President Donald Trump released his first federal budget proposal to the public on March 16, confirming the fears of the nation’s artists and art lovers. The proposal eliminates funding to a number of arts and entertainment organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
There have been rumors about Trump’s axing of the NEA for months now, but this proposal proves Trump’s detrimental intentions for the arts. The money saved from cutting these programs is an estimated total of $3 billion. It seems that Trump intends to redirect this money toward defense spending and Homeland Security, according to The Art Newspaper.
Among those fighting to save these institutions are of course arts groups, such as the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Arts Action Fund and the National Center for Arts Research—but a number of Republican politicians are also against Trump’s defunding of national arts and cultural agencies.
There are many convincing arguments for keeping these programs. Other than the obvious benefits of creativity, education and freedom of expression, these agencies provide economic and medical advantages as well.
The NCAR reported on the tangible benefits of national arts organizations such as these, finding that museums contributed about $9.95 billion to the American economy and increased their employment by 1.5 percent. These programs and institutions can also help those suffering with mental diseases—such as Alzheimer’s and post-traumatic stress disorder—regain control of their lives through art therapy programs. Many museums also provide teachers with materials and lesson plans.
The New York Times emphasizes the importance of the NEA and other arts institutions’ aid to war veterans; the newspaper suggests that redirecting the conversation around this point may be able to save these programs.
Republicans are famously supportive of veterans and “are so reluctant to take anything away from vets,” according to Democrat Mark Mellman.
Trump has also spoken extensively about providing care and opportunities to veterans. With the Republican Party in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, many supporters of the arts feel it’s necessary to bring up the NEA’s unconditional support of veterans suffering from PTSD.
This message has resonated with many Republican politicians, such as Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, Maine Senator Susan Collins, West Virginian Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Nevada Representative Mark Amodei and New Jersey Representative Leonard Lance, to name a few.
In fact, Senator Collins and Moore Capito are among those who signed a letter that encouraged continued support for arts and culture agencies in the United States. Murkowski, Amodei and Lance have all released statements of support as well, believing that there is a way to “commit to fiscal responsibility while continuing to support the important benefits that NEA and NEH provide.” Many choose to highlight the 4.8 million jobs that the programs provide as well as how they support our restaurant and tourist industries.
Unfortunately, there are still those who would prefer to cut the endowments and relocate the money elsewhere. But, as some point out, there are still many obstacles in Trump’s way when it comes to abolishing creativity—in 2011, the Budget Control Act effectively put a cap on military spending.
Although we’ve seen Trump overstep his boundaries before, it’s Congress that officially writes the federal budget. Lobbyists and NEA supporters are wasting no time as they knock on the White House door and appeal to Congress with the hopes of saving the programs.
With the party so divided on the issue, even those in favor of Trump’s proposal admit that “they have a fight on their hands,” in a never-before-seen Republican battle for the arts.