NEA? NEH? PBS? We told you so!


Donald_TrumpI’ve always maintained that the three most beloved words in the English language are not “I love you,” but rather, “You were right.” So I’m waiting…

Still waiting… Crickets?

When I said that President Trump doesn’t have the ability to eliminate federal agencies, as he suggested by recommending the complete defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, I was challenged. One Facebook friend, a well-known editor, flamed and unfriended me. Others expressed expressed skepticism. Meanwhile, champions of the agencies lobbied fiercely in Washington D.C., where the NEA and NEH  have wide bipartisan support, as I reported here.

Dana Gioia was one of them, and he said to the Sierra Poetry Festival in Grass Valley last month that he was 99% certain all would be well. (More on that event later.)

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The spending bill that Congress is expected to vote on this week includes a promotion for the two agencies:  $150 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and the same for the Humanities endowment. In both cases, that’s a $2-million increase over last fiscal year. No cut in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had advocated the cuts, saying that it was unfair to take money from working families to support programs such as the endowments and public television.

But it was clear from the outset that Trump’s plan would face trouble in Congress. Most NEA funds go to support community arts groups in all 50 states, with rural, Republican-leaning states topping the lists of spending per person. As a result, arts programs have a strong constituency in Congress, especially on the appropriations committees that dole out spending.

Mulvaney and his allies in the most conservative wing of the GOP have tried to cut money for arts programs in the past with no success.

The deal only lasts through the end of September, and the fight could be renewed for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, but the basic congressional dynamics aren’t likely to change.

Of course, it still has to get voted on, but I refer you to the third paragraph above, and also my earlier report.

What’s that? Oh yes. You’re so very welcome.

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4 Responses to “NEA? NEH? PBS? We told you so!

  1. Dale Nelson Says:

    You’re entitled! : )

  2. Jeff S. Says:

    Dang, I had been working on a detailed pro-NEA blog post. I guess I’ll keep it handy; may need it next year.

    As I researched the NEA, one of the most startling things I discovered was the extent to which most of the people with opinions on the matter (which included some arts advocates) were detached from the reality of the early 21st-century NEA: who benefits from it, what it funds, and what it doesn’t fund. (When a few pundits opposed to NEA funding could find nothing more “offensive” than a lighthearted dance film with sheep in it, I had a hunch that today’s outcome was assured.) Dana Gioia has unique credibility on this issue and exactly the right public temperament, but I can’t help thinking that the rest of us in favor of NEA funding need fresh arguments that demolish the misperception that it’s still 1990 at NEA headquarters.

  3. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Thanks, Dale and Jeff. You’re both right.

  4. elizabeth powers Says:

    LIke you, I was not in a panic about the president’s comments about defunding the NEA. We live in an age of panic, it seems.