Support The Arts (NSFW)

Support The Arts…One Dollar At A Time

Recently New York Administrative Law Judge Catherine M. Bennett rendered a ruling that classified pole dancing as a dramatic or artistic performance. So, in New York at least, pole dancing is now a “dramatic art.”

From a pragmatic standpoint this means that strip clubs offering pole dancing – I assume the bulk of them – qualify for the “dramatic arts” New York state sales tax exemption under New York state Tax Law 1105(f)(1):

The tax imposed by this subdivision shall not apply to: The tax imposed by this subdivision shall not apply to:

Any admission charge where such admission charge is in excess of ten cents to or for the use of any place of amusement in the state, except charges for admission to race tracks, boxing, sparring or wrestling matches or exhibitions which charges are taxed under any other law of this state, or dramatic or musical arts performances, or live circus performances, or motion picture theaters, and except charges to a patron for admission to, or use of, facilities for sporting activities in which such patron is to be a participant, such as bowling alleys and swimming pools. For any person having the permanent use or possession of a box or seat or a lease or a license, other than a season ticket, for the use of a box or seat at a place of amusement, the tax shall be upon the amount for which a similar box or seat is sold for each performance or exhibition at which the box or seat is used or reserved by the holder, licensee or lessee, and shall be paid by the holder, licensee or lessee.

So now, under Judge Bennett’s ruling, the cover charge for a strip club is exempt from New York stat sales tax. I expect that this will provide a needed economic stimulus to the New York strip clubs, which are mostly “small businesses” and as likely to be suffering under this economy as any other.

This may “play well” with Obama and his Liberals’ tax cuts that were part of the Stimulus. The $8 / week extra that these cuts add to paychecks seem well suited for use at strip clubs. 😉

Judge Bennett was quite clear on her reasoning for deciding that, under New York state tax laws, pole dancing qualified for the “dramatic arts” exemption from state sales tax:

The fact someone may believe that this entertainment is not appropriate for any audience is not the issue. The fact that the dancers remove all or part of their costume during the performances, that the dance routines are seductive in nature and titillation of a patron is the outcome, simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performances, or remove them from the exception to the general rule of Tax Law 1105(f)(1).

— Administrative Law Judge Catherine M. Bennett
Via the New York Law Journal

New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance spokesman Thomas Bergin said Bennett’s decision will probably be appealed to the Tax Appeals Tribunal – a statement that had to expected by everyone no matter what their ethical and moral views pole dancing and strip clubs are; it’s only logical that the Department of Taxation would appeal any ruling that reduced the state government’s tax income.

Two things:

Firstly, I think the judge Bennett’s ruling is one of the stupidest things that I’ve heard of in recent months – and given the state of America right now, that’s a rare accomplishment on Judge Bennett’s parts. Defining pole dancing as a “dramatic art form” worthy of tax exemptions normally reserved for truly cultural endeavors is just ridiculous.

Face it, do the lovely women pictured above – sexy, beautiful, talented, and titillating as they are – really qualify as “dramatic artists” and do the venues they perform in really qualify as any form of “cultural outlets?”

Secondly and in counterpoint to my first observation, this is one of the best judicial rulings I’ve heard of in recent months, possibly years – though the current state of America has lowered the bar in matter greatly. Bennett’s strict interpretation of the applicable laws and refusal to add a subjective moral component to it is a surprisingly wise thing in the long run.

I don’t believe that it’s truly the place of the government to legislate morality via the tax code, especially in cases where little or no harm is caused by the actions of the participants and no other existing laws are breached in the course of their activities.

Legalized government censorship of the arts and of entertainment has not seemingly led to much in the way of good throughout America’s history.

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [obscenity]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it

— SCOTUS Justice Potter Steward
concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio (circa 1964)

It seems to me that, if you can’t even define it, you can’t legislate for or against it in any repeatable manner that adheres to any replicatable standard that isn’t based on criteria outside the allowed purview of America’s secular government.

Apparently even Justice Potter Steward later came to a similar conclusion. Nine years later he joined the dissent in Miller v. California, and would have thus held that such material is categorically constitutionally protected the dissent’s – including Steward’s – argument focused largely on the vagueness of the existing tests for what’s constitutionally protected and what’s not.

Who’s really to say – for the purposes of the law – what is to be called an art form and what is to barred from that classification. If the government is going to effectively subsidize or endorse any of these things, certain they be forced to similar subsidize them all, or be forced to subsidize none of them if they cannot find anything but vague and subjective criteria upon which to make their decisions?

So, if you don’t like or approve of pole dancers and/or strip clubs then don’t go to one. If you do like them, go support the arts – one grubby, sweat-stained dollar at a time. 😉

~*~

With a somewhat unexpected H/T to Prof. Jonathan Turley – though his sarcastic, anti-theist humor in the post is more than a little grating.

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