I told you so. I said weeks ago that just as soon as Trump and the GOP started trying to reduce the size of government and cut spending that suddenly we would be told that each and every government employee was vital and deserving of lifetime employment, and that each and every government program was essential and that people were gonna die if we cut even one fucking dollar from the federal budget.
On Thursday morning, President Trump’s proposal for the federal budget confirmed a fact long suspected: the proposed elimination of 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. Together, the four groups receive less than a billion dollars a year, with the NEA and the NEH costing taxpayers $148 million a year each—approximately 0.004 percent of the federal budget individually. Their elimination would be largely symbolic, signaling the Trump administration’s intent to slash spending it sees as “wasteful” while potentially spending 146 times as much as the NEA’s annual allotment on a border wall whose efficacy even Republican lawmakers have disputed.
But eliminating the NEA would also have a very real cost. Its grants are bestowed to all 50 states in the nation, in all congressional districts. Forty percent of the NEA’s budget goes directly to states to spend for themselves, with the proviso that they match the funds dollar for dollar via their own arts agencies—encouraging a further investment in the arts at the state level. Just as significantly, 65 percent of the NEA’s direct grants go to small and medium-sized arts groups, keeping the arts alive in rural and underserved communities. It’s here where the agency’s elimination would be most keenly felt, at organizations largely ignored by private donors, but which bring the arts to audiences including veterans and schoolchildren, often in impoverished neighborhoods.
Blah, blah, blah. There is more if you want to read it.
In rebuttal let me make three simple points:
1. There is plenty of art out there that doesn’t depend on government support. It is all around us.
2. If you think the NEA is important, dig into your own pocket to support it.
3. Piss Christ
Immersion (Piss Christ) is a 1987 photograph by the American artist and photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s “Awards in the Visual Arts” competition, which was sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States Government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects.
Piss on the NEA.