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SECOND UPDATE: Feinstein joins Senate majority in excluding arts from stimulus package

February 8, 2009 | 10:01 am


Maybe the arts just aren't that stimulating. At least that seems to be the sense of the U.S. Senate -- including California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who joined a wide majority Friday in passing an amendment "to ensure that taxpayer money is not lost on wasteful and non-stimulative projects" such as funding museums, theaters and art centers.

Americans for the Arts, which has been fighting for a crumb or two of the federal economic stimulus package to land on the table of nonprofit arts organizations, reported that its side took a drubbing to the tune of 73 votes to 24. The arts advocacy and lobbying organization labeled the amendment to the Senate's $827-billion stimulus proposal "egregious" in its exclusion of "any ... museum, theater [or] art center" from sharing in the bailout. At least the arts are in popular company: Also excluded are any "gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, community park ... and highway beautification project."

Americans for the Arts notes that among those voting for Muskogee, Okla., Republican Tom Coburn's amendment to freeze out the arts were, "surprisingly," Feinstein, Charles Schumer of New York, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. California's other senator, Barbara Boxer, voted against the amendment.

Americans for the Arts is organizing an e-mail campaign in hopes of erasing Coburn's amendment from the final draft of the stimulus bill that will be worked out between conferees from the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House version of the stimulus bill includes $50 million in direct grants to the arts, to be allocated via the National Endowment for the Arts. If you're keeping score, $50 million is about one seventeen-thousandth of $827 billion.

The arts organization and other advocates also are planning to run ads with the slogan "Arts = Jobs" this week in political journals.

UPDATE: Culture Monster asked Feinstein whether she agrees with the amendment's "statement of purpose," which paints the arts and some other potential uses of federal job-creation money as "wasteful" and "non-stimulative." The answer, said Gil Duran, a Feinstein spokesman, is "no," but that she thinks the economic recovery package "should emphasize projects that strengthen the nation's transportation and water infrastructure."

-- Mike Boehm

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story misspelled Dianne Feinstein's first name.

Photo: Dianne Feinstein

Photo Credit: Brian Baer/Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (9)

Please get the president's economic stimulas passedimmediately.

M G Moroney

Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity every year, support 5.7 million jobs, and return nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year. Plus, every $1 billion spent by these organizations– and their audiences – results in almost 70,000 full-time-equivalent jobs. PLEASE don't forget us!
A sincere plea from a museum art conservator in New York

Dianne Feinstein and other nominal Democrats voted for the outrageous Collins amendment that contains this sentence: “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”

Republicans have been parroting the tired lie "Everyone knows that the New Deal did nothing to end the Depression [or caused it]: the War did." That claim is demonstrably false, but they own the echo chamber along with so much else. Such misinformation comes largely from author Amity Shlaes who has no idea what the New Deal left us or of how we all use its indispensable artifacts every day. With the exception of the first item, however, these are all social benefits that the Works Progress Administration built or improved to create a vastly expanded PUBLIC life in the United States. Republicans aided by "Democrats" such as Feinstein have very largely killed that public realm, and by this amendment, they seek to drive a stake through its heart, insuring that we never have a WPA again no matter how desperately it is needed by those onto whom they have gradually shifted the majority of the tax burden.

shame on you dianne feinstein, WPA projects are schools, museums, zoos, public spaces, and the arts.

To cut these and private/public partnerships such as the met-life developments of housing Park La Brea, and parkmerced in SF Ca.

in addition to numerous public works WPA projects funded in SF and the bay area means she has turned her back on the arts and the promise of a community for the future.

backing only the rich private interests will not help her in her run to be governor of this state.

A.Goodman VP @ PRO

I'm astounded to learn that Diane Feinstein has given her support to NO SUPPORT for the arts. The arts keep our society civil. They bridge cultural understanding. Statistically, communities with active arts programs hold and maintain less crime. Arts give our children a creative way to understand the world in which they are rapidly going to be expected to participate in creating, and without the grasp and understanding that arts provide we might expect some pretty bleak outcomes. I'm truly truly disappointed. It really shows the limited understanding of the economic viability and community building that arts contribute of those who voted ARTS out. Especially since within the arts and granting institutions, there are already audit and control measures in place to oversee the allocation of funds. It's the first place that the regular person donor holds back on when things get tough, so ARTS are already hurting, and were hurting before with the limitations on funding throughout the Bush administration. This is just one more blow and really gives vividness to the cow-towing going on. Feinstein has lost my vote.

Again people, this is an economic stimulus bill, not either the yearly budget or a public works project, the deficit as it is will detroy us, its going to get larger, and wreak havoc through inflation once the econmy does get going again.

Stop being selfish, be realistic, Feinstein was. This vote has nothiing to do with arts, or health care, or education, but is for jobs and wealth creation.Sending monies to the states will take presure off thier deficits, and be better equipt to deal with education and health, far bigger concerns than the arts, which need to be paid for by the private sector, far more than enough museums and such around. Better works in them is what we need.

this is a Depression people, its gonna get alot worse before it gets better, and the inflation wave may destroy the elderly, their savings and our future stabvility. Grow up, this isnt about you, its about US.

art collegia delenda est
A waste of money if there ever was one, as proven by these ignorant replies.

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill's finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort.

Churchill's response: "Then what are we fighting for?"

This is NOT just art, this is a HUGE slap in the face to historic preservation! Not all museums are art museums! Art museums just get all the funding.

There's a lot to be said in favor of the Coburn amendment that Senator Feinstein voted for. Unfortunately, theaters, museums and some art centers got lumped in with casiinos, baseball and football stadium construction projects, community parks and other projects that crooked local politicians love to waste money on and keep in their own general funds. LA City is perfect example of what could happen if stimulus funds fell into the hands of questionable mayors and city councils like we have. Any arts money would wind up being spent on elephant housing at the LA Zoo. Artists or the community would never see the money in any form - unless they play poker at a casino.


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