Last night a friend and I were trying to grapple with-- if not exactly "understand"-- some conventional wisdom, namely that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is "very educated," a "very intelligent" man and a "policy wonk," or at least what would pass for a Republican version of a policy wonk. His 100% Know Nothing attack on volcano monitoring made him sound like either an ignoramus or a two-bit craven hack pandering to the worst instincts of the purposefully ignorant anti-science crowd that had its day of quasi-respectability when George Bush sat in the White House. Soon after his snide comment about how the federal government (i.e., Barack Obama's new budget) "wastes" money by trying to understand volcano eruptions, Alaska's Mount Redoubt exploded for the first time in decades. It's still exploding nearly a week later. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska sent Jindal an e-mail: "I sleep better knowing the scientists are at work ... keeping track of this activity."
I suppose the Louisiana electorate is happy Jindal didn't denigrate hurricane monitoring. No amount of media hype will ever persuade me that a man who gratuitously addresses the nation by demeaning science and scientists-- a man, no less, claiming to be able to cure cancer by performing an exorcism-- is actually "intelligent," other than perhaps in a cunning and purely political, manipulative kind of way.
Yesterday Shaun Treat, who got his PhD at Louisiana State University in 2004 and is now an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Communication Studies at the University of North Texas, teamed up with Holley Vaughn, a doctoral candidate in his old department at LSU to warn us about the real life effects of Jindal's politically motivated budget cuts, another manifestation of his exalted status in GOP circles as a "policy wonk," I suppose. Their report:
Bobby Jindal is about to enact a shameful budget cut that will devastate Louisiana's economy by slashing the state budget for the Arts and Arts education by 83%.
Yes, you read that correctly... 83 percent!
This extremist Republican will virtually eliminate a $10 billion industry supporting 144,000 jobs. The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee will be meeting on April 2nd-- which is next week!-- and they are our last hope to stop Jindal from pressing this insane course of action!
We are working to persuade the media to cover this story and give desperately-needed assistance to those Louisianians fighting to keep the Arts and Arts Education alive in our communities and schools!
Investing in the arts is economically productive. It is paramount in revitalizing struggling urban centers and dilapidating historic districts. In terms of civics, these programs foster public discourse and debate and critically activate public memory. Moreover, these programs attract tourism, which is a vital part of Louisiana's struggling economy.
This shameful attack that shows Jindal's true NeoConservative colors!
Now keep in mind that aside from berating scientific pursuits like volcano monitoring, Jindal also gave the finger to funding the National Endowment for the Arts, a perennial Republican Party target. The U.S. Conference of Mayors blasted Jindal after his speech, pointing out that "Louisiana is home to 7,013 arts-related businesses that employ 27,117 people."
In Northwest Louisiana (10-parish region around Shreveport), nonprofit arts groups and their audiences generate $89.77 million in economic activity, support 2,367 jobs, and provide nearly $13 million in state and local tax revenue.
In addition to the arts contributing tremendously to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, the state launched the World Cultural Economic Forum this past fall to showcase the link between the arts, economy, and tourism. It will be expanded in 2009.
Louisiana's Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism launched the Louisiana Cultural Economy Initiative in 2004; in addition to promoting the arts, the program aims to attract businesses related to the arts to the state. Its 2004 report showed that for every state tax dollar spent, $5.86 is returned to the state treasury and citizens of Louisiana.
The National Endowment for the Arts will distribute $50 million of the stimulus funds to arts projects in all 50 states which specifically preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector that have been most hurt by the economic downturn.
In 2008, Louisiana received 27 grants totaling $1,343,700 from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The "cultural economy" in Louisiana is very real and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu's office explains that the $2.5 million grants Jindal is trying to eliminate are a tremendous economic boost to every parish in the state. "The cultural economy is a $10 billion industry supporting 144,000 jobs. It's certainly worth the investment, and the return on the investment has been significant. Our cultural stakeholders have made the industry a significant player in Louisiana's economic health."
I think it will surprise most of my friends to know that I'm an honorary officer of the Louisiana Highway Patrol. Even more shocking, the person who appointed me to my position was Governor David Treen, the first Republican governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction! And why would a conservative Republican governor appoint someone like me, who leans slightly to the left and ran a punk rock record label in San Francisco's Mission District, to such an exalted position? Bidness-- arts bidness. I signed a band from Metarie, the Red Rockers, to my label and their music and videos started getting airplay all over America, boosting Lousiana's image as a cultural center. I doubt Gov. Treen ever listened to their songs or grasped what it meant when critics termed them the "American Clash," but he sensed it was something that would bring Louisiana some business. Tony Award-winning actress Jane Alexander, who chaired the National Endowment for the Arts from 1993-1997, remembers when a Republican Congress gleefully slashed the organization's budget back then and disagrees with Jindal's claim that funding the arts are not in any way "Stimulus" for an ailing economy. Alexander:
What people forget is that there are over 2 million people in the United States of America who are professional artists. Those are jobs like any other jobs. The artists have families, they have people for whom they're responsible and they give to their communities.
We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The life part would be health and housing. The liberty part would be our civil rights. And the pursuit of happiness, the arts would come under that. And it's as vital a part of well-being in the United States as anything else... [W]hat he [Jindal] doesn't understand is that $50 million goes directly ... as a grant to organizations which employ people. It's quick and it's a system that works beautifully and it's done within a year.
There's a great deal that Bobby Jindal doesn't understand-- or makes believe he doesn't understand, which-- my friend reminded me-- is even worse. Like I said, I'm pretty sure Gov. Treen never listened to the Red Rockers and I'll bet Gov. Jindal never has either. I put together a short music clip last year they probably won't want to watch either. You may though:
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