Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $250,000 for Country Music Hall of Fame

Country music certainly has reason to cheer: Booming album sales, an American Idol winner, and some extra dough direct from the nation’s capital.

That’s right.

Last year, the 2005 VA/HUD Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4818) allotted $250,000 to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee for community programs. According to the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, these programs include songwriting sessions where "songwriters perform in an intimate setting that encourages audience questions and interaction. Visitors can also learn about the instruments that make country music sound country. Musicians play their instruments, share information on the instrument’s history, and answer questions."

Keep in mind, country music is not exactly a suffering art form. According to sales figures released last year by Nielsen SoundScan, nearly 78 million country albums were sold in 2004, a 13% jump over the 69 million albums sold in 2003. And at the hefty admissions price of $16.95 for adults and $8.95 for children, one would think the Museum could afford to lay off taxpayers’ money.

I have nothing against communal programs that seek to introduce country music to larger audiences I’m a fan of country music myself, having lived in Tennessee for many years. However, I am against using federal funds for that purpose.

Lately, it’s become almost trendy to talk about how out-of-control federal spending has become. A lot of erstwhile porkers are jumping on the reform bandwagon, supporting the President’s move to reinstate the line-item veto. That’s a positive development, and I support the line-item veto as well. But we wouldn’t be in this position if our Senators and Representatives weren’t voting for this pork in the first place. My advice? The next time a Congressman from Tennessee wants to lavish the Country Music Hall of Fame with hundreds of thousands of dollars — just say no.

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (Senate Roll Call Vote #215) on November 20, 2004.