From last week’s New York Times:
“New York City sees itself as the cultural capital of the nation — if not the world — but its artistic community is suddenly vulnerable to budget cuts in Washington, where the administration of President Trump is considering eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides millions of dollars each year to groups in the city.”
News flash: Donald Trump cannot eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, or any of the other federal agencies. Got that? That’s good. The New York Times didn’t. These agencies were created by Congress, and can only be eliminated by Congress.
However, budgets can be slashed. An agency can be starved, if not murdered. Will it happen?
At least one hero I know is working behind the scenes to make sure that it doesn’t. A few words to the Book Haven from Dana Gioia, former chairman of the NEA, over the weekend: “There now seems to be a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress to support the NEA and NEH. It is still uncertain what President Trump will propose, but it won’t matter in the end. The budget is done by Congress, and they are set to preserve the cultural agencies.”
A few weeks ago we wrote about the rumors that Trump will trash the NEA and the NEH. We wrote about Dana’s radio interview about the NEA and what you, as a private citizen, should do to protect it. The upshot: write, write, write your congressional representatives! It needn’t be long. Just two or three sentences. Go here for Dana’s remarks.
Here’s some good news: Democrats and Republicans are voicing support for the agencies, in light of the concern that the Trump administration will propose a 2018 budget that will strike at the tiny, but popular NEA.
Not that it would help balance the books in more than an infinitesimal way. The NEA receives about $150 million annually out of a more than $4 trillion federal budget – less than one-tenth of one percent of the budget. Too small to be anything more than symbolic – and why axe popular institutions as a gesture?
Someone sent me an interesting column by Jennifer Shutt of CQ Roll Call, entitled “Some Republicans Lukewarm on Killing Off Federal Arts Funding,” noting that the NEA has been targeted in the past. But right now? There isn’t much interest in slashing it. Some quotes from the article:
Budget Committee member and Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla: “I think it has a lot of support,” he said, when asked how many House GOP members would back continued NEA funding. “It’s not a lot of money in this budget, so I think there is considerable sentiment for it. And a considerable belief that it’s a fight not worth fighting because there is not much money there.”
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee: He said he has not looked at NEA funding extensively but added that he is not inclined to support cutting funding for the arts. “My background has a lot of music-related events to it: I’m from a music past, and my daughter is in a lot of the local theater and maybe even looking to go to New York,” Walker said. “I appreciate the education that is found in the arts, so at this point I have no path to making any kind of hard cuts right now.”
Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Charlie Dent, R-Pa.: Speaking broadly about the upcoming fiscal 2018 process, Dent said, “We simply cannot increase Department of Defense funding on the backs of the non-defense discretionary programs.”
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y.: Speaking during the members’ hearing in February, he said, “I know it’s symbolic for a lot of people, but it does do a lot of good things in a lot of great communities, like my community in Buffalo and western New York.”
Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert: “The arts and the humanities touches every congressional district in the United States,” he said. “So you know there is a lot of support for that, and I certainly take that into consideration … we’ll be working together to try to resolve these things,” Calvert said.
There’s more from Dana in a February 27 NPR broadcast, “Former Leader Of National Arts Fund Says Organization Should Be Protected” – go here. Quote: “What the NEA really does is fund art programs that are, for the most part, created in your community, by people in your community, to serve your community.”