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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 01/25/2011

Spending cuts as culture war

By Ezra Klein

In his column on Friday, Dana Milbank argued that the spending cuts (pdf) proposed by the Republican Study Committee were as much culture war as fiscal policy. "Among the items the group proposes to eliminate or decimate: the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Title X birth control and family planning, AmeriCorps, the Energy Star program and work on fuel efficient cars, and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." NPR, Amtrak and efforts to prevent beach erosion also come in for specific fire. Not a single program in the Defense Department gets mentioned.

Compare that document with the $600 billion in named cuts (pdf) the that conservative National Taxpayers Union released in partnership with the liberal U.S. PIRG. The big ticket items there eliminate $35 billion in agricultural subsidies, $22 billion in ethanol subsidies, $93 billion in orders of "obsolete" parts for the Air Force, $56 billion in spending on the nuclear arsenal, $11 billion in Medicare payments for high-cost regions, and so on. Love the cuts or hate them, they look a lot more like what you'd end up with if you scoured the federal budget to figure out where we could save money, and maybe get some bipartisan agreement while doing it. The named cuts in the release from the Republican Study Group looks more like what you'd get if you wanted some applause lines at CPAC.

By Ezra Klein  | January 25, 2011; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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Comments

I got lost on one part of Medicare.
Under the HCR, can the government negotiate on Medicare drugs now, or not?
Just curious.

Posted by: grat_is | January 25, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

That was pretty apparent at first glance the other day. NEA and NEH are two of the most woefully underfunded agencies in government -- victims of the culture wars of the 90s. Cutting their paltry $167 million budgets is like saying you need to lose 20 pounds and deciding to cut out one breath mint per week to achieve the goal.

Posted by: JJenkins2 | January 25, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Ag subsidies (for corn & soy) are the obvious starting point for cuts, or would be if the Republicans were serious. The fact that they won't go near them for fear of offending a key constituency just goes to show that all their talk of fiscal discipline is nothing but political theater.

Posted by: csdiego | January 25, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Two questions:
1) can any liberal defend why taxpayer money should, constitutionally (yes, I used the 'c' word), be used to fund art projects and PBS?

2) Why does Ezra seek to create hostility and further divide us by presuming we could only do one of the proposals? Why can't we cut the spending for both the RSC proposals AND the NTU/PIRG items? Now we're getting somewhere!!

While I'm at it, I'll toss out another savings idea....if you look hard enough on the WaPo today, you will find taxpayers so far have spent over $200 million on attorney fees for the former (mainly Democrat) leaders of Fannie/Freddie who helped bring our mortgage industry to collapse.

How 'bout we cut the millions flowing to those lawyers pronto, and let the former executives pay their own attorney fees out of the tens of millions of dollars they fleeced us for via their annual bonuses while they provided nothing more than completely inept management at F/F that we now have to bailout?

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

dbw1, there you go again. The NTU/PIRG list is already the bipartisan option. The RSC can take its list and go hang.

Posted by: csdiego | January 25, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"1) can any liberal defend why taxpayer money should, constitutionally (yes, I used the 'c' word), be used to fund art projects and PBS?"

Preamble:
"...promote the general welfare..."

dictionary definitions of "welfare" always include happiness and well-being, which art, culture and learning indisputably promote.

Posted by: DavidinCambridge | January 25, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Remember during the Bush administration there seem to be no proposed business merger that would not be approved by his justice department until Whole Foods and Wild Oats, places that sell organic food and are shopped at by hippies, proposed a merger then it was suddenly a problem that a merger was being proposed.

Posted by: Napoleonfromthemanorfarm | January 25, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

csdiego:
"Ag subsidies (for corn & soy) are the obvious starting point for cuts, or would be if the Republicans were serious."

Fair point. I'm a conservative, and most conservatives I know are more than willing to put cuts to ag subsidies on the table. Subsidies for ethanol? Cut them tomorrow, and eliminate this relic of past 'green' initiatives....which, as it turns out, aren't as 'green' as we were sold.

Although you seem to think the problem is just with Republicans (which a fair share is), look at the representation in the House and the Senate and you will find many Democrats as well from the same Midwest/Upper Midwest states who join a select few Republicans in defending these lavish, outdated subsidies under the pretense of "alternative energy".

That's a long way of saying cutting ag subsidies SHOULD be on the table....but it's perhaps the most pure bipartisan hurdle to be cleared (i.e., it's not just Republicans standing in the way).

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

dbw1 asks
"1) can any liberal defend why taxpayer money should, constitutionally (yes, I used the 'c' word), be used to fund art projects and PBS?"

I'll go with the preamble "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." and Article I, "Section 8: The Congress shall have power To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."


To fit those criteria, I define public promotion of arts and knowledge to be consistent within the constitutional obligation of the government to provide for the general welfare of its citizens. This is clearly consistent with the founders' intentions, as stated by John Adams: “I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Jefferson was also a man ahead of his time, placing enormous value on the pursuit of knowledge, science and art.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 25, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

sign me up in favor of the NTU and US PIRG cuts.

I certainly hope Repbulicans don't leave their sacred cow untouched (defense) becuase that will surely mean failure in 2012 both in the White House (which is probably a foregone conclusion anyway) and more importantly the House and Senate.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 25, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Cut it ALL. Do it yesterday.

And, if one got rid of, say, the USDA, one could kill quite a few obnoxious birds with one rock.

But, of course, as Klein well knows, he couldn't have his precious DeathCare reform without the horsetrading of people's freedom and assets with the heads of all those other government fiefdoms.

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

--*which, as it turns out, aren't as 'green' as we were sold.*--

That doesn't even matter. It's wrong to steal. No matter why.

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

considering how many gop come from more rural areas, including large agricorporations, there is no way farm subsidies will be on the table; this will also explain why light rail and high speed rail which will serve mostly large urban areas, also will be off the table. then add in where so many of these superfluous defense contracts are located, and you can see why those too will be off the table.

what's left? let's see, anything those "east coast elites" like which have been bugaboos from the get-go like NPR and NEA and anything that helps those non-white, possibly illegal, definitely lazy and shiftless citizens.

Posted by: sbvpav | January 25, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Maybe government shouldn't be spending on the culture war in the first place.

Posted by: krazen1211 | January 25, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

bsimon1:
"I define public promotion of arts and knowledge to be consistent within the constitutional obligation of the government to provide for the general welfare of its citizens."

I perceive you to be on of the misled liberals who believes the "general welfare" phrase in the Constitution used the word 'welfare' as we use it today. Even a minimal amount of study reveals that the use of this word at the time the Constitution was written meant "security" (i.e., it WOULD be appropriate to use it in the context of securing our borders from the flood of illegal immigrants)..."general welfare" did not refer to the every want and need that might make the citizenry happier.

If we were to actually apply your progressive-liberal interpretation to the 'general welfare' clause, then that would also mean that the federal government should be funding my purchase of a nice car....my expenses for a 4 week vacation every year....and a house with an ocean view....all of which I believe promotes 'general welfare', just as much as you believe 'art' does.

In speaking to your belief of the founders intent with the general welfare clause, I invite you to consider the actual words of a couple of these founders, such as Thomas Jefferson who you presumed would support your expansive view of what 'general welfare' means:
"[O]ur tenet ever was...that Congress has NOT unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action."

Wow....an earth-shattering quote that undermines everything liberal-progressives stand for today. I ask you to show where in the 'enumerated powers' to which Thomas Jefferson refers to did they give Congress the power to fund art projects?

And perhaps one more....James Madison on what the 'general welfare' clause means with respect to the Constitution:
"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one..."

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I think if you cut PBS or NPR, they'd be fine. What worries me about it is that the people who support NPR have a certain, uh, perspective. And NPR or PBS would then incorporate this perspective into their news programming, etc. For my money, NPR and PBS are the most unbiased news sources around. I know conservatives hate them. Something about discussing things quietly and rationally doesn't fit with today's brand of conservatism. But it would be a loss to have them go the way of MSNBC or FOX antipole.

Posted by: willows1 | January 25, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

dbw1 - If you think of NEA or PBS or NPR as an "earmark", then I think you'll feel a lot better. After all, even Darth Scalia says earmarks are constitutional.

Posted by: willows1 | January 25, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

To answer dbw1, Constitutional arguments aside (because, as others have noted above, there are no Constitutional arguments against arts funding):

(1) First, there is no funding of "art projects," as you so inelegantly and dismissively put it. The NEA has not funded individual artists since 1994 (pace, Newt Gingrich and company). That, btw, should be restored.

(2) The arts have a huge economic impact: $166.2 billion per year in this country. And they generate $12.6 billion in federal tax revenues annually http://www.artsusa.org/information_services/research/services/economic_impact/default.asp
Yet arts organizations do not survive by ticket or admissions sales alone. They require both private and government support.

(3) More important, the arts are a significant cultural export of this country, in addition to serving a domestic good. They have a huge impact on our standing in the world and our ability to influence ideological issues. Just ask how much cultural and political influence Abstract Expressionist painting held back in the early Cold War era. The USIA knew this well and exploited it extensively. The indigenous musical form of jazz has had an enormous impact in the world as well, and is still used for cultural exchange purposes. The arts are also the soul of a nation. If you don't want a soul, then there is nothing I can say.

(4) Every developed nation has an extensive arts and arts-funding component. Canada spends huge amounts on the arts, as do Germany, France, Britain and other European countries. And they all have Ministries of Culture. We don't.

(5) For an argument for government funding of television or radio, I point you only to the BBC in Britain, the CBC in Canada, and the various European public broadcasting entities (ZDF in Germany, ARTE in France, RAI in Italy).

Posted by: JJenkins2 | January 25, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

--*I define public promotion of arts and knowledge to be consistent within the constitutional obligation of the government to provide for the general welfare of its citizens.*--

You can "define" all you want, but that doesn't change what a thing is. You are misapprehending to meaning of the General Welfare clause.

//cite
The government, then, is not authorized to collect taxes nor enforce the redistribution of wealth (when applied to the modern definition of “welfare”) unless the object of their desire is found in the powers enumerated unto them.
//end cite

http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/general-welfare

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

msjo says axe the USDA. Right, while thousands of Americans are hospitalized by e coli and salmonella and our 'reputable' meat producers routinely haul diseased and dead animals into the meat factory. Hey, there are lots of places in the world you can live without the "wasteful" regulation of food safety. Consumer safety regulation is far from the top of my "cut" list, and I think most Americans would agree.

Posted by: GreenDreams | January 25, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

dbw1 writes
"I perceive you to be on of the misled liberals who believes the "general welfare" phrase in the Constitution used the word 'welfare' as we use it today."


Do not trust your perceptions.

We are best able to provide for ourselves & pursue liberty when we are educated & equipped with the tools for success that our founders valued. Please reference the Adams quote I cited above, and the various exploits of Jefferson, Franklin & others which emphasize the importance the founders placed on knowledge, of which arts are a part. The efforts of the public broadcasting corporation in particular are helpful in keeping the citizenry informed. Without a well-informed citizenry, democracy fails.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 25, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

msoja, whomever this connorboyack is, (s)he seems to overlook this part of the constitution: Article I, "Section 8: The Congress shall have power To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."

specifically:
"Congress shall have power To lay and collect taxes ... to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States"

Knowledge and education are critical to a functioning democracy. Does maintenance of a functioning democracy not fall under the constraint of the 'general welfare of the United States?'

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 25, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Energy Star? Seriously?

WTF, the country has a deficit because we can't afford big yellow stickers that help housewives figure out if the fridge with the better doors is worth a little extra money? Seriously, it's the big yellow stickers that are doing us in?

And, yeah, it's $20 a month birth control that's bankrupting this nation.

(And on that point, this is like trying to save money by letting automakers make seat belts optional. Anyone who's had a baby knows they aren't cheap. An uncomplicated hospital delivery is $8-9,000, not including a couple thousand more in prenatal care. And if you skimp on prenatal care, you're at much higher risk for much more expensive C-sections or, god forbid, neonatal intensive care, which easily runs into the tens of thousands. Abortion costs $350-$1000 in the first trimester. On the other hand, birth control at $20 a month costs $240 a year. An IUD, which works for 5 years, costs $200-$400. This is just obviously NOT going to save anybody any money!)

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 25, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Energy Star? Seriously?

WTF, the country has a deficit because we can't afford big yellow stickers that help housewives figure out if the fridge with the better doors is worth a little extra money? Seriously, it's the big yellow stickers that are doing us in?

And, yeah, it's $20 a month birth control that's bankrupting this nation.

(And on that point, this is like trying to save money by letting automakers make seat belts optional. Anyone who's had a baby knows they aren't cheap. An uncomplicated hospital delivery is $8-9,000, not including a couple thousand more in prenatal care. And if you skimp on prenatal care, you're at much higher risk for much more expensive C-sections or, god forbid, neonatal intensive care, which easily runs into the tens of thousands. Abortion costs $350-$1000 in the first trimester. On the other hand, birth control at $20 a month costs $240 a year. An IUD, which works for 5 years, costs $200-$400. This is just obviously NOT going to save anybody any money!)

Posted by: theorajones1 | January 25, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

--*Knowledge and education are critical to a functioning democracy. Does maintenance of a functioning democracy not fall under the constraint of the 'general welfare of the United States?'*--

If you ever saw Jay Leno's man in the street interviews, you would know that knowledge and education are not critical to Democracy.

You need to read and understand the Connor page. Congress is only authorized to act within its *enumerated* powers. Within those constraints (wherein "education" is not specified), Congress is further enjoined from taking action that does not redound to the general welfare of the country.

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

theorajones1 - Well said. Hence the analogy to the culture wars: Completely unresolvable and don't actually address any of the real problems.

Posted by: willows1 | January 25, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

--*msjo says axe the USDA. Right, while thousands of Americans are hospitalized by e coli and salmonella*--

That's not a recommendation of the USDA, is it? I mean, "We poisoned thousands. Give us more money" isn't exactly a winning ad campaign.

Truth is, the USDA and FDA are worthless when it comes to food safety (less able than Homeland Security is at inspecting shipping containers). They're better at coming in after the fact and pointing fingers and pontificating about this and that (mostly that they need more money), than anything else. They waste a whole lot of money promoting the idea that they are watching over the food supply, when the whole thing is really maintained by average, every day people not wanting to poison their fellows. Get rid of the USDA and the FDA and any bad actors in the food supply chain will quickly be rooted out.

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I'm a Dem as you know, but no one can argue that NEH, NEA, and CPBS haven't long outlived their purpose.

With the huge variety of entertainment and cultural opportunities available to us, just on the internet alone, there is no place for these anachronisms anymore.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 25, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse

msoja, Western Civilization already considered your thoughts on these matters and roundly rejected them. There's no point in whining about first principles that our form of government and civilization does not even agree with. You may as well be chiming in to every thread about how we should have a divine right king rather than an elected president.

Posted by: constans | January 25, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

What a grim view these righties have of the possibilities of our society! Do they really want to live in the place they imagine? Where there is no possibility for a nation to make common decisions to promote knowledge, reason, community, human fulfillment?

Whenever I read these kinds of comments, the image that always comes into my mind is that of Ebenezer Scrooge, emotionally-stunted, disappointed in love, suppressing all human feeling while escaping to the counting room. He guards his collection of coppers and defends them against all those who might dare to presume that he would return a small portion of his hoard to support the society from which he sprang.

Posted by: Virginia7 | January 25, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

msoja writes
"If you ever saw Jay Leno's man in the street interviews, you would know that knowledge and education are not critical to Democracy."


On the contrary, I see a strong correlation between the Leno skits & the rise of anti-intellectualism on the right.

A significant fuel to our success in developing a robust middle class was a guaranteed education. Where we once led, we're falling behind. There's a correlation there, too, for those not too blind to see it.


.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 25, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

--*Where there is no possibility for a nation to make common decisions to promote knowledge, reason, community, human fulfillment?*--

How come all your "common decisions" involve the force of the government? What dim view do you have of your fellow citizens that you CAN'T leave them free to make their own "common decisions"?

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm dubious of how thoroughly NTU/PIRG scoured their figures, particularly for agriculture. The CBO pdf they link to certainly doesn't support $35 billion over 5 years in savings. It shows more like $7 billion, with a good deal of that coming from SNAP (i.e. food stamp) changes. They might be proposing to eliminate more programs than their rhetoric, "large corporate farming businesses" suggests, but it's certainly a sloppy job and shouldn't be held up as an example.

Posted by: bharshaw | January 25, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"Do not trust your perceptions.

We are best able to provide for ourselves & pursue liberty when we are educated & equipped with the tools for success that our founders valued. Please reference the Adams quote I cited above, and the various exploits of Jefferson, Franklin & others which emphasize the importance the founders placed on knowledge, of which arts are a part. The efforts of the public broadcasting corporation in particular are helpful in keeping the citizenry informed. Without a well-informed citizenry, democracy fails."

bsimon1,

The founders might well have emphasized the importance of knowledge, but consider these quotes from Jefferson:

"Aided by a little sophistry on the words "general welfare," [the federal branch claim] a right to do not only the acts to effect that which are specifically enumerated and permitted, but whatsoever they shall think or pretend will be for the general welfare." --Thomas Jefferson to William Branch Giles, 1825. ME 16:147"

"Our tenet ever was... that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated, and that, as it was never meant that they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money." --Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 1817. ME 15:133"

"In every event, I would rather construe so narrowly as to oblige the nation to amend, and thus declare what powers they would agree to yield, than too broadly, and indeed, so broadly as to enable the executive and the Senate to do things which the Constitution forbids." --Thomas Jefferson: The Anas, 1793. ME 1:408

It doesn't appear to me that Jefferson would support your contention. Jefferson likely thought it important to eat as well, but he never considered nationalizing the farms for the general welfare, did he?

Outside of this, how much impact does the public broadcasting corporation make, really? People who want to be informed have plenty of other resources at their disposal - there is no need for a government funded resource.

Posted by: justin84 | January 25, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

--*On the contrary, I see a strong correlation between the Leno skits & the rise of anti-intellectualism on the right.*--

So, Leno screens his man on the street interviews for conservatives? Cite, please.

--*A significant fuel to our success in developing a robust middle class was a guaranteed education.*--

The government has defaulted on its end of the guarantee (witness your illogic, highlighted two sentences up.) The U.S. government schools are a joke. In fact, they are a hindrance to U.S. success in the modern era.

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

--*Western Civilization already considered your thoughts on these matters and roundly rejected them.*--

Fifty billion flies can't be wrong, eh?

Sorry, but your collectivism is not the center of my universe.

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

bsimon1:
"Knowledge and education are critical to a functioning democracy. Does maintenance of a functioning democracy not fall under the constraint of the 'general welfare of the United States?' "

Ummm, no. At least not if you are actually looking for 'founders intent'. Now, if all you are concerned about is modern-day progressive twisting of the 'general welfare' clause, then you are correct.

Tell me this....I agree with you absolutely that education is critical to a 'functioning democracy'. In fact, I believe Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, et al, would agree with you as well.

So, why didn't they include 'providing for the fair and equal education of every citizen' as one of the enumerated powers of Congress? There certainly were plenty of other specifically enumerated powers, and our founders were among the most educated people on the planet at the time. Did they just forget to include 'education'? Were the signatures already on the document when someone discovered the colossal error, and it was too late to change it?

Or, just maybe, was it because the founders believed education (and include 'arts' here) would be most effectively administered and funded at local levels, instead of putting every citizen in the straight-jacket of conforming to whatever statists believe is best for us?

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 2:03 PM | Report abuse

"A significant fuel to our success in developing a robust middle class was a guaranteed education. Where we once led, we're falling behind. There's a correlation there, too, for those not too blind to see it."

The state continues to provide a guaranteed education, with over $900 billion in annual funding.

That the results aren't to your liking is another matter.

Posted by: justin84 | January 25, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Jefferson is the worst person to quote on anything Constitutional. He opposed the type of government created, and excepting the Louisiana Purchase was a total disaster as president. He certainly believed in both revolution and secession, and was a horrible business man himself who would have died in debtors's prison were it not for the charity of others and his famous name. Jefferson was the ultimate college professor, unable to function outside that environment of theory. Easily the most overrated of our Founding Fathers.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 25, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

bsimon1:
"On the contrary, I see a strong correlation between the Leno skits & the rise of anti-intellectualism on the right."

Did you ever see/hear the Democrats-on-the-street protesting that Obama is not a "Keynsian"?

Anti-intellectualism is not a monopoly of the right....in fact, it's thriving on the left.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Oh forgot to add that Jefferson was the ultimate hypocrite too, on everything from slavery to big government to enumerated powers to currency.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 25, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall5446:
"Jefferson is the worst person to quote on anything Constitutional. He opposed the type of government created..."

But, he's also the founder most frequently selectively-quoted by left-wingers as they futilely search for some connection between our constitution and what they are trying to do to our country.

That's why it's fun to quote their favorite founder when it's clear even HIS view of the nation's birth and constitutional values would not line up with what modern-day progressive-liberal revisionists would have us believe.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

"How come all your "common decisions" involve the force of the government? What dim view do you have of your fellow citizens that you CAN'T leave them free to make their own "common decisions"?"

Because great things can often only be done on a larger social scale. Your idea is to cut off the larger social component, leaving only the individual endeavor, which can also do great things, but has limitations.

We always had room for both, and we still do. Do we all need to be islands, fully consumed with our own obsessions?

Public spending on knowledge and the arts can make individual development possible. Consider public libraries and museums, maybe less relevant in an internet age, but a bulwark of learning for most of our nation's history. How many over the decades have had their minds stimulated by the resources available in free libraries, resources that they might never have been able to access otherwise? Is the Library of Congress unconstitutional? I don't think it's mentioned in the Constitution. How about the Smithsonian?

Can it really be good for us all to retreat into our own little worlds? You "patriots" seem to care so little about any kind of national public square or common cultural context. Again, I see you in your lonely little counting rooms, guarding your collection of coppers.

Posted by: Virginia7 | January 25, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

As someone who has worked for cultural institutions (museums, historical societies, public radio stations, public libraries) that receive grants from NEA, NEH, IMLS, EPA, CPB, the National Science Foundation, and the state agencies that receive regranting funds from federal agencies, federal funding is an essential part of the funding mix for a nonprofit organization.

Many nonprofits are not membership organizations (like the urban library where I work now), and don't always have built-in revenue streams, despite the public education function we have.

Federal grants function as "Seal of Approval" endorsements of the work we do, and help fund raising from private sources (individuals, corporations, and private foundations). The federal grant process is pretty rigorous, peer-reviewed, and long (is usually 9 months between submission and awards). And with state budgets being slashed, federal grants are more necessary than ever.

Posted by: njprogressive | January 25, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Virginia7:
"Because great things can often only be done on a larger social scale."

Despots everywhere agree with you.


"How many over the decades have had their minds stimulated by the resources available in free libraries, resources that they might never have been able to access otherwise?"

How many libraries would exist without the massive private un-coerced funding of the likes of Andrew Carnegie?

What liberals can't seem to comprehend is that lots of this stuff they believe to be impossible without a government bureaucracy has in fact been done, and been done often, in the private/local sector.


Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

--*Your idea is to cut off the larger social component*--

Your "social component" is killing the country.

And it's disingenuous to hold up libraries and museums against USDAs and HHSes and the rest of out of control bureaucracy.

Posted by: msoja | January 25, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"Anti-intellectualism is not a monopoly of the right....in fact, it's thriving on the left."

Anti-intellectualism is the disparagement of the condition of being intellectual. There are certainly people from throughout the political spectrum who aren't particularly smart and/or have limited educations. I haven't seen people on the left celebrating that, or disparaging people who are educated solely because they are educated.

On the specific enumerations argument @ 2:03, dbw1 creates a false dichotomy. The founders created a system of government with a lot of wiggle room between the extremes presented. They, perhaps foolishly, trusted their successors to be able to figure it out without requiring explicit instructions. Jefferson's argument is likewise one of selecting one extreme only if his only alternative was the other. It is not a rejection of compromise somewhere in the middle.

In any event, you asked for a constitutional justification & I provided one. That you disagree does not end the argument, it only forces us to recognize that we do not agree. You are, of course, welcome to your opinion. As a last riposte, I will argue that the ongoing existence of those programs is a de facto proof that my side of the argument is correct, as SCOTUS has thus far not seen fit to eliminate those programs as unconstitutional. Perhaps the activisits sitting on the court now would overturn that precedent, given the chance.

Good day.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 25, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

msoja, if you don't believe in Western Civilization, then there's really nothing we can really discuss. You might as well be arguing for us to adopt a bronze age middle eastern despotism form of government for all it has in common with the model of civilization we chose to build.

Posted by: constans | January 25, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

bsimon1:
"In any event, you asked for a constitutional justification & I provided one."

Well, no, you didn't. You fell back on the progressive-liberal catch-all 'general welfare' clause, your interpretation of which of course carries absolutey zero historical integrity.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"What liberals can't seem to comprehend is that lots of this stuff they believe to be impossible without a government bureaucracy has in fact been done, and been done often, in the private/local sector."

Most of these kinds of things result from a variety of funding sources, some public funding, some private grants, some subscription, memberships, user fees, etc. There is very little "government bureaucracy" involved. This model has worked well in the past- why does it need to change? Funding of arts and education is not what is busting the budget - it's a miniscule component. If you're worried about deficits, look to defense and farm subsidies.

"Your "social component" is killing the country."

I didn't notice that the country was dying. What happened to American exceptionalism? How can we be the greatest country in the world if we are being killed by public funding of arts and education?


Posted by: Virginia7 | January 25, 2011 3:24 PM | Report abuse

dbw1 and msoja - I understand quite fully that you guys don't like federal spending on things that you don't like. But, really, to argue that it is unconstitutional seems silly. Like I said earlier, even Scalia thinks earmarks are constitutional. So at the very least, Congress has some pretty wide latitude to direct money as it sees fit. Just because we don't like something doesn't make it unconstitutional.

I've heard the unconstitutionality of the income tax argument before, but I think you're skating on thin ice. Because, IIRC, in the decision often cited to support that view, the Supreme Court said that income (as in payment for services) could not be taxed, but that income on investments could be taxed. I would argue that if we went strictly to a capital-gains tax system it would end up being far more progressive than what we have now. And I know that wouldn't sit well with you guys.

And none of this addresses the fact that the modern social safety net which you loathe is a reality borne of our modern manufacturing/consuming economy. In the hallowed days of the 19th century, we would march off and slaughter a bunch of American Indians and then give the land to U.S. citizens who were basically the equivalent of today's poor. Talk about socialism! Since our supply of neolithic people to slaughter and cultivatable land to confiscate and "redistribute" has run pretty low, we had to resort to other ways of making sure the poorest had a bridge.

Posted by: willows1 | January 25, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

willows1:
"I understand quite fully that you guys don't like federal spending on things that you don't like. But, really, to argue that it is unconstitutional seems silly."

So, would it be silly if Congress decided to send gobs of money to the Creationist Museum in Kentucky? How about if the Republicans wanted to direct a bunch of money to Christian schools for theology textbooks?

See, it's not just about 'not liking it'. Surely you can think deeper than that. If you even cared to read any of the posts with more than your progressive-colored glasses, you would see it's not just about cutting spending for what conservatives 'don't like'. It's about whether it was a power enumerated by the Constitution.

Most liberal-progressive goals were not enumerated in the Constitution, therefore progressives have to bastardize Constitutional arguments in order to make it fit their agenda.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

virginia7:
"This model has worked well in the past- why does it need to change?"

In using the word "past", it seems that history for you, like most liberals, only started about 40-50 years ago.

Ask yourself this question: if the NEA did't exist until 1965, how did 'the arts' ever manage to exist in this country in the previous 190 years without the NEA?

Answer: 'the arts' don't need the NEA in order to exist. But progressives need the NEA to help grow the size and scope of government involvement in our daily lives.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 25, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

"I understand quite fully that you guys don't like federal spending on things that you don't like."

How does the federal government get the money to spend? If people voluntarily sent in the money, it would be fine. Once force is involved, it is no longer okay. Even if I like the project, I know it is wrong to fund it with stolen money.

"And none of this addresses the fact that the modern social safety net which you loathe is a reality borne of our modern manufacturing/consuming economy. In the hallowed days of the 19th century, we would march off and slaughter a bunch of American Indians and then give the land to U.S. citizens who were basically the equivalent of today's poor. Talk about socialism! Since our supply of neolithic people to slaughter and cultivatable land to confiscate and "redistribute" has run pretty low, we had to resort to other ways of making sure the poorest had a bridge."

Are you really trying to justify state abuses of individual rights in the 21st century by pointing out the fact that the state abused individual rights back in the 19th century as well?

Posted by: justin84 | January 25, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

dbw1 - I see your point, but those are poor examples because they amount to establishment of religion. I think a better analogy would be Newt Gingrich funneling money to Martin-Marietta for obsolete aircraft as he did in the 90s or Ted Stevens' famous "bridge to nowhere". Those things aren't unconstitutional, but I don't like them. Now, I guess you could argue that purchasing aircraft is unconstitutional because there is nothing in the constitution specifically spelling out its purchase. Sorry, I left my chest-pocket copy of the constitution home today, but I can see it saying something like "Maintaining armies for national protection" or something similar. So you would have to make the leap that aircraft are included in that. Even though no such thing existed nor was probably even dreamed about in the 18th century.

Hey, wait, maybe that's the answer! We need armies of artists for mind control over our sworn enemies! It's so simple. Let me phone my congressperson!! Be right back!

Posted by: willows1 | January 25, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

justin84 - No, you are implying that the current social safety net is un-necessary and unconstitutional. My point is that a social safety net has always been needed and that the means of providing that social safety net changed in the 20th century. I would argue that the need evolved much sooner than the 1930s, but FDR finally recognized that - as Teddy Roosevelt stated in 1903 - the wilderness was "closed". That form of social safety was no longer an option and we needed something new.

All of the libertarian thought and commentary revolves around this idea that America has somehow "lost its way" or that the past several generations are somehow living in violation of the original intent. But there was a recognition almost from the beginning that the government had a responsibility to the people it was serving that went beyond guns, removing snags from the Mississippi River, and McAdam roads.

Posted by: willows1 | January 25, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

njprogressive wrote:

"As someone who has worked for cultural institutions (museums, historical societies, public radio stations, public libraries) that receive grants from NEA, NEH, IMLS, EPA, CPB, the National Science Foundation, and the state agencies that receive regranting funds from federal agencies, federal funding is an essential part of the funding mix for a nonprofit organization"

Amazingly enough, all of the institutions that you worked for existed before the NEA etc, started fudning them. All would continue to stay in business if they were desired by the general public.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 25, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

dbw:

What kind of a world is it where I can trample on one of our national icons and get only one response? LOL (thanks BTW)

Ah nuts! Sometimes it's too quiet around here.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 25, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

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