Text by Dawoud Kringle
For the third year in a row, the Trump Administration repeated its efforts to destroy the arts in the US. The White House has proposed a federal budget that would shutter the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which supports PBS and NPR) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Like the two previous years under Trump, the plans diminishing appropriations for each agency are a clear attempt to facilitate its demise.
The cuts total $897 million of the $4.7 trillion 2020 spending plan.
In the beginning of his administration, Trump called for the complete elimination of these agencies. The Republican-led Congress funded them both times, with the NEA, NEH and IMLS each seeing small increases in 2019. The 2020 budget provides $29 million for the NEA and $38 million for the NEH, both funded at $155 million this year. The CPB would receive $30 million, down from $465 million, and the IMLS would receive $23 million, a $219 million cut. This translates to about $1.35 per citizen per year.
Responding to the 2020 proposal, several agency leaders emphasized the bipartisan support they receive from Congress. It’s interesting to note that far-right republican writer and art historian Brian T. Allan wrote in defense of supporting the arts in the ultra-right-wing publication The National Review. He said “I think high culture is an essential ingredient in a healthy society.” In describing the dull and unimaginative politicians who think that the arts serve no useful purpose in society, Allan also joked that “You’d think at least they’d love theater. President Trump is a remarkably good performance artist.”
The indisputable fact that the arts are an indispensable part of any society transcends all political ideologies. Consider:
– 40% of all NEA-supported activities take place in high poverty neighborhoods. An average of 42 million adults and 8.3 million children annually engage with the arts through live events produced by NEA-funded projects.
– Every $1 awarded by the NEA in direct grants to nonprofit organizations will leverage $9 from other non-federal sources.
– The NEA arts education grant program is focused on pre-K to 12th grade students. The result of this is lower dropout rates and higher grade point averages for students who participate in arts education.
Defunding the NEA would have a destructive impact on the arts ecosystem in the US, and the underprivileged communities that depend on the NEA. The defunding of the NEA would have a particularly significant impact on New York, which receives more NEA funding than any other City in the United States. Furthermore, this focuses on only part of the areas in which the arts serve human society. A complete list of advantages of the arts is nearly inexhaustible, and beyond the scope of this article.
MFM and the Local 802 Musicians Union stand in solidarity with the NEA, NEH, CPB, and the IMLS. We stand with all who resist the Trump administration’s aforementioned budget cuts, and their relentless pursuit of the ruin of the United States.