Commentary: Nikki Haley attacks coronavirus stimulus money for the arts, but culture is sick too

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Nikki Haley took to Twitter on Thursday to complain about a few items in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that the Senate passed Wednesday and the House passed Friday.

She could have objected to the White House’s reluctance to spend $1 billion on life-saving ventilators, but that would have put her in President Donald Trump’s Twitter crosshairs. She commendably stepped down from the board of Boeing in protest of its coronavirus bailout bid. But she had little else to say on Twitter about the proposed $500 billion corporate slush fund that uses taxpayer dollars to bail out private companies and their exorbitantly paid CEOs.

What really offends Haley is the inclusion of a cheapskate tip for the arts and the humanities in the stimulus bill.

In terms of the whole package, it’s the equivalent of a waitress at a diner being left a penny after working a 14-hour shift. But perhaps Haley’s right to begrudge this relatively trivial outlay.

Trump cynically professed his love for “the poorly educated” during his 2016 presidential campaign. And the president’s dutiful Republican Party understands that election victories hinge on keeping voters angry, distracted and misinformed.

The possible outbreak of critical thinking frightens Trump stalwarts more than the explosion of COVID-19 across our land. The “Wuhan virus,” as Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo has obediently taken to calling it, is now made in the USA. The president can take full credit for making us No. 1 in coronavirus cases anywhere in the world, including China. Say what you will about Trump’s leadership, but his dithering, denial and double talk have gotten the job done.

A diagnosis must be made: The country is culturally sick as well as physically ill. The condition is chronic, and Haley and her side would like to keep it that way. They want the world to adopt their partisan glasses so that even the science of epidemiology can be spun by Fox propagandists.

What’s the danger in supporting public television and radio? Information — formerly known as facts — harmful to the Republican Party could pollute the media ecosystem with knowledge. A pandemic is clearly no time to be spreading truths.

How could supporting the National Endowment for the Humanities be considered a problem? Do we really want our citizens to be thinking historically? Of course not. Every crisis must be vacuum-sealed to avoid the detection of a pattern, which is only a euphemism for “Democratic hoax.”

Should the federal government be encouraging clarity of expression and lucidity of thought? This isn’t a time for luxuries.

As for the performing arts, why give the now-closed Kennedy Center a red cent when they’re always presenting liberal fodder like “Hamilton” and “What the Constitution Means to Me”? Has this historic venue ever once held a Trump rally? Anyway, it’s dangerous even in healthy times for people to contemplate collectively. The last thing the GOP needs is a more compassionate body politic.

And don’t bother to tell Haley that supporting these agencies supports workers. The private sector is where that magic is supposed to happen. Look how they’re there for us when we’re down and out.

What about all the layoffs? Surely Amazon can find jobs for these overeducated types. Hmm, better not mention Amazon. Jeff (Washington Post) Bezos is on you-know-who’s you-know-what list. Move to Germany if you want welfare for the creative sector. No way would we ever announce a 50-billion-euro aid package for artists. Let them eat cake. Or better yet, binge-watch “Schitt’s Creek.”



Charles McNulty is the theater critic of the Los Angeles Times.


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