Protect Us From Zero Gravity Chairs, Rotating Pastel Lights…and Museums

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Who knew that Tom Coburn, the Republican Senator from Oklahoma, took an (unwelcome) interest in the arts? Coburn has introduced an amendment to the Senate version of the stimulus package that would prevent any funds from that bill to go to the following laundry list of undeserving recipients:

…any casino or other gambling establishment,  aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, arts center, or highway beautification project, including renovation, remodeling, construction, salaries, furniture, zero-gravity chairs, big screen televisions, beautification, rotating pastel lights, and dry heat saunas.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m as much against spending hard earned taxpayer money on rotating pastel lights as the next guy. But throwing museums, theaters and arts centers into the mix makes it hard for me to support this otherwise noble amendment. That’s probably why the Association of Art Museum Directors is alerting its members to contact their senators to urge them to vote it down.

The whole thing would be comical if the devious intent of this amendment weren’t so plain. By throwing museums and arts centers into the mix, Coburn makes it likely that senators who support the arts would have to vote against the amendment. But if they do, they set themselves up for opposition campaign commercials claiming that they voted against an amendment that would have stopped taxpayer dollars from going to casinos and gambling operations. (Or golf courses — you might as well be voting to give out extra bonus money at Goldman Sachs.)

This might not turn out to be so funny after all.