Arts funding overlooked as path for economic growth

According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts industry (museums, theater and dance companies, performing arts centers, orchestras, arts councils and others) generates $29.6 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues annually. By comparison, federal, state and local governments combined spend less than $4 billion on support for the arts each year. The financial return on government’s investment in the nonprofit arts is, therefore, more than seven times the investment annually.

Because the National Endowment for the Arts  (NEA) supports artistic excellence and improves access to the arts by granting funds to nonprofit arts organizations, I call on our federal officials to support an increase in funding for the NEA beyond its 1992 funding level of $176 million. That funding figure equals $244 million in today’s dollars.

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Our schools need more arts education. Despite including the arts as being one of the 10 core academic subjects, the No Child Left Behind law has helped to push art classes to the side. Schools, especially those struggling, can retain their best teachers by becoming incubators for creativity and innovation, places where students want to learn and teachers want to teach. Students with an education rich in the arts have better GPAs, score better on standardized tests in reading and math, and have lower dropout rates — findings that cut across all socioeconomic categories. Congress should support an expansion of the federal arts education program to provide the best models for schools to include the arts in their curriculum.

Our rural communities contain some of the greatest cultural assets of our country. Rural economic development should be strengthened to help these communities promote the richness of their heritage and assist local artists with their entrepreneurship.

Across the country, the role of the arts as an economic engine is growing in acceptance and strength. I call on all lawmakers to support funding and policies at the federal level that would recognize the growth potential and direct benefits of encouraging cities and states to strategically invest in the arts in order to drive economic development.

While international exchange has been called the “single most successful public diplomacy initiative of the past 50 years,” the State Department has underfunded its cultural exchange programs. Cultural exchange programs promote ties between the United States and abroad by presenting U.S. history, society, arts and culture in all of its diversity, and they should be strengthened.

Public spending on the arts helps position our nation to be competitive globally. America’s arts and entertainment are leading exports, with estimates of more than $30 billion annually in overseas sales, including the output of artists and other creative workers in the publishing, audiovisual, music, recording and entertainment businesses.

Washington, D.C.


Chained CPI will hurt those on Social Security

From Duane Adkinson, vice president of the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans, Wake Forest, N.C.

As The Hill reported on March 22 (“Senate on record opposing use of chained CPI”), Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C) supports using chained CPI [consumer price index] for Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) except for veterans. I’d like to demonstrate why this makes no sense.

The idea of adopting chained CPI for Social Security as part of deficit-reduction efforts is bad policy because the program does not contribute to the deficit to begin with. It’s also bad policy because the current COLA rate underestimates inflation experienced by seniors and people with disabilities; because Social Security benefits are modest by virtually any measure; and because the nation is facing a retirement income crisis and cutting Social Security will make that crisis worse.

The vast majority of beneficiaries — veterans and others — lives on extremely modest means, and cannot easily absorb such a large cut to their benefits. In fact, the notion that we can humanely implement the chained CPI cut by carving out certain groups — and still achieve considerable budget savings — is false.

For proponents of chained CPI to say it is a more accurate measure to use on the one hand, and then call for exceptions on the other — they can’t have it both ways! Chained CPI is a flat-out benefit cut for Social Security beneficiaries. The fact is that beneficiaries cannot withstand this type of benefit cut. It is not fit for our veterans, and it is not fit for our seniors.  


Mental illness does not mean you’re dangerous

From Julia Dunster, Kidron, Ohio

I’m bipolar, and the public discussion on mental illness after the Connecticut shooting has felt intimidating and angering. Am I suddenly considered dangerous and incapable of owning a gun simply because I have a mental illness? 

I am monitored regularly by a psychiatrist, and I have been on the same medications for more than 25 years. I feel it would be a huge disregard of my personal integrity to have to “register” because of my illness. My psychiatrist would affirm that I am not a danger to anyone. 

Mental illness does not mean crazy. I have a college degree, and I have raised four wonderful, successful children. They are intelligent, kind and generous. I know the limits of my illness and I carefully guard my mental health by not committing myself to tasks that would be overwhelming. I do not believe my illness or my lifestyle warrant a Big Brother presence in my life. The only thing that has been denied me because of my illness is health insurance, but that’s a whole different topic that angers me.