Government and the arts. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesnâ€™t it? But the two are inextricably intertwined, both for ill and for good.
The list of ill is too long to go into, even on the limitless pages of the Internet. But it usually boils down to aesthetic disagreements over particular works. The most recent ill-tempered and ill-advised clash of government and the creative world came with Senateâ€™s refusal in November to honor rock icon Bruce Springsteen with a ceremonial resolution in the Bossâ€™s honor. I wonâ€™t go into that here, as Tim Gebhart has already covered this lunacy so well. But do let me reiterate: Partisan politics and overheated (and improper) war rhetoric spiked that innocuous effort to recognize one of Americaâ€™s leading musicians.
Then youâ€™ve got the continuing battle over federal funding of the Corporation for Public Television, an outlet that, while less artistically vigorous than in previous years, is still one of the best spots in the broadcast landscape to find worthwhile, well-made programming. If not for PBS affiliate WGBH-Bostonâ€™s support of Masterpiece Theater, Americans wouldnâ€™t have been able to see the award-winning The Lost Prince.
And the often ill-advised coupling of art and government trickles down to even the local level. Witness the various "art in public places" directives, efforts by cities or counties to add (or foist, depending on your point of view) a little culture to their citizensâ€™ daily lives. Unfortunately, itâ€™s usually the local officials who choose the art and most citizens frequently view the works, justifiably or not, as at best useless and at worst offensive.
However, there might be a bit of good in the government/art connection on the horizon. Tax legislation currently under consideration on Capitol Hill has tax breaks for songwriters, writers, artists, musicians and other creative individuals.
One measure, already approved in separate House and Senate tax bills, would allow songwriters to count their royalty payments as capital gains instead of ordinary income as they now are categorized. That could mean up to 20 percent less in taxes for these musicians.