“Money, pardon the expression, is like manure,” the indefatigable Dolly Levi maintains in Thornton Wilder‘s stage comedy The Matchmaker. “It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”
Funny, isn’t it, that both money and manure hit the fan in the world of politics? This isn’t a condemnation. It’s the necessary nature of the political beast. You shovel and shovel, and spread and spread, and hope you’ve put the seeds in the right places. In tough times, the process tends to get heavy on manure and light on money — and these, as you might have noticed, are tough times. Do we spend our way out of our economic mess, or batten the hatches and risk total shutdown?
It’s a red-flag question for partisan bulls and bears, and trying to step through the muck dispassionately, looking for solid footing, is no easy chore. Dolly, I suppose, is a liberal, although at the time the play hit Broadway in 1955 she might have been considered an early Rockefeller Republican.
When it comes to money and the arts, Oregon has a long tradition of deciding there just isn’t enough manure to go around. The state’s system of cultural spending is a little more like the theory behind growing world-class wine grapes in a marginal climate: stress the vines, and they’ll concentrate their fruit better.