In the flurry of activity that’s been a part of Donald Trump’s first week in office as President of the United States, one of the ominous possibilities relates to cutting government funding for the arts. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, made the original recommendation as a partial way to reduce government spending over the next decade by $10.5 trillion.
The problem with using the arts as a cudgel to deal with the massive national debt is that eliminating things like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) won’t offer much of a reduction. All of the cuts, if they’re made, will take away exactly two-tenths of one percent related to government spending.
The belief by proponents of such cuts is that the arts can be funded through philanthropic interests. Presently, such funding accounts already accounts for nearly half of the available funds that arts organizations receive every year. Therefore, asking such individuals to double their donations in order to make up the difference becomes a dicey proposition.
In truth, the real reason for targeting the arts is the belief by Republicans that a pronounced bias toward liberals is evident with respect to organizations like CPB and NPR radio. With respect to the NEA, it’s been around since 1965, with occasional attempts made over the course of nine previous presidencies to undercut their ability to fund artistic endeavors.
When Ronald Reagan became President in 1981, he also targeted the NEA for elimination. However, as a former actor himself, he was eventually persuaded to reject the idea after speaking with Republican friends like Charlton Heston. He eventually cut funding in half, which may end up being a best-case scenario for American lovers of the arts in 2017.