Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Arts and Cars and Economic Issues, Oh My!

Something else I caught over at OboeInsight (it’s not just for oboe players), check out the San Francisco Weekly’s grousing about the city’s support for the San Francisco Symphony and the fact that its Music Director, Michael Tilson Thomas, earns $1.6M in addition to other benefits from, like, producing a PBS TV series, Keeping Score, in which the orchestra plays to a nationwide audience in something comparable to the old Bernstein Young Persons’ Concerts with the New York Philharmonic that introduced a younger generation to great classical music.

(By the way, how many people in my generation, I wonder, were influenced by watching those amazing programs? *\o )

It would seem the orchestra’s concerts are attended primarily by the wealthy elite (really!?) and that the various arts groups in the city have “turned our local culture palaces into sites for air-kiss orgies among the superrich.” Huh...

This is the old “Shoes or Shakespeare” argument when it comes to tough times and the Arts. For most of the Arts in this country, that would be “Most of the Times.”

Now, as I understand it, Rick Wagoner, the CEO of General Motors whose “2006 pay package [was valued] at $10.2 million, up from $5.5 million in 2005” had a base salary of $2.2M which he voluntarily cut back to $1.3M or so. Yet, according to BloggingStocks, his take-home pay for 2007 was $14.4M, up 41% from 2006.

Nice pay cut, don’t you think?

Incidentally, from that same 2007 New York Times article, GM’s CFO “earned $5.2 million in his first year on the job. His predecessor... earned $3.9 million in 2005.”

That same 2007 article also said Ford paid its “chief executive, Alan R. Mulally, more than $28 million in his first four months on the job. Most of that amount came in the form of a hiring bonus and compensation to make up for benefits he forfeited in leaving his previous job at the jet maker Boeing.”

When the union workers grumbled about this, the company gave all employees a $300 bonus (that would be $3H) and the A.U.W hourly workers a $500 bonus. Awwww, isn’t that sweet?!

These CEOs have now been lining up bumper to bumper in Washington begging Congress to hurry up with the Big 3 Auto Makers’ $25B (that’s B as in Beethoven... I mean, Billion) Bail-Out Program. And most people seem to support tax-payers’ money going for that, even though the Wall Street “Credit Stimulus Package” met with considerably less success on Main Street, something about going to bail-out greedy CEOs or something, as I recall.

As for the car makers, I certainly think its bad for the guys who build the cars to lose their jobs (speaking as one of the unemployed), but maybe it would’ve been better if these car makers didn’t con a gullible public into buying those dinosaur-devouring SUV’s and other fuel-inefficient guzzlers that litter our highways and drive-ways today, vehicles which people only began complaining about when gas got closer to $4/gallon.

Now, this economic bail-out is being viewed by many people as an economic necessity because, sure, the American economy spins on the wheels of its industries, considering most Americans do drive cars.

But when it comes to support for the arts, such issues and solutions would be called socialism and we are often told they should be allowed to survive or fail according to the free-market economy our society is based on.


Fortunately, recession aside, perhaps the drop in oil prices and the subsequent lowering of gas prices to around $2/gallon will mean there will be less “air-kissing among the super-rich” at the gas pumps.

Wouldn't it be nice, then, if some of these super-rich CEOs would do what people like Andrew Carnegie and other industrial philanthropists did in the past: contribute large sums of money to support the arts? Hey, what a novel idea!!

Oh, speaking of novel... I have to get back to work...

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