I’m a “lazy idiot who is raping the economy” (UPDATED)

Updated. See new stats at end of post.

Apparently I am, at least according to Mr. Rush Limbaugh, seeing as I work in the non-profit sector. The good stuff starts at 1:20…

“A bunch of lazy idiots, many of them don’t want to really work. Non-profits – siphon contributions as their salaries and so forth and think of themselves as good people, charitable people. I mean these people are rapists in terms of finance and economy.”

Well then, good to know. I suppose the staff at summer camps across North America really do just amount to a lazy and unintelligent workforce bent on destroying the economy.

This mass-generalizing seems to becoming pervasive throughout the American right as of late. From the ridiculous assertions that Limbaugh and Beck spew at the left each day, to the guilty-by-association condemnation of American Muslims over the past month, this vitriol is contributing to a pandemic of argumentum ad hominem. Limbaugh raises no quantitative or substantive arguments against non-profits, specifically or in general. Instead, he lumps an entire sector of the American workforce together in an attempt to tarnish their character.

What’s the point? If you have a problem with liberal policy specifically, then bring it up in a coherent and meaningful way. Engage in serious debate. I’d love to see the numbers on how religious non-profits are contributing to the demise of the American economy. Instead, all I get is an insult hurled right at my chosen line of work from some fat guy on the radio.

UPDATE: After this brief rant, I started wondering how exactly nonprofits fit into the US economy. Maybe Mr. Limbaugh should have used Google, too. Here’s what I found: According to the The Hill, the US non-profit sector represents almost 8% of the GNP, while the 2008 Nonprofit Almanac reported that nonprofits represent “5% of gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. economy, 8% of wages and salaries, and 10% of employment.” Now what was that again about raping finance and the economy?

“Stephen, the arts is the economy, stupid…”

So says Karl Pruner, president of ACTRA Toronto to PM Stephen Harper. Well said, Karl.

In the midst of Harper’s sniper fire at Canadian Arts and Culture, it is easy to forget that arts and the economy are greatly intertwined. See what I mean here and here and here. And especially here. Or maybe if you want a clear visual of the inseparable ties between the arts and the economy, just whip out your wallet. Find a twenty dollar bill and take a look at the back of it…

Harper and the Conservatives have created a black and white scenario where it’s arts and culture vs. the economy. This is typical conservative polarizing at its worst. But let’s pretend just for a moment that this is actually how life works… The Arts vs. The Economy… What would you choose? Actress Leah Pinsent, has this to say:

“We don’t visit Rome, Japan or Africa to learn about their economies. We go to experience their culture… It is culture, not economics, that truly makes a nation. If we as Canadians are left only with other people’s stories .. then what can we be proud of? There will be nothing left to be proud of…”

The only thing that Pinsent misses is that the arts are part and parcel of the Canadian economy. And yes, the economy should clearly be of paramount importance. But arts and culture – like every other industry – are entitled to be supported by the very government and country that they themselves support. Canadian music and theatre are no more part of a niche industry than the Ford auto plant in Windsor is. Pruner bluntly evokes the question that I’ve been pondering:

“Why is it we talk about investing in the auto sector, investing in the energy sector, and handouts to the arts? Are we tired of this? I think so.”

So while Harper would like you to believe that “ordinary folks don’t care about arts,” (his words) let’s stop pretending that arts and culture aren’t intermingled in the genetic makeup of Canada’s economic infrastructure. Let’s stop pretending that this is a black and white issue and that Harper’s already made the right choice for us. And while we’re at it, let’s stop pretending that there’s such thing as an “ordinary” Canadian. Because there isn’t, anymore than there’s such a definable thing as “Canadian arts” or “the Canadian economy.”

Mr. Harper: Canadian arts, the economy, and Canadians themselves are complex things, not reducible to single lines in a budget as you would have the electorate believe. Try expanding your mind a little.