The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
JIM LEHRER: Good evening. I'm Jim Lehrer. On the NewsHour tonight we have a backgrounder and two perspectives on the growing unrest in Albania, a report and a four-way debate about federal funding of the arts, and our Monday night essay, Richard Rodriguez on crime and punishment. It all follows our summary of the news this Monday. NEWS SUMMARY JIM LEHRER: President Clinton joined with Egyptian President Mubarak today in saying Israel should not expand a Jewish settlement in Jerusalem. They objected to the planned the Har Homa housing complex that calls for 6500 apartments for Jewish inhabitants. The presidents held a joint news conference at the White House after several hours of meetings. PRESIDENT CLINTON: I believe the decision should not have been made. This should be part of the final status negotiations. Everything surrounding Jerusalem is of immense emotional, political, and religious significance to all the parties involved here.PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK, Egypt: When Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Cairo last week, I opened this issue with them but they told me that I'm building for both sides. But this is not satisfactory too; this way the Palestinians accept this. We shouldn't build anything in the area of Jerusalem, although there's expansion on increase of population until negotiations, the final status comes, and it will be much more convenient for both sides. JIM LEHRER: In Israel today several Palestinians were injured in a clash with Israeli police in the West Bank. About 100 Palestinians tried to stop soldiers from building a new road there for Jewish settlers. The soldiers used clubs and guns to push the protesters back. Palestinian leader Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu both told reporters today the Middle East peace process has reached a point of crisis. At his news conference with Mubarak President Clinton also said he should have been told about FBI reports China was trying to influence 1996 congressional elections. PRESIDENT CLINTON: It's my understanding that the two members of the National Security Council were briefed by the FBI, and then the agent, for whatever reasons, asked that they not share the briefing, and they honored the request, and we did not know at any time for the rest of the year. We just didn't know, and certainly during the election period we did not know. JIM LEHRER: The President said he would take appropriate action after reviewing all the information carefully. Chinese officials have denied the reports are true. The Senate began debate today over the cost and scope of its campaign finance inquiry. Republicans want $4.3 million for the investigation with the focus limited only to illegal fund-raising during the 1996 campaign. Democrats said the probe should also include activities that could be considered improper. SEN. JOHN GLENN, [D] Ohio: The first thing to understand is that the main problem with the campaign finance system is not just what politicians do that is illegal. It is what politicians do that is legal that is an equal scandal, and it happens every single day on Capitol Hill, and with both political parties. SEN. JOHN WARNER, [R] Virginia: We would allow the Government Affairs Committee to extend the supplemental budget for such investigations as they thought were illegal in connection with the 1996 presidential election and congressional elections, not delineating between House and Senate, simply all federal elections in calendar year 1996. Illegal is a very broad scope. It goes beyond just criminal assertions and allegations of criminal violations. It goes beyond that. There's a broad scope. JIM LEHRER: A vote on the matter is expected tomorrow. The Senate's second ranking Democrat, Wendell Ford of Kentucky, said today he would not seek re-election to a fifth term next year. He's the second senior Democrat to announce his retirement. Sen. John Glenn of Ohio did so last week. Defense Sec. William Cohen said today the Pentagon mishandled the Gulf War illness problem. He said record keeping of chemical weapons operations during the 1991 war had been poor and he criticized the Defense Department for issuing blanket denials of responsibility. The Secretary also said there was no evidence to support a "Los Angeles Times" report today suggesting Gulf War syndrome might be contagious. Cohen will join us for a Newsmaker interview here tomorrow night. In Albania today rebel insurgents seized control of four more towns, putting most of Southern Albania under the control of anti-government forces. Six more deaths were reported in fighting between guerrillas and army troops. At the government's request Italian diplomats met with rebel leaders in the key town of Vlore to broker a political settlement. We'll have more on this story right after the News Summary. Back in this country there was a break in the weather across the Ohio River Valley today. The good weather allowed people to survey the damage from the heavy flooding. The river is expected to crest tomorrow in Indiana, Thursday in Illinois. Authorities blamed a total of 59 deaths on tornados, rains, and floods that have struck the Midwest in recent days. Ten male cadets were punished today for harassing and hazing two female cadets at the Citadel. One man was expelled. Nine others received various lesser penalties; an eleventh was cleared. The two women who brought the charges withdrew from the South Carolina state military college. Two other freshman women remained. The four were the first to be admitted to the formally all-male institution. The FBI and state law enforcement officials are also investigating the allegations. And that's it for the News Summary tonight. Now it's on to the Albania story, federal funding of the arts, and a Richard Rodriguez essay. FOCUS - COMING APART JIM LEHRER: The turmoil in the nation of Albania is first tonight. Our coverage begins with this background report by Charles Krause. CHARLES KRAUSE: For the past week tiny Albania has been in a state of emergency, with anti-government rebels reportedly in control of most of the southern part of the country. Faced with growing unrest, President Sali Berisha was forced over the weekend to promise new national elections by June. He also agreed to set up a coalition government until then comprising all of Albania's political parties. But so far Berisha's concessions have not quelled the fighting in the South, where looting and killings continue and where the army has been forced to cede more and more towns to the rebels. The unrest is only the latest sign of trouble in this predominantly Muslim country of 3 million people, the poorest in Europe, with a per capita income of only $850 per year. Once a part of the Ottoman Empire, Albania was briefly an independent kingdom before World War II. Then after the war under the Communist dictatorship of Envorjorhe, Albania became the most geographically and politically isolated country in Western Europe. Indeed, Haje's iron rule and ideology were so extreme that he broke with the Soviet Union for being too liberal. For nearly 30 years under Haje, Albania remained an impoverished backwater where political opposition of any kind was severely repressed. But the Communists finally gave way in 1991, and President Berisha, who was elected democratically, took power with the approval of the European Union and the United States. Initially, Berisha maintained the left's support by carrying out a series of free market economic reforms while keeping Albania out of the civil war in neighboring Yugoslavia. But enthusiasm in the West for Berisha diminished as he became more authoritarian. The breaking point came last year after parliamentary elections roundly criticized by outsider observer groups as irregular and unfair. Meanwhile, much of Berisha's remaining support at home collapsed early this year after an economic scandal that turned into an economic disaster. Despite warnings from international agencies and Albania's central bank, Berisha had allowed nine so-called charitable foundations to flourish. They were able to pay 8 percent interest per month as long as thousands of Albanians continued to deposit their meager savings and money from relatives working abroad into the charitable fund. By the end of last year the deposits totaled a billion dollars, or 1/3 Albania's gross domestic product. But beginning in February the pyramid operations began collapsing. Only five of the original nine funds were still in business, and only one of them is still paying interest to depositors. When the pyramid collapsed, confused and angry Albanians took to the streets and with no adequate response from the government, the protests turned into armed rebellion, especially in the southern part of Albania, where the financial losses and hardships were most severe. JIM LEHRER: Joining us now are Elez Biberaj, an ethnic Albanian, chief of the Albanian Service for the Voice of America since 1986, and Peter Dickinson, a former field representative in Albania for the International Republican Institute, a U.S. government-funded part of the U.S. Democracy Project. He has worked with the Albanian parliament and political parties. First on this pyramid scheme thing, who ran these? Who were these--what were these nine organizations and who ran them? ELEZ BIBERAJ, Voice of America: These were established as far back as 1991 by emerging Albanian businessmen, some of them very shady characters, who eventually established very close links with government officials. What we've seen in Albania is a remarkable lack of leadership on both the government's part, as well as on the part of the opposition. The opposition, itself, did not play the role it should have in terms of criticizing these pyramid schemes. And also the media in Albania, until very late last year, there was no one in Albania who was criticizing this pyramid scheme. JIM LEHRER: And then what finally happened? What caused them to- -they just collapsed of their own weight? ELEZ BIBERAJ: Eventually they had to collapse. They were providing 15, 20 percent to as much as 80 percent a month. There was no way that they could survive. JIM LEHRER: And did the government have any direct role? In other words, the people who are upset at the government because they lost their money, did they have a legitimate complaint? ELEZ BIBERAJ: To a point they do, because the government tolerated it. It was the responsibility of the government to really warn its citizens that this will not work. However, I do not buy the argument that people really didn't know what was going to happen. Probably most of these people thought that they would make some money and eventually somebody else would end up moving money, and not them, themselves. JIM LEHRER: Well, has anybody been arrested, any charges brought against anybody for these things? ELEZ BIBERAJ: Yes. Most of the founders of these companies have been arrested and are in prison. Some of them have fled the country and allegedly with large sums of money. JIM LEHRER: Now, that's what triggered it, Mr. Dickinson, but then--now it's move to other levels, has it not, in terms of this--the uproar and rebellion particularly in the South? PETER DICKINSON, Albania Analyst: Yes, it has. I mean, the focus of it all was these pyramid schemes. What started it all was protest from a population that didn't understand how their money could disappear. JIM LEHRER: And a large percentage--roughly, what percentage of the people in Albania participated in these things? PETER DICKINSON: It's my opinion that almost every family in Albania has money in one of these schemes. JIM LEHRER: Every family? PETER DICKINSON: Almost every family that I knew. JIM LEHRER: Does that gel with your information too? ELEZ BIBERAJ: Yes. The figures that we hear out there are the same $1 billion to $2 billion being invested. I think that might be exaggerated a little bit, but the figures I've seen are that as many as 700,000 Albanians may have-- JIM LEHRER: Out of how many? PETER DICKINSON: PETER DICKINSON: Out of a population of 3.2 million. JIM LEHRER: Yeah. So every family was touched was your point. Go ahead. PETER DICKINSON: Right. And so the population looked at these as legitimate businesses. Some of the largest ones, in fact, looked like holding companies. JIM LEHRER: Like they would put money in a savings account, you mean, like a bank? PETER DICKINSON: They would go in exactly to them because there was no private banking system that functioned in Albania, and only the state bank that people didn't have trusted; they would invest their money. They would go, they would get a book, and they would collect interest every two months-- JIM LEHRER: You mean a passbook? PETER DICKINSON: A regular passbook. JIM LEHRER: Checking account, savings account. PETER DICKINSON: And collect their 8 percent a month, and this went on for two or three years. Later on, some of the more risky schemes started springing up, calling themselves charitable foundations, paying 25 percent a month, and it sort of just built upon itself until it did collapse of its own weight. JIM LEHRER: Now, then it collapsed. Then what did that collapse reveal in terms of the divisions within the country that it then exploded? PETER DICKINSON: See, I'm not so sure it reveals divisions within the country as much as it does still an uprising where people are saying we're looking for a way to get our money back. I mean, the biggest violence occurred in Vlore, which was the home of one of the largest schemes, Gilliesii. And the people there were primarily interested in getting their money back. JIM LEHRER: We've got a map up there that shows. Tirana, of course, is the capital, the large city, and then surrounded down- - PETER DICKINSON: Vlore along the coast. JIM LEHRER: Along the coast. PETER DICKINSON: And these popular protests, where people were chanting and gathering in the streets soon led to some violence, and people took their frustration out on symbols of the government and the police. When the police withdrew, there was a vacuum that was created. This led to the population running its munitions locations, taking guns and arms, and essentially it grew from that point. But it's still my opinion that the base of this always based on a population that wants to recover their money. It's taken on political overtones. But I think that at the base of it there is still economics. JIM LEHRER: Do you agree? ELEZ BIBERAJ: Yes, I do agree. I would only add that we are dealing with a population what is emerging from 50 years of the most repressive Communist rule that the world has ever seen, and most of these people were raised in this system where the government was responsible for everything; therefore, if-- JIM LEHRER: It was natural to blame the government. ELEZ BIBERAJ: But in the final analysis it is the government that is responsible for much of what we've seen happening here. JIM LEHRER: Do you agree, both of you, are you saying, Mr. Dickinson, that if some way could be found to restore these people whole financially that they--their troubles would be over? PETER DICKINSON: I think it would, but the problem is there is no way, I mean, short of the European Union coming in or the United States with a-- JIM LEHRER: Somebody writing a check, you mean. PETER DICKINSON: --giveaway program, which isn't going to happen. JIM LEHRER: Where is the money? Where does $1 billion or $1.2 or whatever mid billion, where did that money go? PETER DICKINSON: The problem is to some degree the money went out of one person's pocket into another's, and the population doesn't truly understand the effect of that. Much of it disappeared, I'm sure, out of the country because there was--these were not just run by Albanians in many cases. Even some of the largest ones, one of them opened an office in Italy and was accepting deposits from Albanians abroad. JIM LEHRER: So there's no place for the government of Albania or any other legal entity to go and seize this money and give it back? It doesn't exist anymore. ELEZ BIBERAJ: In the case of two companies the government did freeze about $250 million which the government promised to pay back to the investors, but that's about it. JIM LEHRER: Right. PETER DICKINSON: The problem is a person who invested $1,000 was getting 8 percent a month, after a year they got back $960. When they are now told that they have lost that investment, they're looking at themselves out $1,000. They still don't see that the money was transferred from one person to another. JIM LEHRER: All right, now. Whatever--the money started it or not--what have we got now? How serious a situation is this in terms of the country coming apart, or-- ELEZ BIBERAJ: I think we have a very, very serious problem. The country came very close to civil war. I think it has been averted, at least for the moment. We have this very major agreement reached on Sunday between President Berisha and the opposition parties. It provides for the establishment of a coalition government and a new election by the end of June. The immediate problem is to restore law and order. Half of Albania is under--under the control of-- under government forces. There's larger looter going on. It is not sure who's really in control, and until you restore some sort of order in that part of Albania, it's going to be very difficult really to establish any conditions for fair and free elections. JIM LEHRER: And how-- ELEZ BIBERAJ: --a transition. JIM LEHRER: How is that order going to be re-established? I mean, the army is going to have to do it? PETER DICKINSON: Well, it's going to be a very difficult thing. I mean, that is the large question. I mean, the potential is still there for a very dangerous incidence to occur. JIM LEHRER: Time Magazine said in a piece today that the threat of civil war was very real and, and possible. PETER DICKINSON: I'm not even, again, sure so much it's civil war as it isn't insurrection. A lot of--a lot of population--a large number of people who've gotten weapons, which rumors now have them as far North as Lisnia, and I checked with the embassy. JIM LEHRER: Where is that? PETER DICKINSON: That is two towns South of Tirana, the capital. JIM LEHRER: So that's very--we're getting very close there. PETER DICKINSON: Very close. The town just north called Kavaja is the stronghold of the Democratic Party. JIM LEHRER: And where are they getting these arms? PETER DICKINSON: They're taking them right out of the military bases. JIM LEHRER: Breaking in to armories and-- PETER DICKINSON: Breaking--the military's left, and they've taken it. JIM LEHRER: All right. I'm sorry. PETER DICKINSON: I was just going to say at this point the town above there, there's rumors that the mayor had opened up the military there to Democratic Party supporters. JIM LEHRER: The Democratic Party is-- PETER DICKINSON: Pro-government-- JIM LEHRER: Pro-government. PETER DICKINSON: --supporters. You have the potential for two opposing sides, not necessarily North versus South, but pro- government, anti-government in a close proximity. JIM LEHRER: Now, what do we need--those of us who have not followed Albania closely as you have, the two of you have, what do we need to know about Berisha, the president? What--characterize him for us. ELEZ BIBERAJ: Berisha came to power. Berisha, his Democratic Party came to power at the most difficult period in Albania's recent history. They took over after the economy had literally collapsed. JIM LEHRER: He's a doctor, right? He's a cardiologist. ELEZ BIBERAJ: Yes, that's correct. Yes. A very, very ambitious person, a person who wanted to do great things for Albania but somehow got sidetracked by problems he--the problems began back in November 1994, when he tried to push through this referendum, a constitutional draft which would give the president more power than the opposition was willing to, and that referendum was defeated by voters, and I think it scared him and his party, that they were going to lose power, and things began to get really nasty during 1995, and then we had the elections last year which were marred by manipulation and criticism from the international community. And the results of those elections were not very nice by the opposition. Now the core problem, the way I see it, is that although we have a multiparty system in Albania, we really have seen two main political forces, the former Communists, the Socialists, and the willing party. And the core problem has been that these two parties have based their dealings, their relations on confrontation, rather than cooperation. And that has been the problem. Now they--they sort of promised that they will work together to get their country out of this very difficult period, but that remains to be seen. JIM LEHRER: Does Berisha have the power to keep this from unraveling, keep this from going into a civil war? PETER DICKINSON: That's questionable. I mean, I would have been shocked if somebody told me two months ago that President Berisha would agree to early elections and a coalition government with socialists. I mean, he's stated-- JIM LEHRER: What's that say to you, he's running scared? PETER DICKINSON: It says to me that he is; that there's something happening there he feels that is out of his control. It may explain why a week ago--now I'm in a very bad situation--he had himself re- elected president for a five-year term by a parliament composed solely of his own party. JIM LEHRER: Should Americans see this just as an isolated problem? Does this have any spillover effect in that part of the world? ELEZ BIBERAJ: It does have, mainly as far as Greece and Albania, as far as Greece, and if they are concerned. I don't think we have the potential for an explosion in terms of spending towards Macedonia or--at this point, but if things were to get really nasty and we have confrontations, military confrontations between government forces or democratic party supporters and these insurgents, then a lot of people are likely to emigrate to Greece or try to-- JIM LEHRER: So there'll be some spillover. ELEZ BIBERAJ: That's right. JIM LEHRER: All right. Gentlemen, thank you both very much. JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight funding the arts and a Richard Rodriguez essay. FOCUS - VALUE JUDGMENT JIM LEHRER: Now, art, government, and money, and to Elizabeth Farnsworth. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This year's battle over federal funding for the arts began today. Arts advocates from more than 80 organizations gathered in Washington to lobby for preserving federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts. Advocates say the endowment is crucial for their work through the country. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The Sioux elders leading this ceremony on a sacred hill not far from Fargo, North Dakota, have gotten funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, money they say helps keep their traditional art form alive, and NEA grants helped make possible the 1995 blockbuster Vermeer Exhibit in Washington. In its 32 years of existence the NEA has funded about 30,000 projects. Another one is the Cleo Parker Robinson dance ensemble based in Denver. CLEO PARKER ROBINSON, Dance Company Founder: If I had not had dollars from the NEA, I don't know, I might not even have an organization, because they helped us understand the value of what they were doing. We are a product of the National Endowment for the Arts, and we're a million dollar organization. And we came from nothing, and we got support from the National Endowment, and that was a ripple effect. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But other projects, funded partly by the Endowment, have brought controversy and funding cutbacks. This 1995 performance in Minneapolis, for example, which involved bodily injury and blood, and there were the homoerotic photographs of the late Robert Mapplethorpe, which drew criticism from Sen. Jesse Helms. SEN. JESSE HELMS: I don't even acknowledge that it's art. I don't even acknowledge that the fellow who did was an artist. I think he was a jerk. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressional critics have also pointed out that in an era of federal belt-tightening, the arts should be supported privately, not with tax money. These critics support the approach of the Fund for the Arts, a private venture in Louisville, Kentucky, that was established in 1949 as one of the nation's first community-wide art campaigns, and now raises about 5.3 million a year from 30,000 Louisville residents. Last year, the Republican- led Congress cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts by 1/3 and this year some members are arguing for eliminating it altogether. President Clinton affirmed his support for art funding in his State of the Union speech. PRESIDENT CLINTON: Our economy is measured in numbers and statistics, and it's very important. But the enduring worth of our nation lies in our shared values and our soaring spirit. So instead of cutting back on our modest effort to support the arts and humanity, I believe we should stand by them and challenge our artists, musicians--challenge our museums, libraries, and theaters. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And last month a blue ribbon committee appointed by the President to look into the state of the arts and humanities in America called for an increase in federal funding for both. Supporters of the National Endowment began their lobbying campaign today in Washington. In two days of activity here and throughout the country actors and painters, poets and playwrights will argue that federal funding is essential in building and preserving a vital national culture. Actor Alec Baldwin is a spokesman for the effort. ALEC BALDWIN: And as more men and women, mothers and fathers, work harder and longer to maintain their standard of living, we must ask ourselves one question on Arts AdvocacyDay: How can we turn our back on an endeavor that increases our children's cultural intelligence, heightens sensitivity, and deepens our collective sense of humanity? I suggest to you that we cannot. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Later this week the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jane Alexander, will go to Capitol Hill to argue for continued funding. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now, for more on all this we turn to Alec Baldwin, whose most recent films are "Ghost of Mississippi," and "Bookworm," and who has also appeared on Broadway in numerous plays, and to Marc Morial, mayor of New Orleans and chairman of the Arts Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; to Alice Goldfarb Marquis, a cultural historian and author of "Art Lessons, Learning from the Rise and Fall of the NEA," and to William Craig Rice, who teaches writing at Harvard University and who has written on the arts for the Heritage Foundation. Thank you all for being with us. Mr. Baldwin, you're putting a lot of time and effort into lobbying to preserve federal funding for the arts. Why? Why is it important to you? ALEC BALDWIN, Actor: Well, because I think that federal funding has always accomplished one thing dramatically well, and that is disseminating culture, programs, and dance music, theater in the arts, museums, throughout the country. Prior to the NEA, that situation was a pretty poor one. I mean, if you had 50 dance companies in this country, 45 of them were in Manhattan before 1968, presumably. And one of the many things--I could go on and one--but one of the many things that has been accomplished by the NEA is dissemination of this cultural heritage throughout the country and outside of the major urban cultural centers. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So even if it's centered in Washington, and it is a centralized organization, it has really worked hard, in your view, at getting grants to all kinds of organizations all over the country? ALEC BALDWIN: Yeah. I don't think it only works toward that. I think it's achieved that. I mean, even recently, you have a unique mix and match of programs in the heartland of this country. You have a thing such as the cowboy poetry gathering in Elcko, Nevada, which is--the NEA provided seed money for this--it generates millions of dollars in income annually, a place in White Burg, Kentucky, called the Apple Shop, which is the largest employer in the community, it's a local arts agency for programming local film, theater, and the arts. You have the Plains Art Museum of Fargo, North Dakota, which is a museum that's hitched to the back of a semi truck that drives to rural parts of North Dakota conveying art, and then you have sponsorship of the Chamber Music Rural Residencies, which is a music ensemble that goes to rural school and alternative rural settings, such as hospitals, juvenile detection centers, and hospices, and performs chamber music for people there. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Ms. Marquis, what about that argument, what's wrong with federal funding for that kind of project? ALICE GOLDFARB MARQUIS, Cultural Historian: I'm very concerned about any government agency trying to select people, artists, and organizations who will get funded, and others who are turned down for various reasons. I think the history of any government choices for the arts is a very sorry one. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Excuse me. Why--why--if private organizations, foundations can choose, why not government? ALICE GOLDFARB MARQUIS: Because it becomes a very bureaucratic process, is the NEA claims that it provides an imprimatur for as a guide for private funding. I don't think it's up to a government agency to do that. Private funders can make those decisions themselves. The--it has a group of people in Washington deciding what is art. Those--the history of making those choices has been a very sorry one. The Nazis, for example, decided what was art and what was not. The Academy in 1973, France, decided what was art and what was not. They overlooked the Impressionists Gauguin, Van Gogh. In Eastern Europe under the Communists there was also an effort to decide what is art. That kind of procedure has a very bad history. It's not a good one. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mayor, what's your experience in New Orleans? How does it look from there? MAYOR MARC MORIAL, New Orleans: I think the important thing is that the NEA and its contribution are only but a small portion of all of the money that's invested in the arts throughout this country. Six hundred and fifty million is invested by local arts- -local government into local arts organizations every year. One great example in New Orleans is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which is a multi-many hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact which supports music, which supports art, which supports culture, not necessarily that it is funded by the NEA, but you take a counterpart effort in New Orleans, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, which is a school for the arts, its very foundation 20 years ago was because of an anti-NEA grant. The important thing is, is that this about jobs, it's about economic development, and it's about building our mind and building our culture because we are a great nation. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And even though the cities are putting a lot of money into arts, you still think there's a need for federal funding? MAYOR MARC MORIAL: Certainly, because those things that work well work well because we have a partnership. We have the federal government. We have state government. We have local government. We have private corporations and foundations working together to make art and culture significant in this country. And I think where there is this partnership it will work well, and I think the federal government has a responsibility to return our tax money to this kind of activity. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Rice, what about that? What's wrong with that kind of partnership? WILLIAM CRAIG RICE, Writer: I think that the arts could be helped. An artist could certainly be helped if the federal government were to aid artists and arts organizations blindly; that is, what we need is less of this kind of picking of winners and more of a general amnesty, as it were. Artists are killed by things like the self-employment tax. They're in difficulty for self- insurance. There are all kinds of things that the federal government does that make it very hard for artists to thrive. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But you're opposed to federal funding that goes directly in the form of grants to artistic organizations? WILLIAM CRAIG RICE: Yes. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why? WILLIAM CRAIG RICE: Because the history, if you look at it, is that it is the rich and the well-connected organizations and in some cases artists who wind up with the majority of the NEA money, and for instance, the Boston Symphony gets about 1 percent of its budget from the NEA. That's 40 cents per ticket sold. The Boston Symphony is fairly well endowed, as is the Philadelphia Orchestra. If you look across the board, the NEA has not typically been all that helpful to these small organizations that Mr. Baldwin gave us as examples. What we need is, as I say, is a blind system of support that doesn't pick winners because it's the networked people, it's the certain kinds of personalities and organizations that triumph under the current dispensation. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Baldwin, how do you respond to that, that the NEA helps the really big, already successful organizations more than the small ones? ALEC BALDWIN: Well, I'm not qualified to make an examination of the decisions and the internal decision-making process at the NEA. I'm sure that many of the large urban centers receive more money than ex-urban areas because more people are interested in the arts potentially and there's more of a market for the arts in those areas. I don't know. But I know that the argument that I'm constantly hearing from people who are opposed to arts funding is two things: one is that they think that people in this country don't want arts funding; that they think that most of the people in this country share Mr. Rice's opinion, when, in truth, a recent Harris Poll said that 79 percent of the people in this country want the arts to be funded by the government and 57 percent of the people surveyed said they want that to come from the federal government. The fact remains when that whenever people say that the government shouldn't be in the arts business, the government should be in the business of anything that the people want the government to be in the business of that is good and decent and meaningful for the people in this country. The Constitution as such doesn't say that the government should be building highways, but we determined that that was important and that was necessary. And according to the survey, the overwhelming majority of people in this country feel that it's essential and necessary for us to be in the business of funding the arts as well. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Rice. WILLIAM CRAIG RICE: That Harris Poll was very selectively worded. It asks questions such: Have you attended an arts event recently? And you could answer yes if you'd gone to a movie. Now, I happen to think that American cinema is a great art form, but the whole way that was set up was very, very skewed. Lou Harris, himself, has a strong record of support for federal funding of the arts. So it's not a particularly good source to cite. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But, Mr. Rice, what about the argument that we fund science, we fund roads, we--the federal government funds all these things, why not the arts? WILLIAM CRAIG RICE: It seems to me that our history in the arts in America is profoundly decentralized. Amateurs have had a big role. It hasn't been ever until the NEA, except for a short period under Roosevelt--with the Works Project Administration--a matter of federal concern because it--our own examples or our great artists almost all came out of unpromising quarters and out of oppressed groups. Our heritage was not that of a centralized authority making our decisions for us. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Marquis, you had something you wanted to say too. ALICE GOLDFARB MARQUIS: Yes. What I would like to see if the government wants to get involved with the arts at all is I would like to see a census taken in each locality of venues where there can be art exhibitions, where there can be performances, school auditoriums, parks, recreation centers, and so on, and perhaps the local arts agency would be able to facilitate artists of all kinds performing and exhibiting all sorts of things locally and allow audiences, which in the past have always been the best judges of art, have not been critics, it's not been the experts; it's been audiences who go to a performance. So I think that would be a much wiser way of spending our money without putting the finger on the scale for certain arts organizations, especially the very wealthy ones, the biggest recipient of NEA funding--during all time has been the Metropolitan Opera in New York. MAYOR MARC MORIAL: Let's not distort the case. The argument she's making, in fact, is an argument for what the NEA does. 40 percent of NEA dollars go to the states in block grants that the states, in turn, distribute many times through local arts organizations. And I think that is a suggestion on how our overall effort as a nation could be improved in terms of how we support arts and culture, not an argument to reduce the size of the NEA. I think the NEA has been in the forefront, promoting access-- ALICE GOLDFARB MARQUIS: No. MAYOR MARC MORIAL: --by people to the arts. And I think that's in the record--certainly it needs to be strengthened, and it needs to be expanded, and it needs to be improved. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Have you--excuse me one second, Ms. Marquis, I just want to ask the Mayor--have you seen and of the results in New Orleans of the cuts--in federal funding for the arts-- MAYOR MARC MORIAL: We certainly have seen a result. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What have you seen? MAYOR MARC MORIAL: We've seen programs that are literally in their embryonic stages which depend on that to perhaps leverage up additional dollars, who now have to reduce the number of people that they serve. You see local arts organizations that may not be able to pay their rent; that may not be able to afford part-time salaries for teachers and tutors. It has an impact. I think what the NEA does is seed many local activities and they, in turn, can go out and match that with corporate, with foundations, or with local dollars. It works, and I think the partnership is what's important in this regard. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Baldwin, what about the argument in a time when welfare recipients are being cut off and immigrants can't get their benefits that there's just not the money to pay for the arts? ALEC BALDWIN: Well, there are people who have contended over and over again that we don't have the money for this and that some of the money is being wasted on objectionable and even pornographic material, which is a very rare instance, by the way--120,000 grants administered by this administration and--by this Endowment since 1968, and a very small handful of really controversial and objectionable things. But the fact remains that when you say we don't have the money for this, the truth is there are other places in government. I would think the argument of the people who say that we don't have the money for this more seriously, if they were willing to go out and conduct a similar witch hunt and to use similar kind of witch hunt tactics that they use, year in and year out during this time of reappropriation for the NEA to find where there was fraud and waste and money that could be saved, the amount of money that we're talking about here is so insignificant if the NEA were returned to the funding they had prior to these cuts, whether it was 130 or 150--I don't even remember now--but I know it's $991/2 million now the arts community is helping to balance the budget in this country. Federal income tax revenues from arts related incomes is $3.4 billion last year, people earning money in arts-related fields pay into the federal treasury $3.4 billion, and the government turned around and kicked back into seed money $99.5 million dollars. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Marquis,. We have about five seconds. Just make a quick point. That's all we have time for. I'm sorry. ALICE GOLDFARB MARQUIS: Actually, the--the donors through private donors give the arts more than $10 billion a year, and the government forgives at least $2 billion in taxes because they get a tax deduction, so that is a $2 billion subsidy for the arts. And I think that's fine. WILLIAM CRAIG RICE: We could do a lot more to support the arts through reforming the tax codes. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you all. That's all the time we have. Thanks for being with us. ESSAY - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight our Monday night essay. Richard Rodriguez with the Pacific News Service considers the declining crime rate. RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: We gaged a life of the heart with numbers and charts. We let our politicians take credit for the state of our souls. All across America in city after city there has recently been a dramatic decline in violent crime: Mayors, governors, as well as politicians in Washington have rushed forward to take credit. In New York City, for example, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is credited by many for improvements in the police department. Here in California there is the widespread assumption that a declining number of felonies is the result of three strike legislation. Commit three felonies, and you're in jail for life. For all the talk you hear about Americans wanting less government in their lives, we seem to assume a crucial impact of government on our moral behavior. Here in San Francisco in recent years the murder rate has been declining. It stands now at its lowest rate since 1989. The assumption in the morning papers on the evening news seems to be that this good news is a result of changes come down from on high. Did we believe that order is the result of good government? Is order the result of individuals? A teenager commits a murder. We blame the teenager. On the other hand, we hear that fewer teenagers are murdering each other; we credit the police chief or the governor. The truth is that no one knows exactly why violent crime is decreasing in America. But I keep meeting young people who are yearning for direction in their lives. They are not turning to politicians but to religion for hope. Here on a street in San Francisco many American would regard as a breeding ground of despair you will find a mosque crowded with the young. At the mosque's center for self-improvement and community development teenagers learn how to dress, how to present themselves at job interviews, how to use words with care. Two years ago after the Million Man March in Washington organized by Louis Farrakhan many Americans couldn't see beyond Minister Farrakhan in judging the event. But every man I've spoken to who was at the Million Man March has told me that their presence had nothing to do with Louis Farrakhan. There they were, hundreds of thousands of lives, single lives, lives entire, men, grandfathers, brothers, fathers, sons, confessing their failures, determining to change. That the Million Man March took place in Washington, D.C. was an irony, of course, for not a single request was made of the White House or the Congress by any of the marchers. You do not find many mayors visiting jails. You do not find many governors walking the streets to hear people talk about their desperate lives. If you want to hear about the condition of the American soul, you would do better to listen to the missionaries who ring the doorbells and stand on the street corners of America: the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Nation of Islam, the Mormons, the missionaries from Victory Outreach. Victory Outreach is an evangelical Protestant group that began along the U.S.-Mexican border working with teenagers who have serious gang and drug problems. It has spread all over the country, and now its ambitions are international. Last year missionaries from Victory Outreach traveled to London, Amsterdam, and Paris to counsel teenagers. If you want to know about the moral life of America, the state of our soul, you would do well one Sunday to visit the Gospel Church here in Oakland. These young lives will determine the future of America as surely as any mayor or governor or congressman. Listen to them. The joy they are singing is sounding over the city. [people singing] I'm Richard Rodriguez. RECAP JIM LEHRER: Again, the major stories of this Monday, President Clinton and Egypt's President Mubarak said Israel should not expand a Jewish settlement in Jerusalem. Mr. Clinton also said he should have been told about FBI reports China was trying to influence 1996 congressional elections. And the U.S. Senate began debate over the cost and scope of its campaign finance inquiry, with a vote expected tomorrow. We'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with Defense Sec. Cohen, among other things. I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.
- The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
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- NewsHour Productions
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- NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)
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- Episode Description
- This episode's headline: Coming Apart; Value Judgment; Crime and Punishment. ANCHOR: JIM LEHRER; GUESTS: ELEZ BIBERAJ, Voice of America; PETER DICKINSON, Albania Analyst; ALEC BALDWIN, Actor; ALICE GOLDFARB MARQUIS, Cultural Historian; MAYOR MARC MORIAL, New Orleans; WILLIAM CRAIG RICE, Writer; ESSAY: CORRESPONDENTS: CHARLES KRAUSE; ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH; RICHARD RODRIGUEZ;
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- Copyright NewsHour Productions, LLC. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode)
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Producing Organization: NewsHour Productions
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: NH-5781 (NH Show Code)
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- Chicago: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 1997-03-10, NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 25, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-6q1sf2mw78.
- MLA: “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.” 1997-03-10. NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 25, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-6q1sf2mw78>.
- APA: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Boston, MA: NewsHour Productions, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-507-6q1sf2mw78