate some faculty members. But surely we can save the department itself.

The most obvious solution, it seems to me, is to stop funding their two emeritus professors and at least one of their two visiting professors. The former are technically retired anyway, and the latter positions are explicitly temporary. This is a little painful to me, since one of the emeritus professors was an inspiration to me as an undergrad. He was willing to respond to my e-mails even though I was on the other side of the country and not at all his responsibility. But that’s how it goes sometimes.

Similarly, I support the National Endowment for the Arts and do not wish to see it cut completely. Yet I cannot see how we justify leaving it at its current spending level. There also seems to be an equally obvious solution as in the first case: stop giving “convenience grants.” Not everyone who receives funds from the NEA is an independent artist. Many of them are also professors in academic departments or otherwise employed. When I was still a music student, two of my professors received NEA grants. That was great for them, and I’m glad they got the money. But they could have lived without it, and they can live without it now.

It seems worthwhile, then, to look at how much money went to independent artists last year and try putting only that much into the NEA’s budget for the coming year (plus administrative costs, though some of that will need to be cut as well). Again, this takes money from people I know and like. Several of my family members are musicians who routinely apply for NEA grants. But they’ll survive without it, even if with a bit more difficulty, whereas many independent artists wouldn’t.

These are deep horizontal cuts, for sure. And yes, I’d love to see the government supporting the arts. But like @iamthemob said: not right now. At least, not at that high funding level right now. Reid’s argument isn’t bad because he’s worried about tourism or a particular town. It’s bad because we need to compromise to avoid vertical cuts and everyone who receives a grant from the NEA has the same sort of moving tale to tell. If there’s really an argument for saving this particular festival over others, maybe it will survive even the deep cuts I am suggesting. Maybe it will survive anyway (especially if the money is mostly to support the festival rather than run it). But if no one allows anything in their state to get cut, we’ll never get anywhere.

And I don’t think Reid is cracking. He’s just playing the same stupid game as everyone else.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@cazzie “Tea bagger” is a derogatory term for members of the Tea Party. Its use as a pejorative comes from a reference to the sexual act referred to as “tea bagging.”

cazzie's avatar

—- @SavoirFaire humm…obviously not up to date with my ‘American Slang’ dictionary. So what to Tea Party Unofficial Party members get called then?

SavoirFaire's avatar

Tea Partiers.

cazzie's avatar

But as I understand it, it’s not actually a ‘Party’ but a movement of some sort that hangs on the skirts of the Republican Party.

iamthemob's avatar

I still want to know if I’m the tea bagger.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@cazzie But it’s still called the Tea Party, thus it’s members are called Tea Partiers. Think of it as a sub-party if you must.

WasCy's avatar

@cazzie

What’s a preferable term for taxes, other than theft? “Extortion?” “Coercion?” Maybe you prefer the euphemistic and false terms “donation” and “contribution”? Or as a socialist do you prefer a term like “sharing”? How else do you classify “someone else’s idea of what you should pay to live as a citizen”?

Tuesdays_Child's avatar

I’m all for the funding of the arts….when our deficit is on the downturn. Right now we are borrowing approx 61 billion a week, so…. our cowboys are going to have to just write their poetry down somewhere for right now. BTW, we also need to cut out the study of the genomes of catfish and any other non-essential funding for programs until we can get our (collective) heads above water, JMO though.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@WasCy How about “necessary element of a working social contract”?

cazzie's avatar

How about being a responsible member of a civilised society.

No, I expect cuts to the Arts and such when times are tough. Bush was handed a balanced budget and then went and mortgaged the country, almost killing it in the process, to finance his privatised oil business buddies and now everyone has to suffer.

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – That’s not completely fair. Bush walked into a shitstorm of war, and Obama into one of depression.

Neither may have had the means to actually handle the budget in an appropriate manner.

But really, who was the teabagger.

cazzie's avatar

@iamthemob Apparently, I have no idea what a ‘teabagger’ actually is. What I meant to say was Tea Party Members.

and ‘walked into’ a war? Uhmm.. He marched into a made-up war with a big smile on his face and his hands ready to pump oil.

iamthemob's avatar

@cazzie – personally, I like “teahadists” – but that shouldn’t be used in mixed company. ;-)

SavoirFaire's avatar

Was just sent this. Not directly on point, but very interesting nonetheless.

WasCy's avatar

@SavoirFaire & @cazzie

This is why it’s good to determine what words and terms mean. I don’t agree in the least that all taxes are “necessary”, and there are lots of “elements of a working social contract” that don’t involve exchange of money in any case. Ditto “being a responsible member of a civilised society” – it has nothing at all to do with taxes. I can be responsible whether or not I have “tax liability”; in fact, some who consider themselves to be “responsible members” of our society do nothing but absorb tax revenues.

You’ve failed to come up with another definition for “taxes”. Is it just that you don’t like to confront what they really are? How much “tax” do you suppose people would pay without penalty if they chose not to? How does that differ from theft, extortion or coercion?

I haven’t said that I believe all taxes are unnecessary or that we should have zero government. I have to add this disclaimer because there are many here who will say that’s exactly what I mean, and yada yada I should move to Haiti and Somalia, etc.

@SavoirFaire

The article was very well written, and the librarian was very well prepared to present her point of view, but… she’s still wrong. Giving “tax breaks” is not “giving money to the rich”. It’s a perversion of the term to think that “taking less of someone’s property” is “giving it” to them. She ought to have known that, but conveniently chose to ignore it for her own political ends.

And I’m not saying that government doesn’t give money outright to well-connected individuals and those who know how to play the games to get it. That’s not what this is about, either.

iamthemob's avatar

@WasCy

Giving “tax breaks” is not “giving money to the rich”. It’s a perversion of the term to think that “taking less of someone’s property” is “giving it” to them.

I think that this is a good point, but I think that it’s a little too literal.

When we consider that there’s indeed a greater value of the dollar to those who make less money, we need to make sure that tax breaks to the wealthy don’t lead to a less progressive system. So, in the case where a tax break to one means that the population making less money is not relieved of any burden, or is relieved of a burden that the tax break of the wealthy outpaces in scope….it’s arguable that across populations, take home pay for the rich is unfairly favored than for her.

Of course, that’s not what she meant, so your point is spot on…but looking at it again, the fairness aspect of her point is still well made.

WasCy's avatar

@iamthemob

We could debate the merits of “progressivism” in taxes, but let’s not do that here. I will allow that I prefer it to regressive taxation, such as our most popular Federal program: Social Security.

The problem that I see is that our progressive tax system, as well as an acknowledged skewing and greater disparity of incomes between those at the top and those at the bottom, is going to end up with a minority of citizens paying for a majority to receive various benefits – and paying little or no tax. When that happens, the republic won’t last, at least not as a functioning republic. We will have arrived at Heinlein’s nightmare “bread and circuses” analogy for failing democracies. Having so many citizens even fail to recognize or admit that it’s happening, as so many here do, only speeds the process.

Jaxk's avatar

I have to echo @WasCy’ point. There seems to be a distinct belief among some that the government is entitaled to your money and property. And anything they don’t take, they gave you. Likewise, those that get this redistributed wealth can’t be disadvantaged by getting less of someone else’s wealth lest that be considered as taking it from them.

At least in a socialist society no one has anything to begin with and gets very little beyond that that.

iamthemob's avatar

It is indeed interesting that we’ve been raised in a way to expect to pay for these things. In all honesty, the more things the government tries to do, the less it does well.

I think we really need to start backwards – determine the essential programs that the government should really be running, and build from there.

In any case, I can’t really see the arts on that program at all, at least for the fed.

Jaxk's avatar

@iamthemob

Yes, I would agree. There is a little known nor seldom used document that kinda describes what the federal government should be doing. It’s called the constitution. You’d be hard pressed to find a reference to the Cowboy Poets Festival or any support for the arts, for that matter.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@WasCy You didn’t ask for definitions, you asked for terms. Nor are your terms definitions—they are characterizations. Moreover, you were speaking of taxes in general, not specific taxes. And taxes as a general phenomenon are a necessary element of a workable social contract (at least given the current state of humanity and technology, put all political philosophy is relative to a time and place). Note that I said ”a necessary element.” Noting that there are others is entirely irrelevant. In short, your entire argument in reply is a non sequitur.

As for the article, I was not endorsing anything in it. I linked it because it had a different suggestion for what taxes are: membership dues for citizenship. We tend to forget that there is no such thing as property absent a legal system capable of enforcing it. In the state of nature, you don’t even own your own body. I don’t need to think that the government is entitled to the pieces of paper it prints, distributes, and makes meaningful in the first place, then, to think that taxes are a good idea.

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