Republicans vs. Hollywood and the Arts

The Republican party has a long history of voting against support for the arts, and it’s my understanding that Senate Republicans have succeeded in removing funding for the arts (NEA in particular) and film production. Their message is clear. “Jobs in the arts aren’t real jobs.” Regardless of how you feel about the arts, from a financial stimulus perspective these politicians simply couldn’t be more wrong.

If a carpenter helps build a home in Kansas, that’s a real job. Would anyone argue against that point? He’s an American earning an income and spending some of that income to make jobs for others. But what about a carpenter building sets in Hollywood, for example? Not only does he earn an income with the same ripple effect as the construction carpenter in Kansas, I suggest he provides even more stimulus to the country’s economy. Unlike the housing industry, films and other arts are major American exports, hence improving our balance of trade, generating income for even more people and generating tax revenues. Furthermore, when a film is shot on location here in the U.S., millions of dollars are injected into local economies. That’s why cities fight for the opportunity to host film production. And it’s not just the film industry. Music, dance and the fine arts are also significant contributors to our economy. Just think of the tourism revenues generated by our theatres and museums.

I have a hunch about this. Perhaps it’s not liberals vs. conservatives. Maybe it really comes down to urban vs. rural, which tends to correlate with the former segmentation. Could it be that Hollywood and the arts benefit our cities far more than they benefit the more rural parts of the country? Is that the reason why the Republicans don’t support the arts? I’d like to think it’s more out of selfishness (which politicians are allowed to represent, up to a point) than stupidity and dogma.

[In a previous life I was proud to be a member of IATSE Local 16 in San Francisco, where I spent much of my apprenticeship as a carpenter building sets for the S.F. Opera before moving into film production.]

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