Monday, February 9, 2009

Coburn Amendment

As an artist, the unified agreement around the Coburn Amendment, to guarantee that we greedy artists don't get a cent of the stimulus money, is a slap in the face to us. I mean, we're already a fairly disregarded and rudely treated bunch. Now that our industry is in trouble, don't we get any help? Parabasis has some excellent columns on the subject.

This morning, I took up a letter writing campaign. I wrote a short note to Obama (they have a 500 character limit, which is unfair). Then I wrote the following to Senator Feinstein:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I'm a 20 year old student of theater in America. I've always had to struggle with the fact that we are not well supported in America. My hope was that, coming from college, I'd have the chance to change that. I knew it would be difficult: the Department of Labor forecasts that the average actor has poor job security and earns a medium pay of $23,400. This, despite the fact that non-profit arts create 5.7 million jobs and $9.1 billion in state tax revenues, according to HUD.

I saw in the paper that you decided to vote on behalf of the Coburn Amendment to the stimulus package bill. Reading the support for the vote, and listening to the rhetoric of its proponents, I became very afraid. I'm afraid for my future. Because if the leaders of this country treat our almost 6 million jobs and our 12 billion in Federal Tax revenues as nothing more than "pork," as a useless expenditure that's unimportant, then what chance am I or my friends going to have? The signal our Congress is sending to America is that the arts are a waste, the arts are useless.

I was not surprised, for instance, that the little bubbles in this submission form don't have a space for "Arts." It's barely a topic to begin with. But it's an important part of the economy. I work full-time, I pay taxes, and yet every week I hear another non-profit theater is going bankrupt, because the money that should be coming from the government to help support it is being cut, being diverted to more "important" job-creating ventures. Because clearly a job in alternative energies, or a job working on highways is far more important than the work I do.

I'm afraid. Are there any further cuts that are coming to the arts? Will you continue to advocate to cuts to the NEA, to state arts funding, to bailouts for museums and cultural organizations like theaters?

Your constituent,
Guy Yedwab

I will update you in a week when I get a response, I'm sure.