Letters: Economic Meltdown And The Arts

Listeners weigh in on the Obama administration's plan to include $50 million for the arts in the economic stimulus package — and Brandeis University's plan to sell part of its prized art collection.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

I'm Robert Siegel. And let's turn now to your feedback. Yesterday, we examined the Obama administration's plan to include $50 million in the economic stimulus package for the arts. We heard in our piece from people for and against that idea.

Mr. BRIAN REIDL (Senior Federal Budget Analyst, Heritage Foundation): The only way to increase economic growth is to increase productivity. And government policies that make people and workers more productive will increase productivity. But simply borrowing money out of the economy in order to transfer it to some artists doesn't increase the economy's productivity rate.

SIEGEL: That was Brian Reidl of the conservative Heritage Foundation. And yes, he was against setting aside stimulus money for the arts.

NORRIS: Well, a lot of listeners were unhappy with Mr. Reidl's comments. Ellen Whitmore(ph) of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, summed up a commonly expressed view and Ms. Whitmore takes it personally. She writes, as always, I am surprised at the Heritage Foundation and others who refuse to recognize workers in the arts as small business entrepreneurs. We are not in a lofty tower begging for the government dole. Artists and art organizations are small businesses producing objects and entertainment for the consumption of everyday Americans. As any other sector of American business enterprise, we deserve support in these tough economic times.

SIEGEL: Also, on the subject of the arts and the economy, we focused yesterday on Brandeis University's plan to sell part of its priced art collection to make up for a deficit, and we returned to that topic in another part of today's program. Well, Jeff Kruger(ph) of Albuquerque immediately saw a link between that story yesterday and our coverage of stimulus funding for the arts. Mr. Kruger writes this. Art is a cultural commodity with as much relevance to the economy as any durable good or other product. That Brandeis could readily benefit from its art collection when its stock portfolio went south is not surprising at all.

NORRIS: And Don Cameron(ph) of Golden, Colorado, chimes in with this. I would suggest that artists, being relatively poor in general, will recycle the money very quickly in the economy. And secondly, who's to say they won't create a piece of art later sold to support an endowment and worth much more money? I often see such links in your stories and appreciate how All Things Considered shows all things connected.

SIEGEL: We do strive to stay connected and connected to you. So write to us at npr.org. Click on "Contact Us" at the top of the page. And please make sure to tell us where you're from and how to pronounce your name.

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