One Small Business Owner/Rock Star’s Case For The NEA
  1. "I’ve seen myself referred to in print many ways. Pianist, singer/songwriter, composer, producer, rock star(!), reality show judge, studio owner, photographer, and occasionally (fill-in-blank-with-something-mean). However, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen myself referred to as ‘small business owner.’
    And yet being a small business owner is a big part of what has made my decade spanning career possible. It doesn’t sound so damn sexy in a bio, but being successful in business comes in handy when it’s time to join the adults at the table.
  2. I’ll try and keep the ‘I pulled myself up from bootstraps’ stuff brief, but suffice to say that I came up in a working class southern family, armed with a public school education that afforded me some exposure to the arts.
    Thanks to generations before me, who worked to instill the value of ideas and creativity into kids, rich and poor, I ‘got me some culture.’ From the muddy construction sites where I worked with my father, to the public youth orchestra on the other side of town. Access to the arts were part of what made America great for me as a child, and informed my sense of business nearly as much as that of my art.
  3. By my twenties, having worked every crap job under the sun, I had the notion to borrow and invest in my own ideas. I borrowed and invested in a van and a baby grand piano, which my band mates and I (Ben Folds Five) hoisted onto stages of rock clubs for three years, before landing a hit in the late 90s.
    Luck, yes. Hard work, yes. Failure and success, amen. I’ve hired, fired, gone from the red to the black, lawyered, danced with corporations, shaken hands with politicians, all while being in a different city every day meeting people of all walks.
  4. This is what informs my longtime advocacy for the arts, and it’s why I’ve walked the halls of Congress, served on the Board of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, raised funds and awareness, and attended countless panels on music ed, the arts, music therapy.
    So, for our purposes here, please call me a Small Business Owning, Working Class Roots Having, Arts Advocating Concerned Rock Star Parent.
  5. I spoke about arts funding at both the Republican and Democratic conventions this past year and found incredible support on both sides, so I can assure you it’s not a partisan issue. It is, however a matter of policy and must be addressed as such.
    Remember. We just voted to run our country like a business.
  6. So let’s run it like a good one.
    Okay. Let’s rumble.
  7. The President’s 2017/18 federal budget proposal would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
    Bad idea. Also an old idea.
  8. Let us rewind to 1981. Then-President Reagan considered nixing the NEA, but chose to consult a task force first, which reported back that the NEA’s impact was profoundly positive, and that abolishing it would be bad for the economy.
    Based on facts, Reagan - the granddaddy of modern conservatism - made a rational decision and continued to invest in the NEA.
  9. We gotta hit the phones.
  10. Kids, this an easy case to make to Congress. But it’s a case we have to make immediately to our Congressman and U.S. Senators. You can take action quickly through Americans For The Arts (of which I’m a member) here:
  11. They’ll stop the madness if we remind them that preserving the NEA is the right thing to do.
    If you’re calling about other issues in the budget, please do add this to the list. It’s all connected.
  12. What is the NEA?
    It’s a small independent federal agency created by Congress over 50 years ago to give Americans in all 50 states equal access to the arts.
  13. What is the NEA not?
    It’s not a groundbreaking gansta rap group from Compton (which also had a positive impact on the economy). It’s also not a sinister elitist council which decides what art lives and what dies. If that’s what you imagined, you’re thinking of another country brah.
  14. How does the NEA benefit the USA?
    The NEA guides and stimulates investments in the arts that in turn support local economies. They give small grants to nonprofits and partnerships for the arts in neighborhoods, schools and businesses. When they do, they entice the private sector investors to match the grants. On average, every one NEA dollar grants is matched by up to $9 from the private sector and other public resources.
  15. A bus that takes kids to a concert or a museum, like the ones that took me and other kids who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Thank you NEA. The old theaters I often perform in which have been recently renovated with private investment.
    Thank you NEA, for making that happen. I’ve seen those reinvigorate more districts and downtowns than I could count over my touring career. A little boost for the symphony or the ballet when times are tough. Again, thank you NEA.
  16. Ask a Mayor. Cities use their local arts and culture to lure corporate headquarters with high paying corporate jobs and new factories, and bring in tourism. Businesses and people go where the culture is.
    Let’s say you wanted to build a massive shiny tower with apartments, offices and businesses. You could build this tower in the borough where you grew up. But you recognize that it’s a better investment to go to the more vibrant area with museums, the symphony, the ballet, and the most beautiful architecture. And so you choose Manhattan to jump start your real estate empire, even though real estate is not directly in the arts. It’s good for business.
  17. How much does the NEA cost the USA?
    Damn near nothing in the big scheme of things. $148 million a year. Sounds like a lot, but not in terms of the overall federal budget. Cutting the NEA would have no noticeable effect on the bottom line. In fact it’s less than .004 percent of the overall budget, which comes out to 46 cents per person a year.
  18. Good ideas or perish.
  19. Our nation is built on ideas. We’ve succeeded by being creative and investing in that creativity. After all, ideas are what catapulted the human race from being mid food chain to the top.
  20. I say anyone who thinks we should eliminate the NEA had better have a better idea. I’d liken it to eliminating the roads that connect the homes to the businesses. Not investing in the road might make you appear austere, but you’d better have a plan B. If you’ve invented a way to beam people around and don’t need the roads, be my guest.
    Same with the NEA.
  21. Economics is measured by numbers. But it’s not just about numbers. Economics is about people and ideas. The numbers are there to count the fruits of our ideas. Jobs are created to implement ideas. Investing in creativity is smart business. And let’s not confuse the concepts of spending and investing.
    Nothing was ever saved by not making a good investment.
  22. Our budget reflects who we are.
  23. What on Earth does it say that we are actually considering investing absolutely nothing into the arts?
    What kind of cold, short-sighted country does that? That’s some other country, not the USA. That’s not the place I grew up. That’s not the place our grandparents grew up.
  24. How does ignoring the value of creativity make America great again?
    Our representatives need to know that we won’t stand for eliminating the tiny investment we make in the arts. And we need the current Administration to re-think this for a moment, listen to the facts, and change course. Imagine the legacy points they’d earn like Reagan did!
  25. Once again. America voted to run like a business.
    Let’s at least make sure it runs like a good one.
  26. Ben
  27. PS. I would now drop the mic. But those are expensive, and as I’ve said - I’m a businessman."
  28. I did this really quickly, so I hope I didn't miss anything, but this is so important. Here's the link to Ben's post in case I did.
  29. And also to this link that went with Ben's post: