President Donald Trump released his 2018 budget blueprint, and it eliminates four of America’s independent cultural agencies: 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, according to The Washington Post.
Legislators have frequently targeted these four agencies for cuts. Collectively, the cuts would eliminate $971 million from the national budget. The budget will need to be passed through Congress, but it does highlight a priority for the Trump administration: redefining the responsibility of the federal government. In doing so, The White House budget completely eliminates spending for 19 agencies; spells out cuts for other federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institutes of Health and NASA; and increases spending for The Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs.
Patricia Harrison, the president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, condemned the cuts to PBS and other agencies, emphasizing that “public media is one of America’s best investments,” by effectively providing the infrastructure to deliver educational resources and information to the public.
“There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services. The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions — all for Americans in both rural and urban communities.”
The heads of the other three organizations issued their own statements, emphasizing the role public funding has had in supporting institutions across the nation. National Endowment for the Arts chairman Jane Chu said, “We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.” National Endowment for the Humanities chairman William D. Adams voiced similar concerns, noting that in its 50-year history, the agency “has awarded more than $5.3 billion for humanities projects through more than 63,000 grants. That public investment has led to the creation of books, films, museum exhibits, and exciting discoveries.”
Institute of Museum and Library Services director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew noted that her organization supports museums and libraries across the country, providing “vital resources that contribute significantly to Americans’ economic development, education, health, and well-being whether by facilitating family learning and catalyzing community change or stimulating economic development through job training and skills development.” Matthew says much of the FY 2016 budget — more than $214 million — went directly to museums and libraries through grant programs.
Other organizations that work closely with artists and the arts have come out against the budget. The DGA, WGA, and SAG-AFTRA released a joint statement condemning the budget, saying “cutting federal support of these programs will not only hurt artists and those who benefit from their work, it will also send a damaging message to future generations about the power of art and its place in our culture.” Similarly, Neil Portnow, president and CEO of The Recording Academy, says “the White House proposal to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts is shortsighted and alarming. The modest support that we provide to music and the arts is returned many times over, whether measured in jobs and economic impact, or sheer cultural enrichment and introspection.”
A fight in Congress is certainly in store, as many of the agencies and organizations have indicated that they will be taking their case to the Senate and House of Representatives to make the case for their very existence. Earlier today, House Committee on Appropriations chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) said his committee “will take a close look at the budget and supplemental requests we received today. As directed under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse. While the President may offer proposals, Congress must review both requests to assure the wise investment of taxpayer dollars.”
Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) commended President Trump’s “focus on national security. I look forward to receiving additional details about the request, which will help the Congress in making final funding decisions.” Vice chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) issued his own statement, saying that the budget eliminated “the very programs that make our nation more secure,” and calling it “divorced from reality and packed with partisan campaign promises.”