Mudcat Café message #1034749 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #63553   Message #1034749
Posted By: Don Firth
13-Oct-03 - 01:54 PM
Thread Name: BS: Benefits/Welfare.
Subject: RE: BS: Benefits/Welfare.
No one doubts the importance to the civilized world of the good that can be done with large accumulations of wealth. "Patron of the Arts" is a time-honored position in society, and it takes money to be this kind of benefactor. Historically, this was well understood. In Renaissance Italy, the talents of artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and scores of others might have never seen the light of day had it not been for commissions from the Medici, the d'Este, and the Vatican (never noted for it's poverty). Many people in this country loathed those whom they regarded as "robber barons," like Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford, yet the Rockefeller Foundation funds various worthwhile projects to this day, Carnegie endowed a system of public libraries all over the country, and Ford was smart enough to be sure to pay his workers a living wage. He understood something that modern corporate heads apparently do not: he wanted his employees to have enough money to be able to afford to buy the automobiles they produced.

Locally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (I think his marrying Melinda was a good thing. She seems to have humanized him) is funding medical research among other things, and one of Bill's associates, Paul Allen, funded and built the "Experience Music Project" at the Seattle Center. Weird building, excellent resource. The Benaroya family made a fortune in real estate, and within recent years they, too, have been spreading the wealth around with good affect. Seattle has a truly world-class symphony orchestra, but until now, it had to share facilities with Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Scheduling nightmares! Now, its home is the brand new Benaroya Hall, enclosing a large concert hall and a smaller recital hall, both acoustically state-of-the-art. In the meantime, someone else with substantial wealth has financed the renovation of the aging Opera House, improving the already good acoustics and making it more suitable for opera and ballet productions. Seattle Opera is the fourth largest opera company in the country, and Pacific Northwest Ballet is a major contender for world class. Seattle is a great place for music and theater arts, thanks to people who have large accumulations of wealth and who are willing to think beyond their own constrained circle. But these projects didn't just benefit the arts. They provided jobs for thousands of people in the construction business, not to mention the office staffs, stage hands, etc., needed to run these facilities. Without infusions of private money, this just wouldn't happen.

Media mogul Ted Turner has been spreading his money around as well. On a television interview a couple of years ago, with my own ears I heard him say, "I have three billion dollars. Who needs that much money?" He went on to outline all the good one could do with it, should one be sufficiently observant, aware of need, and open-handed enough to be willing to part with some of it, and he took his fellow multi-millionaires and billionaires to task for their lack of social conscience, short-sighted greed, and general miserliness.

No, I have no objection to great accumulations of wealth. What I object to is when this wealth is accumulated at the cost of rendering thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people jobless, homeless, and miserable.

Many people seem to be under the impression that FDR ended the Depression in the Thirties by getting us into World War II (that may have been one of Bush's rationales for getting us into the current mess), but that isn't true. The Depression, initially caused by wild Wall Street speculation, inflated profit figures, and corporate corruption (sound familiar?) was pretty well over with before we got into the War. It was ended by FDR's initiation of a series of job-creating federal "alphabet soup" programs such as the Works Projects Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and many others. Instead of cutting taxes on the rich with the forlorn hope of some of those tax moneys being used to start new businesses and maybe put the unemployed back to work, these government programs put people to work directly. Some people (e.g., Westbrook Pegler) screamed about socialism, but these programs did put people to work building projects (roads, bridges, conservation projects, and many other things) that we are still reaping benefits from today. By the way, setting up the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress was one of FDR's government funded projects. And—it was FDR who started the Social Security program.

But demagogues and their political stooges are too hung up on their own agendas to look at the lessons of history. Besides, that might be flirting with something that looks like socialism! Oh, horrors!!

(Back during my Ayn Rand phase, I never thought I would be talking like this. But live and learn.)

Don Firth