President Trump’s Budget Cuts to the Arts

Should America cut money to the arts, humanities, and public media?

Before I answer the question, I am going to look at the history of these programs.  First of all, the National Endowment for the Arts was created as an independent government agency by an act of congress in 1966; it was created to support artistic endeavors.  PBS and NPR were created after the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.  Congress awarded the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) less than 3 million in 1966 but since then that figure has grown tremendously.  The funding for the NEA had been as high as 175 million and has been over 95 million for every year since 1977.  PBS and NPR together receive nearly 450 million a year in federal aid.

The NEA has come under criticism over the years for some of the artists in which it has provided grants.  One of the most controversial artists was Andres Serrano whose photograph entitled “Piss Christ,’’ which is a picture of a plastic crucifix in a bottle of urine, enraged prominent conservative Christians.

Proponents of PBS and NPR say they provide free and “impartial” educational, cultural, scientific programs, and news content to rural and poor urban citizens who would not received these services without them.  Proponents of these programs also contended that the money spent on these programs make up a very small portion of the budget.

After studying the history and services of these programs, I believe President Trump is correct in calling for their elimination.

First of all, it is true that the funding of the arts makes up a very small portion of the budget, but never the less, it is real money and a substantial amount.  With a deficit nearing 20 trillion dollars, America is broke.  It will take generations to pay off the debt as it is now. Whenever the American people have a budget problem at home, the American people have to make cuts.  It may be as small as cutting out soft drinks at work or bringing a lunch instead of going out to eat.   A couple of dollars for a soft drink and ten dollars for lunch may not be a large portion of an individual’s budget but lots of small savings can add up to big savings.  Critics of the idea of cutting out the funding for the arts will point out other areas of government spending that they think is a waste.  I am more than open to their ideas.  With a proposed budget of over 1.2 trillion dollars more, savings are needed.  Anywhere the government can save money and cut unnecessary spending is great.  President Trump should try to get the budget under a trillion dollars.  Having a budget under a trillion dollars would be a great start in balancing the budget.

Another reason for the defunding of these programs is because of massive changes in technology.  In 1967 cable television was a novelty that was highly regulated by the FCC.  The FCC began to deregulate cable in 1972 and further deregulation in 1984 led to rapid growth.  Cable along with the wide-spread growth of the internet allows rural residents to get educational programming and news without PBS or NPR.  At the time of their creation, these programs may have been needed, but with the wide-spread use of cable and the internet, rural residents do not need these programs for news or information anymore.

The most sensational claim by the critics of Trump’s budget is that without governmental funding, Big Bird will die.  This is an obvious play on the emotions of the American people.  No one wants Big Bird to die, but PBS can compete on the open market.  Millions of Americans have spent hard earned money on Sesame Street toys such as Tickle Me Elmo.  Eliminating federal funding for PBS doesn’t mean Sesame Street will no longer be available, but instead PBS will have to compete for viewers like almost every other station in America.  PBS and NPR can survive without federal funding, probably not with their current programming, but they can offer better content, draw more viewers, and get more advertising dollars instead of asking Americans for donations and tax dollars.

The NEA is a little trickier than PBS and NPR, but it can also be eliminated.  There is no reason to fund artists with tax dollars.  A panel of peers should not determine which artists receive funding.  The open market should determine which artists succeed and which do not.  I am much more sympathetic toward providing art education to America’s youth but this can be better accomplished at the local level.  States and local governments, along with philanthropists, can provide the funds needed for local educational art programs.

I seriously doubt that President Trump’s budget cuts will pass through congress, but if they do and you disagree with them, feel free to donate to these organizations or buy work from a struggling artist.

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