Because the wonderful free market that forms the base of the United States economic system has put a price tag on everything and that price tag keeps going up faster than a California wildfire.
I've heard all the arguments before about how promoters and producers and owners of products and events wouldn't charge high prices if they couldn't get them.
"It's what the market will bear."
But what is the cost of culture?
Once anyone would admit there was a recession, now the words "economic recovery" are being tossed around with the hopes that it'll convince the general population that things aren't so bad. Sorry, I'm not buying. No matter what any political pundits or daily surveys report, it's very clear that the downward spiral the American economy has been spinning on will continue.
I'll say it. We are in a Depression. We are engaged in tribal warfare with two countries we had no business invading in the first place and no matter how many years pass, there is no end in sight. Unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosures keep rising and meanwhile credit card interest rates are still ridiculously high as well as health insurance, bank charges, cell phone plans, utilities, gas, food and lodging. The middle class is becoming extinct.
So why, in these hard financial times, doesn't anyone reduce the cost to the consumer a little?
You know, show some good will, gain some loyalty, practice what you preach about the fair and balanced American spirit, rally the country to help each other out the way it was done during WWII. There are reduced prices for senior citizens and students, barely, but many working Americans could use a break too. Salaries don't match the inflation.
With tough times, we especially need a place to unwind, sing, dance, scream and have fun. Cultural activities are supposed to be a reflection of our society and a way to relish life.
If we enjoy some sort of sport, whether it's football, baseball or basketball, then why are we willing to pay inflated amounts of money to park in a parking lot that doesn't change year after year, drink a Budweiser that is still as crappy today as it was yesterday and deal with traffic jams and long lines to pee after that inferior beer goes right through you in 10 minutes? I guess someone has to pay for A-Rod's contract while keeping the Steinbrenner family flush.
And why do we spend the money we do on concerts? I was one of those fans that shelled out $380 USD for two tickets to see U2's 2006 Vertigo Tour at the Los Angeles Staples Center. I had great seats and it was an amazing show. I don't regret it. But why isn't U2 giving their fans a break now, when people are broke? Why do Bono and his bandmates, who are in one of the most profitable rock bands of all time, still allow Ticketmaster to suck the blood out of their fans in extra fees all while they charge ticket prices that could support a small country?
I don't mean to sound too critical of Bono. He donates much time and money to raise awareness and combat world hunger, poverty, AIDS and global warming. U2 is doing a free concert in Berlin to commemorate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. And reports say the current tour is so costly, that they won't be making a profit until next year. So then I ask the question, why do it that big? Why have monstrous sets that require many trucks to haul it and many people to build it and leave a huge carbon footprint that greatly inconveniences the lives of the local communities in which they perform? One could argue that their shows create jobs and stimulate local economies, but for how long and who is dishing out that stimulus dough? The already broke local community, that's who.
Opera and ballet companies charge a lot for their tickets too. So maybe it's easier to pick on the rock bands and team owners because either the talent or the person writing their checks is getting rich while the Oboe player in the Nutcracker production is simply making a living.
The bigger question is why won't the government subsidize arts and entertainment instead of continually funneling money towards wars and companies and people who don't need it or don't deserve it? I know the answer, but why aren't the American people asking?
The inexpensive part of American consumerism, TV and the Wal-Mart and McDonald's one-dollar-bargain-budget-shopping-plans, is thriving. Because everywhere an American turns, from Disneyland to video games, from well-made clothes and shoes to travel and preventive health care, from healthy restaurants and good wine to college educations and transportation, the consumer is seeing the prices hiked up. Slowly but surely, we will pay to play. And the arts and entertainment that are the least profitable will fade away and be forgotten.
In a hundred years when the question is asked, "What is America?", the strip malls and dollar stores and dollar menus and disposable products made in Asia and apathetic populace will answer.
Because the average American won't be able to afford a ticket to see the Metropolitan Opera. The average American won't be able to afford the cost of gas (or the cost of an electric car) for a trip to Yosemite National Park. The average American won't be able to take advantage of free museums and monuments in the nation's capitol and read the Constitution or be inspired by the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln because she won't have the money for the inflated cost of hotels and restaurants.
What is the cost of culture? Our cost will be the loss of it.