I’m taking a break from my (not particularly popular) series on the theoretical underpinnings of arguments opposed to government funding for the arts to comment on the recent line-item veto by Kansas Governor Brownback of funding for that state’s arts commission. Obviously, the two items are connected, and we’ve seen that connection in a very real way in the last week.
How can Brownback argue against funding the commission? It’s not about the money – the state will see a net loss due to the loss of federal NEA funds when the state commission goes unfunded and the five commission employees will be drawing down the state’s unemployment coffers. It’s not about democracy – the state legislature, in a by-partisan move, overturned Brownback’s earlier executive order to close the agency. It might be about an ideological stance about limiting the scope of government, but I think Jay Dick on artsblog may have hit the nail on the head when he writes, “What was this really about? At the end of the day, one word: Power.”
We see this trend toward centralization of gubernatorial powers elsewhere, most especially in Wisconsin where Scott Walker subverted voting rules to push through his decimation of collective bargaining rights for government workers. It almost feels like the Hamilton/Jefferson debate over states rights all over again. The difference is that Hamilton and Jefferson, each in their own ways, were hoping to protect the democratic rights of citizens and these new governors appear hell-bent on circumventing those rights to secure their power positions in the newest version of the “Right.”
What can be done about it? Read Barry Hessennius call to (metaphorical) arms. The Walkers and Brownbacks of the world are motivated by one thing – the power that comes with their ELECTED positions. Stop them from being re-elected, or do what 18,000 citizens of Fountain Hills AZ are doing to AZ Senate President Russell Pearce: start a legitimate, democratic recall effort. When the people in power no longer represent the people, they no longer have the power.
PS> for another excellent opinion piece, see Janet Brown’s blog on the Grantmakers in the Arts site.
Update: See artsblog for news on an unsuccessful veto override attempt.