Walker's art-less leadership

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Let’s face it: Tea party events are not where you’d go scouting for the next Einstein or Mozart. The nation’s current crop of conservatives is fiercely anti-intellectual and combative toward the arts. They’re threatened by people who respect facts and the messy complexity of reality when they’re incapable of absorbing anything that can’t be reduced to a 15-second bite on Fox News.

The GOP’s catering to these voters in recent years explains why people with graduate degrees have consistently voted Democratic since Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential race. It also reveals why the disconnects in tea party ideology seems so Kafka-esque to even the most modest of thinkers.

Skeptics question why conservatives oppose birth control while claiming to hate abortion. After all, effective birth control can prevent unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortion. And why do they emphasize individual liberties yet welcome government intrusion into the bedrooms and underwear of LGBT citizens?The greatest problem facing the nation is lagging job growth. In that area, the arts in Milwaukee perform on a par with the construction industry, according to recent studies. Yet, the radical right reserves its greatest disdain for arts funding. Could that be because LGBT people are such an integral part of the arts scene?

As our cover story on UWM’s Peck School of the Arts makes clear, the creative industries not only enhance the quality of life in southeastern Wisconsin, but they also draw desirable new businesses and residents to the area while furnishing a boom in arts tourism. The ripple effects are felt throughout the economy. Arts tourists spend 60 percent more at local restaurants and businesses than locals.

Even before college dropout Scott Walker overran Madison with his backwoods militia friends, the state already ranked 43rd in terms of per-capita arts spending. It is only through generous arts patrons, local civic leadership and institutions such as Peck School and MIAD that Milwaukee’s arts economy – one of the most promising economic sectors of the future – has remained above the national average.

Walker and crew, however are determined to put a stop to that. They cut Wisconsin Arts Board state funding by 73 percent, reduced the staff from 10 employees to four and relocated the WAB inside the Department of Tourism, where it lacks the autonomy to make arts-related decisions.

Funding of the WAB amounts to only .013 percent of the state budget, while the arts account for 3.6 percent of employment within the state. Any reasonable person interested in the state’s future would see the disconnect in those figures.

In addition to stripping away arts funding, Walker’s drastic cuts to public education have resulted in the loss of untold school programs that foster the arts leaders and entrepreneurs of the future.

No wonder Walker’s record on jobs is the second worst in the nation. Data covering the 12 months from June 2011 to June 2012 shows that Wisconsin’s position worsened from a rank of 37 in the previous period from March 2011 to March 2012. He lacks the insight, vision and intellect needed in a leader. Instead of lifting up the state, he seems determined to sink everyone to the level of the lowest common denominator.