The federal government has a murky relationship with the arts, at best, and efforts to stop infusing taxpayer dollars is in the spotlight once again. President Trump’s budget blueprint calls for the elimination of arts spending from the federal budget.
Leading that movements is removal of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Some of the funding also goes to NPR. Other proposed arts cuts include the National Endowment for the Arts ($148 million), as well as the Institute of Museum and Library services ($230 million). People in the arts industry have begun making the case that this $971 million cut amounts to only .02 percent of the budget and costs Americans only $1.35 each. But with a $20 trillion national debt, arts funding could be finished.
Organizations that receive funding are obligated to steer clear of political bias. That has simply not been the case, and the left-leaning NPR was nearly defunded in 2011 when the House of Represented voted it down. At the time, NPR had become a liberal advocacy station that was forced to oust NPR CEO Vivian Schiller to return to a neutral arts station.
This election cycle saw many of Hollywood’s A-list, millionaire actors make harsh remarks about President Trump before and after the election. With Republicans dominating the American political landscape from governorships to Congress to the White House, there’s no love-loss between the arts and Conservatives, so slashing funds won’t keep Republicans up at night.
Obama Cut The Arts?
As much as Obama was a liberal darling, he also regularly proposed cutting federal arts funding. For example, his 2012 budget proposal including slicing $44 out of arts and humanities endowments. During his tenure, Obama reduced arts endowment support from $168 million in 2010 to its current $148 million. When you account for inflation, that’s a big hit. Ironically, the NEA came under fire during the Obama years for actively pressuring artists to create works that supported the president’s social agenda. It seems no matter which party occupies the White House, the approach to arts funding mirrors that of high schools that cut arts education before sports.
Should Tax Dollars Be Used?
It may come as a surprise, but NPR receives only about 14 percent of its funding from the tax dollars. The popular national network would certainly survive without government funding by tightening its belt and selling advertising. But there are also many redundancies across radio markets and even Sirius has programs that mimic NPR’s. It seems a major market exists for such programming and tax money may be unnecessary.
PBS, on the other hand, receives almost its entire $445 million budget from taxpayers. While PBS runs an efficient ship and about 95 percent of its funding goes directly into programming, the expansion of cable television calls into question the need to pay for educational kids shows. The popularity of Blues Clues, Wonder Pets, Kipper, Backyardigans among many others demonstrates that educational TV is a commercially viable product. Just think about the children’s toy and clothing stores lining up to advertise. As much as many parents have a soft spot in their heart for PBS shows, Big Bird would be fought over by Disney, Discovery, Nick Jr, and The Learning Channel. PBS has become redundant.
There have been numerous reductions to arts funding and attempts to phase it out entirely dating back to the 1980s. It’s clear that reductions will continue until the arts are absorbed by free market forces. Simply put, it’s only a matter of time until arts funding is done.