GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN, ANARCHY ENSUES

via George Takei's Facebook page.
via George Takei’s Facebook page.

NASA, Panda Cam, the Smithsonian – all shut down. More detrimental in the long-term, the FDA, CDC, DEA, and DOJ are all shut down, too. So, regulation of pollution, contamination, drugs, products, and criminals – all gone.

While this is a terrifying thought, I’m actually more sad about the loss of the Curiosity Rover’s Twitter. I’m also interested in the impact on theatres in the next few days/weeks (however long it takes for Republicans to realize this isn’t fiscally responsible/completely crumble, or for Democrats to totally cave in).

Although apparently this massive hissy-fit will add lots of dollars to the already impressive debt we have going, so far, there’s a lot of unhappy federal workers, but otherwise, people still have to go to work and deal with their families and use the interstates, the buses are still running and grocery stores are still open, and taxes are still being taken out of our salaries and our purchases.

Naturally, there’s a blog post on how the federal government shutdown will effect the arts in our country. This is mainly because many artistic organizations, from museums to theatres, rely on large grants from the government to keep going. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it is interesting to consider how it might effect the balance of large vs. small theatres.

From Kate Ostrander at ARTSBlog.org:

  • During the federal shutdown in 1995, the vast majority of the staff members at the National Endowment for the Arts were sent home, leaving six staff on duty. This means that grants aren’t processed, programs and events are halted and NEA partners, including the 50 state arts agencies, are cut off from their primary federal cultural agency.
  • Head Start, a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families, is reliant on federal dollars.  Look for these programs to shut their doors on critical work incorporating arts education into early childhood development programs.
  • The facilities of the Smithsonian Institution, including museums, and zoos will be closed every day the shutdown is in effect, inhibiting tourism, school trips, creative and innovativelearning opportunities, and ongoing preservation of arts and culture. According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) study of the last federal shutdown in 1995, closure of national museums and monuments resulted in a loss of 2 million visitors.
  • All national parks will close, including the more than 40 Artist-in-Residence programs throughout the National Park Service system.  The world-renowned Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, although also supported through a private foundation, would likely need to shutter its federally-supported operations. In 1995 there were closures of 368 National Park Service sites—a loss of 7 million visitors and local communities near national parks lost an estimated $14.2 million per day in tourism revenues.
  • Tourism and its associated economic driver and tax revenue generator will suffer. One measure of the loss to tourism is to expect visa processing delays. In 1995, 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas to come to this country went unprocessed each day and 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed. Cultural centers receiving federal funds such as Wolf Trap and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (the nation’s busiest arts facility) could face partial closure.

The NEA and the US Commission of Fine Arts both have contingency plans, assuming the shut-down is temporary and funding does not completely disappear because one political party just can’t handle the fact that the other is a little over half-way in power.

There’s also a fascinating article in the NY Times looking at multiple decades’ worth of causes of economic instability in the “developed” world. It has a good argument, I think, for increased spending on the arts, and allowing artists to work hard in their careers rather than at underpaying side-jobs, although that is not explicitly stated.

The jobs created have been mainly low wage and part time. Growth in domestic manufacturing is still slow, and business spending has fallen, though corporations are flush with profits. Debt-saddled households continue to see real incomes deteriorate (even with very low inflation). Sales of new homes have suddenly reversed course. Rents are falling in several markets where home prices have recently increased. Even the seemingly unflappable stock market has been seesawing because of the uncertain economic signals.

Financial institutions that engage in speculation instead of capital formation create waste that we can no longer afford. Health care and higher education, fields known for both excellence and waste, and giant discrepancies in quality, must yield to more cost-effective approaches (and become more accessible).

Above all, we must end the ideological gridlock that stands in the way of renewed prosperity. Frenzied, supply-side insistence on allowing markets to work matters out, and diatribes against government-led economic activities may please right-wing political constituencies. But simply ignoring the earnest fortitude of billions of new global workers is no way for this nation to stay rich and competitive.

More updates on ANARCHY IN THE ARTS (or whatever) to come.

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