Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hey Lamar! Spending IS Stimulating, Ya Moron

Lamar Alexander doesn’t get it. But John Aravosis does:
It doesn't matter what the money is spent on, in principle, IF the money is spent in a way that fills the demand gap. Meaning, if you hire a million workers to help clean up the national mall, you are not just getting a service (mall clean up), you are creating jobs (for the cleaners, the cleaning company that hires and manages them, new federal employees hired to oversee the project, the hot dog vendors on the mall, the guys who rent the port-a-potties, the taxi drivers who have to shepherd the people to the mall, the gas stations that sell gasoline to the employees who drive to the mall, the local city government that sees increased metro ridership, and income, as a result of the new employees heading to work, the accounting firm that handles the employees' paychecks, the health insurance company that handles their benefits, the accountants that handle their tax returns, and even the Wall Street bad-guys who handle their retirement accounts. Those previously unemployed or underemployed workers now have a greater hope for the future, with more money in their pocket and a job, and with a little luck, being more financially secure, they are more likely to themselves spend more money on goods and services in the future.

Similarly, over at Eschaton this morning there was a nice conversation about how spending on the arts stimulates the economy. Simply put: if you’re going to put on a show (or make a movie) you need to hire carpenters, painters, electricians, caterers, printers, truck drivers, not to mention all of the supplies these trades use, etc. This should be a no-brainer, but because conservatives view things like the arts as trivial, they refuse to believe there is any benefit to investing in them. These are the same people who live in towns like Nashville and Brentwood, who benefit each day from the stimulating effect on the local economy of the country music and contemporary Christian/gospel music industries. Go figure.

While it’s possible that arts spending may not, dollar for dollar, be as stimulating as, say, building a new highway, the $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts that was taken out of the stimulus bill is not anywhere comparable to the funds devoted to bricks-and-mortar infrastucture projects in the bill. In fact, according to Ben Adler:

Unfortunately, $50 million is an awfully small amount: it is 1/600 of the $30 billion allotted for roads and bridges.

So quite your whining, rightards. It’s not like the money is all going to Derek Dye The Abstinence Clown. It would be amusing to hear conservatives whine about their favorite bugaboo, the NEA, except that it’s such a tired argument that I’m surprised and frustrated that anyone still buys into that nonsense anymore. It’s clearly one of those hot buttons the righties like to push when they need to get their base into a foamy-mouthed tizzy. And it still works, like the good zombie lie it is.

Adler goes on:

The money for artistic projects is almost by definition ready to be injected into the economy. It may take years to draw up a plan for a highway, obtain the right of way and fend off legal challenges before the bulldozers start rolling. But to buy a canvass and some paintbrushes, or even some metal for a public sculpture, is comparatively straightforward. That puts quick money into the pockets of the companies that build, sell and ship those artistic materials as well.

"The money goes straight into the economy," says Janet Echelman, a sculptor whose giant metallic nets have revitalized public parks and downtowns from Texas to Portugal. "I pay two full-time assistants in my studio, plus consultants who are architects, engineers, and landscape architects, as well as lighting designers. A very large portion goes into fabrication, which is funding workers at a steel factory." Echelman currently has a commission from Phoenix to build a centerpiece for a new downtown park that may face funding shortfalls. There are "shovel-ready" arts projects like hers throughout the country.

I’m not advocating a huge investment in the arts here, but I am saying that the whining is way out of kilter with the facts.

Just more ignorance being unleashed on Americans through a clueless media that parrots conservative talking points without bothering to dig a little deeper.