Sunday, December 13, 2009

Robbing The Poor

To give to enlightened, progressive, artists. It's well known that cigarette smokers are more likely to have lower incomes and educational levels than non-smokers, so essentially this represents the worst sort of regressive taxation.

The “Arts Community” is in favor of a tax on the poor to benefit themselves. Surprised? Me neither.

Progressives, of course, despise smokers more than any other group in American society. Well, technically, the most despised group is Sarah Palin, but she's only one woman, so that's not much of a group.

A couple of quick points: The Beacon piece nicely points out that one Michael J. Mikula, who says that “'investing in the arts community is smart money,''', primarily because he scored $20,000 of taxpayer money. Yup, if you've fleeced the taxpayers out of $20 g's for glassware, you're entitled to think of them as stupid.

Secondly, one can argue that the arts are important. However, in Akron, we're busy laying off cops and firefighters – two professions of much more value to the community than some dude turning out glassware.

I'm not sure that we actually have to raise taxes – as long as we are subsidizing professional softball, the downtown athletic club, and probably the inventors' hall of fame, and a kazillion deputy mayors, one could argue that noone in Akron's political class really thinks that there's a budget crisis – but if we have to, cops, firefighter, and sanitation work should go to the head of the line.

Granted, the position of the Arts Community is all about greed. After all, it's far easier to con some government into giving you a living than producing a product anyone wants to by. Still, this comment from one Thomas B. Schorgi gives one pause for the sheer concentration of industrial strength stupidity:

“ 'If the arts and cultural groups go away tomorrow, there would be people who now come into Summit County who would go elsewhere,'' said Thomas B. Schorgl, president and chief executive of the Cleveland-based Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. ''And when they come into Summit County, they are clearly spending dollars from outside the county. There is a true economic impact.'''

Generally speaking, if you have to subsidize something in order for it to be produced, that's a sign of economic inefficiency. If there was sufficient demand, there would be no need for the subsidy. Note to Mr. Schorgi: you can't make a community better off by producing things that can't be sold for more than the costs of production. That's just a cold, hard fact.

Mr. Schorgi's argument, if one could call it that, that a positive economic impact will be generated boils down to the assumption that the amount spent by out of towners on art will exceed the amount of the tax. After all, anyone buying a pack of cigarettes will have $0.34 less to spend on other things, so if the out of town spend on art is less, the community is a net loser. .

Now, you can argue that the arts produce a value that is unrecognized by the market. That's a different argument. To argue that point is to argue that subsidizing the arts is an economic loser, but that the intrinsic value (an externality or unrecognized community benefit) exceeds the economic costs.

But that would be a quality of life impact, not an economic one. Oh, sure, it's of economic value to the artists enjoying life on the taxpayer's tit, and one for art fans (likely upper class and upper income) who benefit as consumers from the subsidy, but as a net for the community, it's an economic negative.

Memo to the 'Artiste': If you can't make more than your expenses, it's time to get a haircut and get a real job. That, at least, won't be actively harmful to the poor.