South Carolina Governor wants to hear from you

After a weekend of not much sleep (I calculated it out: 3.5 hours of sleep in a 60.5 hour period…who’s the baddest?  I the baddest) for an amazingly successful 2012 SSA Annual Leadership Conference, it’s back to bloggings.  I have all kinds of new people to yell at.  The first group is a bunch you can, and should yell at too, because sharing is caring.

Republicans have this nasty habit of “helping the economy” in the present at the expense of fewer educated minds in the future which, I’m sure in their eyes, has the happy effect of not only making it look like the GOP has miraculously freed up money now, but also increasing their voting base in the next generation.  Sadly, one of the first things to go is the pesky, pesky arts programs (trust the music major on this one).

Case in point: Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, has decided that the South Carolina Commission of Arts needs to be eliminated.  Not reorganized, not trimmed down; destroyed.

I’m sure the hope is that people will think, “Meh, people don’t really need art and that money can be used for fixing the economy, because the Republicans did great with that the last time they had a shot.”  But that’s wrong is multiple parts.  The first is that art is everywhere around you and you pay for it.  The digital art in virtually every TV show you watch?  Artists.  The music in movies and the special effects?  Artists.  The graphics in the video games you love (and for which there is a huge market that does well even in a recession)?  Artists, artists, artists.  Art, it turns out, is one of the few things humans generally don’t cut back on in order to pinch pennies.  We need it to live fulfilled lives.

The second part about arts not generating money is also wrong.  As Ashley Miller points out, art is more profitable than you think.

The arts in South Carolina brings in $9.2 billion and creates 78,000 jobs at a cost of 1.9 million to the Arts Commission.

The narrative from Haley’s office, I’m sure, will be that they freed up $1.9 million.  And all the people who never learned how to read two-levels deep into a claim (hint: look for the ones who got shitty educations) are going to eat it up.

This needs to be opposed.  Ashley has even more reasons as well as all the phone numbers of the people who need an earful from an angry populace.  Start your Monday by reaching out and touching someone…and screaming at them.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Thorne

    South Carolinian, here. I have to disagree about the arts cutbacks. I view those as not too dissimilar to farm subsidies for rich farmers: a waste of taxpayer money. If, as you say, the arts bring in $9.2 billion, why do we have to fund it with taxpayer dollars? Use some of that income from them to fund a private Arts Commission.

    Now, her cutbacks on teacher pay raises? That’s ludicrous! How about cutting back on the pay for state legislators and the governor, first? At least teachers do some real work for their money.

  • Parse

    Having the state fund art is sorta like the state funding research. Not all of it’s going to pay off immediately, or even at all; but the stuff that does, pays off well (and is typically built on the work that doesn’t pay off at first glance).

    If, as you say, the arts bring in $9.2 billion, why do we have to fund it with taxpayer dollars?

    Because not all of that $9.2 billion is pure ‘art’ revenue – an artist needs to buy raw materials, studio space, food, etc; those suppliers need to pay employees, etc. We fund it with taxpayer dollars because the overall gains come from many different segments of the economy, which feed back into the tax base. A private Arts Commission can’t directly tap into the money that comes back in through all of these various channels, as you’re suggesting.

  • gadfly

    I agree.

    I would like to offer an additional argument for why we should support the arts.

    Not everything’s value can be quantified. We ought not to boil down all programs to how much it will make us (or cost us) in dollars.

    Some things are the right things to do because of their intrinsic value.

    Art is intrinsically valuable and should be supported.

  • Thorne

    Art is intrinsically valuable and should be supported.

    Sorry, I don’t see it. As far as I can tell the only value art has is what some fool is willing to pay for it. I have no use for it myself and I resent having to pay for it, even indirectly.

    Why should taxpayers pay artists to do their work? Let those who enjoy the art pay for it. Let those businesses that benefit from art fund a commission to promote it. And if the artist can’t make money at it, then maybe he shouldn’t be doing it. When I wasn’t making enough money at a job, I started looking for a new job. Why should someone who slaps paint on a canvas be treated any differently than someone who slaps paint on a house?

    Obviously I have no “appreciation” for art, but I do appreciate classical music, and I say the same about government supporting orchestras or ballet companies. It makes no sense to me. If they aren’t good enough to make it on their own, they shouldn’t be subsidized by my taxes.

  • YYZatcboy


    That’s like saying that the government should make no investments at all. After all, if a business can’t make it on their own without investors they should not be in business. What the state is doing is investing and it seems like they are getting a wicked return on their investment. Governments do lots of investing not only in business and the arts but also in science and research. Don’t think of it like it’s a subsidy but think of it like a venture capatalist mutual fund, whereby by investing 1.9 million gives a net return to the state and also to the citezens. If you don’t like that analogy, think of it this way, by investing that tax money the state earns more in tax revenue than it would without it. So by cutting that spending now, in a few years all of your taxes would go up a noticable amount just because of that lack of almost 10 billion dollars in the state’s economy, not to mention any further loss of business as the artists move and take all their support, retail, housing, entertainment etc. money with them. Then the tourisim dries up, and business that cater to tourists (hotels, restaraunts) loose money and start to close, further driving away business and people and their money. Then taxes go up again because of the loss of tax revenue from all of those people and businesses and the cycle repeats. Any business or government who is not continually investing will quickly stagnate and wither.

    Hope that helps explain it…

    Joe from Canada

    (BTW this is my first comment on FTB. Long time lurker)

  • digitalatheist

    The narrative from Haley’s office, I’m sure, will be that they freed up $1.9 million.

    “I would rather give this money to the taxpayers and let them decide which charities they are going to give money to than to allow the Legislature to decide,” she said. “It’s the responsible thing to do.” Governor Haley.

    She tried to pull this stunt last year, but got overturned by the legislature. And I hate to tell her, but this money, if the average tax payer even notices it being returned is NOT gonna be handed over to charity.

    Nicky Haley, the Tea Party, the Republicans that support both, alledged fiscal conservatives who never met a corporation they couldn’t pass a welfare check to, and people who just want every program slashed (except the ones that help them of course!) are gonna hail this as some major “victory”, and are more than willing to accept any amount of revenue and job loss, whether it be $2 million or $2 trillion… just so they can claim they “saved money”.

    Governor Haley tried this stunt last year, but fortunately the Legislature was still in session and quickly told her where to get off. This year she managed to do it while they are on summer recess. Go figure.

  • Thorne

    So by cutting that spending now, in a few years all of your taxes would go up a noticable amount just because of that lack of almost 10 billion dollars in the state’s economy

    Aren’t you making the assumption that ALL of that $10 billion is directly connected to the money being “invested”? How much of that would actually disappear if the government didn’t invest in this Arts Commission? Very little, I should think.

    Being a resident, who has lived on the coast and in the midlands, I can assure you that tourists don’t come here to buy art. They come to enjoy the beaches, and all of the concomitant entertainments, and to play golf. I don’t think you’ll see too many who say, “Oooh, let’s pack up the kids and take a trip to South Carolina to buy some art!”

    So why isn’t the state “investing” in golf courses? Hell, we could even sell naming rights. I would love to play on a course with a Governor Haley Memorial Sandtrap.

    All that said, I CAN understand the state using tax money to advertise some of the artistic areas within the state. Letting people know that Brookgreen Gardens is only a few minutes drive from the Myrtle Beach area might generate some extra spending by the tourists. But how much of what they might spend there would they be likely to take home with them? Chances are they would spend it on something else.

    As for the artists leaving and taking their spending with them, that sounds more like blackmail than investment. It’s the same with industry demanding tax breaks to set up their business here. If none of the states caved into such tactics, the industries would still be in business, somewhere, and still hiring people. It’s only because each state wants to bring some industry in (for obvious reasons) that the businesses can get away with such tactics.

    • YYZatcboy

      Hi Thorne,

      It’s probably impossible to say how much damage would or would not be done to the local economy. Keep in mind when you talk about arts funding it usually means all the arts, not just visual art. (Theatre, Film production, music, publishing and writing, ballet/dance, museums etc).

      It’s something that happened in my home town of Toronto back in the early 2000s when SARS and 9/11 significantly reduced the amount of tourists that came to town. What was hurt first were the arts industries that lots of the tourists came to see like our commercial theatres and art galleries and museums. They along with the hotels and restaurants bore the brunt of the collapse. Then the smaller theatres and smaller business and hotels started to feel the crunch, because as the big theatres stopped putting on as many shows and the bigger hotels slashed rates effectively undercutting everyone below them. Lots of places closed and I know lots of artists personally who were putting on hit theatre (which is the community i was closest to) in smaller venues that had to stop creating theatre and start working jobs unrelated to the field to make enough to live. Now Toronto is much less vibrant though it has recovered a bit.

      As to people leaving and taking their business with them, it’s not a threat, it’s a fact of life. If you cannot afford to live somewhere you either have to come up with new ways to fund yourself, leave or switch what you do to make more money. Lots of artists would rather leave than give up on what they do, so thats what would happen. Same as if you started taxing a particular industry more than the others, it would likely pack up and go. If you are OK with SC becoming a place renowned for being hostile to the arts where little original art is created (this will happen over time) then there is no problem. Not everyone appreciates the arts or recognizes all of the impacts that the arts have on local community and business, and many think that the arts are for elite rich people and don’t care.

      Arts subsidies not only help the artists but are designed to keep the cost of accessing the art low for the public consumers in order to let them take part in local and national art.

      Here is an article that documents how cuts to arts are affecting artists, communities and businesses in British Columbia

      I doubt that we will be able to change your mind on this issue, but I hope to at least show you that it’s more complex than you might imagine.

      Joe from Canada

      • Thorne

        Thanks for the info, Joe.

        Yes, I’m sure that the issue is far more complex than I can imagine, or would want to imagine. My point remains the same, though. If the arts in question aren’t able to stand on their own, why should we subsidize them? Maybe they would attract some tourist dollars. But if they can’t do that without subsidies, what’s the point? I’m sure there are other things which can attract the tourist dollars without being subsidized.

        I also don’t see how not subsidizing the arts is equivalent to being hostile towards artists. It’s as though someone were saying I hate them because I won’t give them a dollar. There’s no hostility involved. I just think you should earn that dollar. And you do that by performing your art, for money.

        However, I really don’t care whether the state gets a reputation as anti-arts. As I said, the arts mean nothing to me directly, and I would be hard pressed to find any indirect connection, too.

        Now, one thing that the state of SC has: on their income tax forms, is a list of things the taxpayer can donate a dollar towards, a dollar which is added to their tax bill. There are many worthwhile organizations there, and those who are most benefited by those organizations can donate their dollars to support them. Those who would rather not waste their money on such things don’t have to. I don’t have any problem with this kind of “subsidy”, where the state simply does the bookkeeping needed to determine who gets what.

        As you say, it’s complex, and there may be far more involved than I could possibly understand. But I do understand that my tax dollars are being used for something which I do not support and do not care to support. Let the artists fend for themselves, the way most people have to do, and there will eventually be a balance between those who perform the art and those willing to pay for it. Subsidizing ultimately harms the very good artists because those who are not, quite, good enough are allowed to keep working at their art, diluting the quality of available art and lowering the price tag on the arts that are worthy of higher rewards.

  • digitalatheist

    I don’t know how this one got through the cracks, but Governor Haley has also decided to slash funding for rape crisis centers here in SC, which “distracts from the [Department of Health and Environmental Control's] broader mission of protecting South Carolina’s public health.”

    However just to show what a kind and caring individual she is, she does say that rape crisis center funding “attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused.

    The great wad of money saved by slashing this distraction? $453,000.

    Mind you, since 1982 our state (SC) has reported above average rates of rape, and of the over 5000 victims helped in 2011, over half were children.

    Well, folks, if anyone is still reading, I’m off to send more letters. I hope others do the same.

    • Thorne

      Why doesn’t this surprise me? Just one more salvo in the Republican Party’s War on Women. You know, that war that doesn’t exist?