Tax Breaks Do Not Substitute For Arts Funding

June 16, 2007


Thank you for your comment, Robert.  Your suggestion that tax policy provides extensive public funding for the arts in America is simply not true.  To make this assertion you should provide the actual numbers – and for more than one or two communities such as Minneapolis or San Francisco which represent only a tiny fraction of our population.


I have noticed that Americans often try to squirm out of international comparisons regarding arts funding by stating plainly false facts.  One of the most common is listing numbers for the huge number of orchestras we supposedly have without noting that the vast majority of them are low paying semi-professional groups.  And opera houses in our country are virtually non-existent.  So where is the “extensive public funding based on tax policy” going?  There must be an awful lot of phantom opera houses around here!


And why the fatalistic attitude about increasing our public arts funding?  What kind of leadership is that?  I am sure people told Martin Luther King that blacks would achieve equality about the same time the US team wins soccer’s World Cup.  That might be true, but it didn’t stop him from making significant progress for his people.  Social justice is always a slow process.  It doesn’t happen if there aren’t individuals with the guts and determination to make the first steps.


During the Roosevelt administration the US moved toward forms of social democracy similar to what all other industrial countries have.  That work and those policies have been systematically destroyed over the last 60 years to the point that US economic policy quite literally represents an isolated form of extremism.  Social conditions such as 40 million people without health insurance, our massive ghettos, our high school graduation rate of only 70%, our lack of mass transit, and our out-of-control military-industrial complex prove the point.


The problems with public arts funding can indeed be solved.  It will be a long-term struggle, and it will require leaders like you, Robert, and the others on this panel.  So take heart and get busy!


William Osborne