I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating in a panicky economy like this one: Arts funding is so tiny that every time a politician is wielding it in a public speech, be skeptical.

This has come to my mind twice in the last week: First, when Meg Whitman spent some $140 million in her failed California run, and now, last night, when I heard that the United States is paying the cotton farmers of Brazil $147 million every year to avoid playing by international rules. That incredible story was on NPR last night, including an underdog named Pedro. Listen to the whole thing, really—it's worth it.

The entire 2010 budget of the National Endowment for the Arts is $167.5 million.