The conservative blogosphere has been all giggly over Senator Harry Reid’s hand-wringing over the funding cuts proposed by the Republicans in H.R. 1. He specifically noted the pillaging of the National Endowment of the Humanties’ government largesse. The Senator’s problem ?
“The National Endowment of the Humanities is the reason we have in northern Nevada every January a cowboy poetry festival. Had that program not been around, the tens of thousands of people who come there every year would not exist.”
Now, I see nothing wrong with a National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. In fact, it looks like a right fun event. But one can’t help but snicker a little. Even the normally-staid Townhall has as its alternate title to the story:
Reid to Cowboy Poets: “I Wish I Knew How To Quit You”.
Reid’s pistol-whipping of the dastardly Republicans may have been a bit histrionic (which is not unusual for the Senator). The Executive Director of the organization that puts on the cowboy poetry event every years notes that federal grants account for only 7% of their funding, the rest coming from ticket sales (43%), local businesses (23%), private foundations (16%), and state and local governments (9%). He states that the event would “certainly continue” without the NEH funding.
Whether or not government should actually be in this racket is a whole ‘nuther discussion. The event seems like it would do right well with or without taxpayer sheckles. There are enough right-minded and interested people who would gather themselves up by their spurs and if the interest was there could pretty much put on any old kind of hootenany they wanted to.
Cowboy poetry isn’t the problem. It will go on. The problem is the NEH.
Let’s take a gander at the NEH Appropriations Request for Fiscal Year 2012 (PDF).
NEH maintains that it will take $146,255,000 to run their operations for a year. That’s quite alot of scratch, wouldn’t you say? But what caught my eye was this:
“$28,055,000 for salaries and expenses needed to operate the agency”
In the world of government agencies, that is call “admin” or “Administrative” money. It means that for all the money you dole out to the causes that you deem to be worthy, this is what it takes to to it. If I’m doing my math right, the NEH’s administrative costs run about 19% of their total budget. That’s awful dang high.
The appropriations request further states that 72% of their admin money, about $20 million, goes solely for “personnel compensation and benefits”.
It seems to me that some people might be having some right fancy offices. And they aren’t having beans and rice for dinner, either.
So you can make fun of cowboy poetry gatherings all you want. The real issue is the NEH. How the hell does an agency that does what it does grow to be so huge ? It is feeding off of itself and its own perpetual funding. It creates itself and its layers of management as it goes along in order to justify its existence. It cries over the demise of “culture” when in fact the culture is the people themselves and what the people hold near and dear to their hearts and what they will pay for and fight for, not what some gooberment bureaucrat deems to be “worthy”.
I’m telling you, it just sticks in my craw a bit.