Michael Kaiser, Washington Post – While government bailouts are being offered or considered for financial institutions, the auto industry, homeowners, and so many other needy and worthy sectors, one group is quickly and rather quietly falling apart: our nation’s arts organizations. In the past few months, dozens of opera companies, theater companies, dance organizations, museums and symphonies have either closed or suffered major cash crises. . .

Subsidies — in the form of government grants or private contributions — have long been required to help arts organizations balance their budgets. Well-managed arts organizations have typically been able to find the money required to operate if they create interesting programs, market them aggressively and build strong donor bases.

But these times are different. Many organizations that spent years building large endowments to provide more stable sources of support have seen them decimated. A number of our most loyal donors have watched their own investment portfolios be depleted and cannot provide their traditional funding. Our audience members cannot buy as many tickets as they have in the past. And our board members are less able to involve friends and associates in our fundraising galas and other activities.

This perfect storm has already weakened the fabric of our nation’s arts ecology. Over the past several months, the Baltimore Opera Company, Santa Clarita Symphony, Opera Pacific, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and others have closed or come close to closing. There probably will be a torrent of additional closures, cancellations and crises in the coming months. . .

We need an emergency grant for arts organizations in America, and we need legislation that allows unusual access to endowments. Washington must encourage foundations to increase their spending rates during this crisis, and we need immediate tax breaks for corporate giving.

The writer is president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


Norm Stamper, Salem News – In early December, Barack Obama invited Americans to participate in an unprecedented, bottom-up approach to government. Visitors to the President-elect’s official website,, were able to submit questions and vote on which questions should take priority for the new administration.

More than a dozen of the top 50 questions called for amending America’s drug policies, with inquiries ranging from availability of doctor-recommended medical marijuana to the economic impact of continuing to arrest and incarcerate millions of people for drug offenses.

The number one vote getter was:

“Q: Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”

Americans got their answer, sort of. A one-sentence response from the President-elect’s transition team:

“A: President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”

Speaking as a 34-year cop with six years as police chief of one of America’s largest cities, I know how much money has been squandered in prosecuting the drug war. Obviously, I’m disappointed and confused by this response.

His silence on the issue can’t be due to fear of political backlash. He and his team must have seen the recent Zogby poll that shows three of four Americans believe the “war on drugs” is a failure. And the Time/CNN poll showing only 19 percent of Americans think we should continue arresting and jailing marijuana users. . .

A legal and regulated drug trade would imprison fewer people and generate substantial new revenues. A recently released Harvard study reports we could boost our economy by at least $76.8 billion a year by ending drug prohibition, and that’s a conservative estimate.

Legalizing and regulating drugs would help Mr. Obama achieve a greater state of security for Americans. It would effectively “take a bite out of” rampant domestic organized crime, which goes well beyond mere domestic street gangsters. And, given that our drug war enriches the coffers of organizations such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, it would dramatically reduce international crime and terrorism. . .