The administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump released its first federal budget plan this week which calls for the elimination of all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Trump also proposed pulling the plug on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a key source of funding for PBS and Public Radio.
While these organizations have been a point of controversy for conservatives, such as the NEA's funding of photographic exhibits by Robert Mapplethorpe, no U.S. president has proposed eliminating the endowments since they were created in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The NEA regularly makes grants to a variety of artists, including its Jazz Masters grants, which this year recognized artists such as Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dave Holland.
The total budget for both endowments is about $300 million, which, when combined with CPB's budget of about $450 million amounts to less than .02% of the annual federal budget. By contrast, the budget also includes a $54 billion increase in defense spending, a $2bn 'down payment' on Trump's proposed wall, (wasn't Mexico going to pay for that?) or as Twitter user Elliot Lusztig noted, security at Trump Tower in New York is on track to cost $183 million a year.
Following the news about Trump's proposed cuts, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu released the following statement:
Today we learned that the President’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. 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.
We understand that the President’s budget request is a first step in a very long budget process; as part of that process we are working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare information they have requested. At this time, the NEA continues to operate as usual and will do so until a new budget is enacted by Congress.
We expect this news to be an active topic of discussion among individuals and organizations that advocate for the arts. As a federal government agency, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue our practice of educating about the NEA’s vital role in serving our nation’s communities.