Two articles in yesterday's New York Times make an interesting study in contrasts. First, Sarah Lyall did a nice review of how government austerity measures in the UK are beginning to bite. As you know, I've been blogging ad nauseum about the impacts of these cuts on the UK museum sector; you can read the most recent of these posts here. It's clear that if you work in a cultural institution in Britain, then there are tough times ahead (unless you're a volunteer, in which case the outlook is really quite rosy).
In the US, by contrast, it seems that the burning issue in the museum world is the whopping tax breaks that certain museum directors get on their exceedingly expensive (and rent-free) apartments. These are discussed by Kevin Flynn and Stephanie Strom in another NYT article. It's hard to imagine any head of a UK museum being paid that much, even prior to the current cost-conscious regime, and the level of housing described in the article would be far beyond the means of even the big national museums.
Ironically enough, however, I think the Tory half of the coalition government would probably sympathize with the argument that, at the rarified levels where museum directors are recruited, market forces dictate generous remuneration packages, including housing. By contrast, the dour, Calvinist, Liberal Democrat contingent would see this as spendthrift nonsense, and wonder why the directors don't live in studio apartments and use their museum's function rooms for official entertaining.
These are the sort of conflicts that will eventually pull the coalition apart, which they are already doing; as this amusing article from yesterday's Independent reports, some Lib Dems "fear the party is acting as a fig leaf for ideologically driven spending cuts by the Tories." Gosh, do you think so?