Saturday, July 2, 2011

Right wing hate list

This week our boy Flaherty announced that if you are a Canadian arts group that receives public money, you'd better prepare for a lean year. Why is it that fiscal conservatives never have a problem slashing the part of the budget that has to do with the arts community?
Most FCs (fiscal conservatives) joyously throw money at heavy industry, manufacturing, construction, and banking, but suffer violent shakes if asked to contribute to playwrights, novelists, or poets. I think they collapse entirely if a dance company shows up with an outstretched hand. “Are you okay? I just wanted to shake your hand.” <Gets up groggily.> “No, I’m fine, I just thought you wanted a grant.”
They were behind the Wall Street bailout. GM and the other failing car manufacturers had to be saved, else jobs would be lost and the economy sink even further into depression. Tar sands in Alberts get millions of bucks in subsidies. Huge corporations get tax rates and cuts that a middle class family would kill for. (“Honey, guess what? I killed a man and now we only have to pay ten dollars in taxes this year!” “What would we get if you killed TWO men?”) But aren’t artists tax-paying citizens too? Aren’t theatres and publishing houses industries as well?
Every one of the FCs is fine with a CEO making 10 million bucks a year, but balk at a world-famous novelist like Neil Gaiman receiving a $10 000 speaking fee. Compare this to Donald Trump, who has pulled in as much as 1.5 MILLION for a single speaking engagement. Now who would you rather listen to for an hour? Frankly, I’d rather play audience to the homeless guy on the corner talking to his own hat than be trapped in a conference room with Trump for an evening.

(Maybe all FCs are secretly failed artists and bitter about it. Can anyone else think of a crazy right-winger who was a failed artist? Hint: he's famous, dead, and had a funny little moustache.)

Of course it isn’t only arts funding they traditionally seek to slash. They suffer similar reactions to scientific research that isn’t directly translatable to immediate profit. Drug research is great, but curing cancer? Meh. Space exploration is right out (at least until they discover the moon is actually a big silver balloon filled with oil).
You can be forgiven for thinking that FCs have a personal grudge against the planet. They revel in the opportunities to strip mine, deforest, poison rivers and oceans, or dump garbage pretty much anywhere not already covered in crud, all in the name of job creation and maintaining a “competitive economy.” Even if pursuing environmental benefits creates jobs, they never seem that keen on the idea. You get the impression if they could instantly remove all trees from the planet for a 500% return on stock investment in the third quarter, they’d leap at the chance. I think Mr. Burns from The Simpsons sums up their attitude best: “Mother Nature started the fight for survival, and now she wants to quit because she’s losing. Well, I say, hard cheese.”
Hard cheese, indeed, mostly for our grandchildren, though our short-term portfolios will never look better. If the FCs have their way, it will be a generation raised in a barren scorched earth, and the only source of entertainment will be watching the flood waters rise.

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