Ardent defender of wasteful federal arts spending
In December, John McCain put out a report called “Stimulus Checkup.” It contains 100 recipients of stimulus money, and a brief blurb presumably highlighting why each is a dubious use of money.
Philadelphia gets some skin from McCain, who includes $25,000 given to the Pig Iron theater company at #26. Their entry is on page 22 of the above-linked report, but here is a selective quote of their entry:
“The Pig Iron Theater…$25,000 stimulus grant…will support…cowboys perform[ing] a clown ballet on asphalt and a stunningly mean group of foulmouthed waitresses.”
The quote “stunningly mean group of foulmouthed waitresses” was also raised out of the page for a big insert quote, as if to suggest that money was supporting the waitresses in their ongoing efforts to be foulmouthed. Not the case, if you bothered to read the blurb, but knowing what you’re talking about isn’t the point here.
Since McCain obviously cares about transparency in the ongoing exchange between Governor and Governed, here is my response to the Honorable Senator from Arizona. I also sent it to his contact form on the senate website, but there’s probably a better chance he stumbles upon it here while googling “dysentery” with old POW pals for old time’s sake.
Subject: Budget Issues (select from drop down menu)
Dear Senator McCain’s Staffers,
I presume this message will not reach Senator McCain, but perhaps it will reach the right aide. The “Stimulus Checkup” report issued by Senator McCain in December is purportedly a list of wasteful spending of stimulus money. Included in the list is #26, the Pig Iron Theater Company of Philadelphia. They received $25,000 to put on a show as part of Philly’s September 2009 Fringe Festival.
Several things are evident from the inclusion of this production in Senator McCain’s report.
1) No one in Sen. McCain’s office has ever seen a Pig Iron show.
2) No one in Sen. McCain’s office believes that theater supports local economic development.
3) Sen. McCain is more interested in finding convenient quotes that play well in the national media than to know what he’s talking about.
Pig Iron is probably the only theater company in Philadelphia putting on work worth mentioning. That $25,000 supported eight actors for weeks, who all paid rent, held jobs, and supported their communities. THOUSANDS of people saw their show, ate in local restaurants, and poured tens of thousands of dollars into the Philadelphia retail economy. Plus, despite Sen. McCain’s office’s dismissive use of selective quotes from the show’s press kit, the show was entertaining, intellectual, and wholesome(!).
I don’t know about the other items on the list. Surely some of them are not worth the money they received. I’m also sure Sen. McCain did not pick this list, but somebody in his office did. Congratulations to the entire office, then, on finding a target in the independent arts community to ridicule as an example of wasteful government spending. I hope the irony of this is not entirely lost on the office.
Perhaps, in a quiet moment, someone can ask Sen. McCain if scoring a few points with people who don’t care about the arts is worth losing a lot of points with those who do. This is a sad example of picking on the little guy, something Sen. McCain probably would claim he never does.