The National Endowment for the Arts is potentially soon to be gone, and now the country’s budget will finally be freed up! Yes, with the NEA’s $148 million annual budget cut, we can finally afford to… oh, wait, $148 million is, in federal government terms, very, very little. Despite the fact that the NEA’s financially minuscule (but culturally indispensable) budget is a negligible fraction of the money dumped into the already-swollen military in Donald Trump’s budget proposal, a new budget outline released today shows that Trump’s — or, as Cher smartly refers to him, 🚽’s — crusade against culture and information will continue regardless.
The NEA costs every American an average of less than a dollar a year and, with other cultural programs like the National Endowment for the Humanities (which, surprise! will also be eliminated via Trump’s newest proposal), it makes up 0.02 percent of the national budget. “Put another way,” as the Washington Post emphasized in January, “if you make $50,000 a year, spending the equivalent of what the government spends on these three programs would be like spending less than $10.” Despite the small amount of the budget that the NEA takes up, artists in every congressional district have appreciated grants from the organization.
Beyond the NEA and the NEH, the targets of Trump’s budget cuts seem, simply, to include Everything That is Good, Everything That Is Cheap Enough Not to Make an Iota of a Difference in the Budget, and — most accurately, perhaps — Everything That Is Enjoyed by Liberals. There are also proposed cuts to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and per the latest article on the matter in the Post, “Additional cuts could affect the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.” In that same article, Patricia Aufderheide, who founded American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact, said:
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting money is actually crucial to keeping stations alive. That is what pays for the electric bill, that is what pays for upgrades in the equipment. Without that money, I think there are very few stations that are going to operate purely on donations.
According to the New York Times, Trump is the first President (and first toilet) to propose cuts for these endowments, which were created in 1965. Of course, none of this has officially been passed; similar to the American Horror Health Care Act, anything budgetary has to go through — and often get largely revised by — Congress before passing. But, as the Times portends, “never before have Republicans, who have proposed eliminating the endowments in the past, been so well-positioned to close the agencies, given their control of both houses of Congress and the White House, and now the president’s fiscal plan.”
“I’m sort of dumbstruck. I’m hopeful that Congress will take the time to say, ‘Hey, wait a second. We need these cultural elements to our society,'” Brian Ferriso, the president of the Association of Art Museum directors told the Times.
The NEA posted a statement from its head, Jane Chu, on its official website:
Today we learned that the President’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.
We expect this news to be an active topic of discussion among individuals and organizations that advocate for the arts. As a federal government agency, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue our practice of educating about the NEA’s vital role in serving our nation’s communities.
PEN America has a petition asking Congress to oppose budget plans that’d eviscerate arts funding. Now that the budget proposal has officially been shared with Congress, it’d be a good time to call your Senators and Representatives about this as well. Of course, while this post is about cultural funding, there’s a whole lot else to oppose in this new budget — particularly that it sees a $54 billion increase in defense spending, while simultaneously proposing cuts to the likes of the Environmental Protection Agency (by 31%) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (by 13.2%). (The budget blueprint also proposes a 28% cut to the State Department.)