July 8, 2012

"We Built Way Too Many Cultural Institutions During the Good Years."

Did we? And who are "we"? "We" are all those cities across America who think we can be Bilbao, that if we build it, they will come.
Per capita, the biggest total spenders on cultural projects during this period were Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont region of California, Appleton and Madison, Wisconsin, and Lawrence, Kansas....
We seemed to buy into that Richard Florida/"Rise of the Creative Class" theory "that if we have cultural amenities, we’ll have better, more creative populations."
The biggest arts building boom in fact occurred in the South, a potential sign of cities there trying to catch up with the rest of the country. 
Look! We're not as backward as you think!
"These projects are very much emotional, they’re projects that have a lot of passion in them.... A lot of the rationality that goes into running a business sometimes doesn’t go into these projects."
Hey! That's a nice summary of the problem of letting government do anything.

37 comments:

mesquito said...

If it were not for their constant and thankless toils we would have no culture.

Phil 3:14 said...

Yes, in Maricopa county every suburb had to build its own "_______ Center of the Arts" (Tempe, Mesa, Chandler etc. )

madAsHell said...

The Catholic church supported Michelangelo because his art helped communicate their message.

The government supports artists because it...???

Every polished turd becomes art.

Bob Ellison said...

We can be a hobbit?

Paco Wové said...

"We Built Way Too Many Cultural Institutions During the Good Years."

Is that anything like, "Duuude, I did way too many Jäger shots last night?"

edutcher said...

More like, "We threw way too much money away on stuff that stroked our egos during the good years"

Roger J. said...

It will be interesting to see how Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art fares in Bentonville Arkansas--Armed with over a billion dollars a Walmart heirs has built a wonderful art museum--fabulous architecture and a great collection

Cedarford said...

Let us also admit that we have been far too sloppy in our tax policy in allowing the very rich to divert tax revenue away from government ops into some very dubious "cultural" donations in the name of charity. Why have to pay taxes when you can spend it on a 70 million dollar Panda exhibit or pay some Romanian auteur to build some ghastly chunk of modern sculpture outside your corporate HQ that you can write off as "for the common man's enjoyment" as they walk by??

(Or in America's foolish green light to billionaires for transferring wealth gained in America they would have payed taxes on, into foreign countries for the needy's "needed" new museums, colonial exploitation by whites museums, Holocaust memorial tree groves, free medical care facilities. )

lemondog said...

The government supports artists because it...???

... has a complusion to spend taxpayer $$$$ and rather than invest in crumbling infrastructure that will eventually give returns (but that requires foresight and a willingness to in engage in direct talk with voters and possibly incur their wrath), it must have the voters see it as cool and hip and sooo chic chic.

Larry J said...

edutcher said...
More like, "We threw way too much money away on stuff that stroked our egos during the good years"


Yes, policians use any "extra" money in the good times to set up new projects and programs to buy votes. When the inevitable hard times return, rather than cut spending, they try to raise taxes to keep the unnecessary projects and programs running.

As the proud parent of a sailor, I hate it when people say that politicians are "spending like drunken sailors." First of all, it's an insult to compare sailors to lowlife politicians. Second, those sailors are spending their own money.

Politicians spend with less fiscal discipline than a spoiled 13 year old "princess" with full use of her daddy's platinum card.

Palladian said...

Here's a clue: true "creative types" usually want nothing to do with places full of predigested, government-approved "cultural institutions". Non-commercial institutions for contemporary art are usually poison for actual important artistic development, and there's little as detrimental to the creative spirit as living in a community that's engineered to be "cultural".

The Catholic church supported Michelangelo because his art helped communicate their message.

Not true. Certain officials in the Roman church commissioned work from Michelangelo because it was extremely fashionable, rare and prestigious, and they wanted that sense of fashion, privilege and prestige to reflect well on them. That's the reason most rich people have commissioned work in the history of western art.

AJ Lynch said...

I believe the non-profit segment of the economy was the fastest growing of all segments in the last 20 years.

edutcher said...

Roger J. said...

It will be interesting to see how Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art fares in Bentonville Arkansas--Armed with over a billion dollars a Walmart heirs has built a wonderful art museum--fabulous architecture and a great collection

Unfamiliar with the project, but, as it was done with private money from a company with a good business model, it should be able to be well-maintained for a very long time.

Cedarford said...

I wholeheartedly buy into the argument that a very rich man's money is his to spend as he pleases...provided that is in post tax dollars...not pretax funds claimed his to spend as he pleases in dubious cultural "donations" or money to Africans that serve no great American public good in lieu of paying taxes.

It is not just government funding these arts and cultural edifices and Greek Islands coatal cleanups for tourist aesthetics that hardly enhance a typical American's life....you have to look at the money diverted from needed gov't revenue by rich people's charitable donations loopholes.

Expat(ish) said...

Amusingly in Durham, after many failures of public worx, we build the Durham Performing Arts Center. It's now the 5th highest volume indoor stage in the US. Seriously weird, though they did do quite a good job with it.

So maybe the issues is that most of these things are poorly done?

_XC

PatCA said...

It's ridiculous--I have at least five performing arts centers within ten miles of me. They all duplicate the entertainments of each other. If you want to see poorly written, depressing plays or a band of Chinese acrobats every week, you're in clover.

I shudder to think of the money we are on the hook for.

Mr. D said...

I grew up in Appleton. The Performing Arts Center there is very nice and it brings in a lot of the same shows that play in casinos.

Rusty said...

Cedarford said...
I wholeheartedly buy into the argument that a very rich man's money is his to spend as he pleases...provided that is in post tax dollars...not pretax funds claimed his to spend as he pleases in dubious cultural "donations" or money to Africans that serve no great American public good in lieu of paying taxes.

It is not just government funding these arts and cultural edifices and Greek Islands coatal cleanups for tourist aesthetics that hardly enhance a typical American's life....you have to look at the money diverted from needed gov't revenue by rich people's charitable donations loopholes.


So. All wealth belongs to the government until they let you have some?
What in the world would make you think that governmet will spend money any more wisely than a private citizen?

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I quite like the idea, per Andrew Breitbart, of a Piss Obama piece of art paid for by private funds, located in Chicago.

The corrupt Chicago PD could arrest and imprison daily vandals unable to allow an opposing point of view presented crudely, like conservatives have to pay for and endure daily.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

#27. Horsefeathers. If we have sunk so low in this country as to tolerate and condone this sort of thing, then we become a part of it.

#28. The question is obvious. On what conceivable basis does anybody who would engage in such blasphemy and insensitivity toward the religious community deserve to be honored? The answer to that is: he does not. He deserved to be rebuked and ignored because he is not an artist. Anybody who would do such a despicable thing - and get $15,000 in tax money for it - well, it tells you something about the state of this Government and the way it spends the money taken from the taxpayer." Sen. J. Helms

Marshal said...

"Rusty said...
So. All wealth belongs to the government until they let you have some?"

There's nothing wrong with taxing people equally. Removing the charitable deduction would be eliminating government influence, as now they are using tax policy to promote social interests. As usual the goodwill is largely wasted and the beneficiary NGO complex largely functions as a jobs program for otherwise unemployable leftists.

The best approach - of course it could never happen - would be to eliminate the deduction and drop marginal rates to compensate.

Wally Kalbacken said...

But there may be an accounting problem with Madison in this view. Is if fair to say that Madison spent more per capita, or would it be more accurate to say that Jerry Frautschi and Pleasant Rowland spent more per capita? The city is squabbling over the operating budget, but the capital cost was essentially a charitable donation.

Cedarford said...

Rusty makes the libertarian argument about Freedom for Freedom Lovers to spend 100% of each dollar they make on what they want since we don't need no stinking gummint military, law enforcement, roads, social security, etc.

------
So. All wealth belongs to the government until they let you have some?
What in the world would make you think that governmet will spend money any more wisely than a private citizen?


What I am saying is that if Congress is elected and budgets X money, that counts on each citizen paying X percentage of their income after reasonable and proper deductions....part of sustaining that system is not to continue to allow highly dubious charitable contributions that allow the rich to reduce their taxes well below X percentage.
Bill Gates wants the Freedom!! to send part of the billions he made in America to Africa, illegal aliens lawyer resource funds, or huge MLK statues in Chicago instead of funding US programs like other taxpayers.....
fine....
Let him be generous with his post-tax dollars.

Zach said...

Lawrence doesn't belong on the list. It's a short drive from Kansas City, has a major university. Building arts projects isn't overinvestment, it's gentrification.

Larry J said...

What I am saying is that if Congress is elected and budgets X money, that counts on each citizen paying X percentage of their income after reasonable and proper deductions....part of sustaining that system is not to continue to allow highly dubious charitable contributions that allow the rich to reduce their taxes well below X percentage.

That sounds like everyone should pay the same percentage of their income in taxes, a flat tax. I agree. There is nothing moral or just about charging people different tax rates based on their income.

Of course, that's far from what we have today. The top 10% of income earners pay the overwhelming majority of all income taxes while the bottom 50% pay virtually nothing.

Mary Beth said...

We can be a hobbit?

What Bilbao made me think of too.

I was going to comment earlier but I got distracted thinking about second breakfast.

cubanbob said...

What I am saying is that if Congress is elected and budgets X money, that counts on each citizen paying X percentage of their income

If you stopped right there you would have a point. But once you get in to 'reasonable and proper deductions' then its an issue of whose definition. I live in a state that doesn't permit state and local income taxes so therefore all else being the same residents of my state pay a higher portion of their income to the federal government that those residents of states that have local and state income taxes and are able to deduct those. From the perspective of the residents of my state those deductions are neither fair, reasonable or proper.

Cedarford said...

That sounds like everyone should pay the same percentage of their income in taxes, a flat tax. I agree. There is nothing moral or just about charging people different tax rates based on their income.

Of course, that's far from what we have today. The top 10% of income earners pay the overwhelming majority of all income taxes while the bottom 50% pay virtually nothing.

====================
The flat tax, floated every few years by conservative plutocrats or think tanks paid by conservative plutocrats falls apart on the obvious problem of a certain amout of income is needed for essentials..the money left after that is disposable income...and the rich have a much greater percentage of their money left after essentials are paid for.

That is the basis of progressivity.

As for the other conservative plutocrat argument about the poor oppressed rich paying already for a lot of the taxes, and they need more tax cuts as "jobs creators"....

First, 10 years of tax cuts mainly benefiting the rich created no jobs.
Second, if you have concentration of wealth and all new gains going to the same people....you have a Latin American oligarchy situation...300 families controlling 90% of the nations wealth and getting 87% of the income saying the country has to be grateful to them because they already pay "more than their share" of taxes at 93%. (except all those local and regressive fee hidden taxes they put on the Latin American peasantry.

damikesc said...

Let us also admit that we have been far too sloppy in our tax policy in allowing the very rich to divert tax revenue away from government ops into some very dubious "cultural" donations in the name of charity. Why have to pay taxes when you can spend it on a 70 million dollar Panda exhibit or pay some Romanian auteur to build some ghastly chunk of modern sculpture outside your corporate HQ that you can write off as "for the common man's enjoyment" as they walk by??

...because government using it never leads to sheer waste...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It is like the people who saw the "on paper" equity value of their homes rising ever up and UP. Took out equity loans, bought motor homes, ski boats, fast cars and other glittery status things that felt good at the time.

NOW. They are stuck with deflated values of their homes, piles of debt and a big oil spot on the driveway under that behemoth motor home that they can't afford to put enough gas in to drive it over the nearest cliff.

Some people never learn. Unfortunately with the government they are using OUR money.

Carol said...

Haha, the bien pensants in my town were a little late pushing for a performing arts center, though there was talk of trying to get the city to donate prime land. Figure out how to fund the building later, of course. Surely something Wonderful will happen!

But the housing bust happened instead, thank God. All Big Plans now on hold.

ampersand said...

Finally,a piece of crap Artwork privately funded.

wef said...

opm projects sometimes work out, but, you know, who cares? - it's Other People's Money

gk1 said...

In a few years you can replace that with "We built too many high speed rail projects during crappy economic times" Rinse, wash, repeat.

Marshal said...

"gk1 said...
In a few years you can replace that with "We built too many high speed rail projects during crappy economic times" Rinse, wash, repeat."

Speaking of which I saw Fallows at the Atlantic has another whiner about "infrastructure". If infrastructure is so critical you'd think they might have been able to find some projects to spend that on. It's slmost like this infrastructure guy is just an excuse.

Biff said...

Speaking of backwardness, earlier this week a colleague from Cambridge, MA was trying to convince me to join a project that he was planning to pitch to a potential client in a part of Pennsylvania that he called, "The Alabama of Pennsylvania." He did not mean that as a compliment. I'm familiar with the area, which features stunning landscapes (often seen in car commercials, but sometimes marred with wind farms), symphonies, cultural centers, colleges and universities, a top-notch health care network, and the potential client is itself a billion+ dollar leader in a high tech field, employing rafts of PhDs and other professionals. Maybe the part of Alabama my clueless colleague was thinking of is NASA/Huntsville. The thing about my "sophisticated" Cambridge/Boston/NYC colleagues that really grates on me is the pride they take in their ignorance of the rest of the country.

Rusty said...

All you had to sat C4 is that you prefer a flat tax.
I won't argue with that. I would go as far as to eliminate the personal income tax altogether and increase corporate taxes or a national sales tax. And a 1% tax on all bank transactions by non citizens.