I think that I shall never see
A poem cheesy as my brie.
While libertarians rightfully bellow about billion dollar federal boondoggles that treat our tax money like so much scented 2-ply extra absorbent soft and gentle bathroom tissue with aloe we're being nickel and dimed to death by the rabble up at the state capital. In politicalese, that's thousand and millioned to death.
The doggerel above actually has two good points; it didn't cost any taxpayer a penny and no state governor demanded that its perpetrator resign.
Not so with New Jersey Poet Laureate Amiri Baraka's versification of the Nine-Eleven attacks called "Somebody Blew Up America". Branding it anti-Semitic for the line "Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day?" both Governor McGreevey and the Anti-Defamation League demanded the rhyme-meister's demise.
So how did this poesy slinger land on the public dole as a $5,000 per year official Garden State bard? According to a Salon article, Baraka was appointed to the poet's post by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, after cahooting with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
The New Jersey Council for the Humanities sounds like a benign bunch. Their web site aspires, among other lofty goals, to "engage citizens in dialogue about matters of individual choice and public responsibility." They display their own commitment to individual choice and public responsibility by not taking money from taxpayers. As a "state partner" of the National Endowment for the Humanities, however, they get their loot from the NEH who gets their loot from taxpayers.
The NEH is a public trough-feeder with its humanitarian hand out for a taxpayer-funded 2003 budget of $126.893 million. Mindful of the iron rule that a bureaucracy exists primarily to benefit the bureaucrats who run it, no one should be shocked that $20.839 million, over 16%, is sliced out as administrative pie.
That other New Jersey assemblage, the State Council on the Arts, harbors no pretense of individual choice and public responsibility when subsidy time rolls around. They openly pilfer taxpayer pockets. Former Gov Christine Todd Whitman was so enamored with their efforts to provide "high quality arts experiences" for her subjects that she championed an annual arts budget of $20 million by the year 2000, casting the catchy catchphrase "20 by 2000" (coined, undoubtedly, by the state's Sloganeer Laureate).
Justification for forcibly relocating earned income from taxpayer wallets to culture creatures follow a familiar stanza: the effect of artsy efforts on the state's economy benefits restaurants, shops, and various unspecified service industries. If these commercial concerns benefit so much, why don't they band together and support the arts themselves? They benefit from advertising, too. Do New Jersey business bosses depend on the state Copywriter Emeritus to create their advertising layouts?
Verse two: a strong arts community plays an important role in deciding where corporations and families locate. Guess nobody would relocate to (insert name of any American city here) with its proud tradition of privately endowed performance halls, art museums, and live stage theaters.
And yet another cant-filled canto: the rhyme writer's 5K annual stipend is a mere drop in the bucket, so why complain? But how many drops can a bucket hold? As former Senator Everett Dirksen once remarked, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money."
Then, of course, there's that fuzzy "quality of life" argument. During that same "20 by 2000" year when Whitman was fertilizing basketry courses and Venetian glass blowing workshops with tax dollars a Jersey family of four with a $25,000 annual income was struggling just to fill their grocery basket and put milk in the kids' drinking glasses. In 2000, according to a recent Liberty article, that family of four was paying the second highest state and local personal taxes in the nation. Did any state-employed white-faced mime care about their quality of life?
Amiri Baraka strenuously denies, in iambic pentameter no doubt, that he's a Jew baiter. Maybe so, maybe not. Is his poetry any good? Maybe so, maybe not. What's relevant is that he's the official New Jersey State Tax-Sponger Emeritus. He should resign, but not for those reasons. He needs to discover the poetry of freedom. Then, no one can demand his expulsion, and the public will tell him if he's any good. They'll vote with their own dollars. Voluntarily.
I think that I shall never see
A poem pleasing as TAX FREE.
Garry is a prolific writer and many more of his works may be found at:
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