Posters from the WPA, Library of Congress Collection

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Sometimes you can almost smell a cheap shot.

The stimulus package that passed the House last week failed to receive one Republican vote.  Among the worthwhile provisions in the bill is fifty million dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts.  This is no mere give away.  The money would help to stimulate the economy, even though it is a rather paltry sum for the whole nation–the price of one CEO’s jet to be exact.   But the arts certainly make for an easy target, especially when you are willing to lie about  the contents of the bill.

images1 While the debate over the stimulus package was raging, the Republican whip, Mr. Eric Cantor, claimed that $300,000 had been set aside in the bill for a sculpture garden in Miami.  Well, here are the facts.  No such provision exists in the bill.  It seems that Cantor felt that the package wasn’t specific enough for his taste, so he decided to claim on national TV that a project that had been funded in the past is in the current bill.   From Politifact.com (St. Petersburg Times):

In an interview with Fox News on Jan. 23, 2009, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, said that in a meeting with President Obama, Cantor asked if he “could use his influence on this process to try and get the pork barrel spending out of the bill. I mean, there’s $300,000 for a sculpture garden in Miami.” . . .

We don’t know what they’re going to spend it on,” Bradley [a Cantor spokesperson] said. “There is no direction to the NEA on how to spend it.”

So to give people an idea of how the NEA spends its money, Cantor’s staff looked at some recent grants awarded by the NEA.

And in 2008, the NEA gave $300,000 to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami to restore an outdoor statuary. The Vizcaya estate is one of the country’s most intact remaining examples from the American Renaissance, a period when the very wealthy built estates to look European. The $300,000 grant was to help restore some of the outdoor sculptures — statues, urns and fountains — that had been severely deteriorating due to South Florida’s salty, damp and subtropical climate, not to mention the hurricanes.

But again, this was an NEA grant from last year .

kidsandsphinx Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Yes, there certainly have been more serious lies by politicians, but the point is that here you have the House whip willing to make stuff up (non-existent pork)  in order to help sink the stimulus package.  Pretty shameless stuff.   (As a matter of fact, Eric, it’s a shanda fur die goyim. You should know better.)

The fact is that 1) artists have lost jobs in the current recession and 2) the arts are economic engines in many communities.  There is good statement on the website of the National Endowment for the Arts detailing reasons for supporting the provision for the arts in the stimulus package.  For example, the statement cites a report by the National Governor’s Association:

A recent study released by the National Governors Association titled Arts & the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development states, “Arts and culture are important to state economies.  Arts and culture-related industries, also known as ‘creative industries,’ provide direct economic benefits to states and communities:  They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases.”

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P.S.   Eric Cantor appears to be a major piece of work.  Here he is trying to blame Congress during Jimmy Carter’s administration for the current housing crisis.

UPDATE  2-11-09.  More Cantor…This guy is just what the Republicans need to make sure that they remain the minority party for the next few generations.  Go, Eric (and his Office), Go.

The Plum Line, Greg Sargent’s blog
Cantor’s Office Responds: Video Depicting AFSCME Members As Goons

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