Elko & the NEA (March 9, 2011 post)

It’s a hostile environment in Washington where no politician wants to be blamed for increasing the federal deficit to $14 trillion by voting for the $3.7 trillion budget before them.

Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid, in a recent plea for the National Endowment for the Humanities, used the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering as an example of good sponsorship that has subsequently fired the ire of both conservatives and liberals, but won’t bring consensus in any meaningful way. Though Reid misspoke slightly by saying, “The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.” We know what he meant, and we know what the Gathering has meant to each of us and the community of Elko for the past 27 years.

Eliminating NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts, budgeted for around $124 million, won’t balance the books – a drop in the bucket where over a $1 trillion has been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, where the current Defense Budget is over $500 billion. In the scheme of things, the NEH stands at less than .00003% of the FY2011 Federal Budget.

Long a measure of economic health, we are suffering the consequences of too much growth, a collapsed, debt-driven growth requiring nearly $5 trillion to bailout our economy.  The National Endowment for the Humanities was not the cause, nor is its amputation from the budget a solution.

In hard times, our focus becomes especially short term, looking to cut where we can to get-by, but never really dealing with the issues, now more emotional than ever, that created our problems. If ever there were a time to take the longer view, it is now. As for the arts and humanity, a little more of both would serve us all well.

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