Government may get out of the arts business

The Hill reports that the Trump administration is planning to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities.

It’s part of a package to reduce the national debt by $10 trillion over the next 10 years.

“The Trump Administration needs to reform and cut spending dramatically, and targeting waste like the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be a good first step in showing that the Trump Administration is serious about radically reforming the federal budget,” Brian Darling, a former aide to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and a former staffer at the Heritage Foundation, tells The Hill.

The NEA was founded by Congress in 1965, awarding $5 billion in arts grants since then, according to its latest annual report, which documented how it spent its $146 million in funding. Every congressional district got a piece of the pie.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, meanwhile, just announced $16.3 million in grants for the coming year, including a plan to make 5,600 Studs Terkel radio interviews available online, including those with Maya Angelou, Carl Sagan, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Muhammad Ali.

For the record, MPR received a $100,000 matching grant for a project to diversify public media talent.

Also under the new president’s plan is the privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, according to The Hill, also a proposal from The Heritage Foundation, which claims a savings of $445 million per year.

In 2012, total spending on public broadcasting, derived from all federal and non-federal sources, amounted to $2.8 billion. In that year, 82 percent of this spending came from non-federal sources. The CPB made up only $444 million, or 16 percent, of this amount. Without federal funding for the CPB, services such as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR), which receive funding from the CPB, could make up the lost money by increasing revenues from corporate sponsors, foundations, and members.

The goal of CPB is also increasingly met by other media sources. The range of television options has increased dramatically since the CPB was created in 1967. At that time, households faced very limited television options. In 2013, the average household had 189 channels.

  • Al

    Oh, no. Who are we if we don’t have art? We don’t tell our stories, we don’t learn about others… The arts are THE most effective way of sharing the deepest parts of our hearts.

  • wjc

    Axing $600 million per year in arts funding will really put a dent in that $10 trillion.


  • MikeB
  • Mike Worcester

    Folks on the right have been after the NEA/NEH for decades. This is symbolism, pure and simple.

    Of course, the Simpsons had a take on this….

  • MrE85

    If you watch closely, you will note the cuts have little to do with reducing the debt, and everything to do with settling “old scores.” You’ll also note that other cuts won’t really save much money, and will leave this nation a much poorer place because of them.
    It’s all part of making America great, I guess.

    • Pat

      Next on the agenda… looting the Smithsonian, and selling off the national monuments for scrap metal.

  • chris

    They will say these cuts are important to reduce the debt and deficit, however suddenly that won’t matter when they want to cut taxes for the rich.

    • Lizz B!

      Rich people still need art. I hate everything about this.

      • RBHolb

        They may need it, but they don’t find it. There seems to be an inverse relationship between a person’t income and their aesthetic sensibilities.

        Outrageously wealthy Americans used to travel Europe, sucking up old master paintings like vacuum cleaners. Now, they start “foundations” to buy outsized portraits of themselves.

  • Gary F

    Just charge more licensing fees for all the stuff sold off of PBS shows and you can fund it.

    I just think of all the Sesame Street, Bob the Builder, Curious George, and Arthur stuff that I bought over the years, and I only have one kid.

    • Those aren’t owned by PBS, though.

      • Gary F

        Have the fee as part of their contract.

    • MrE85

      It’s not those shows that have made PBS at target for conservatives. It’s the PBS Newshour, Frontline and other news programing that refuse to bow to their brand of ideology.

      • I rarely hear NewsHour being attacked by conservatives. I watch it religiously. Great show and product.

        • MrE85

          Sadly, you and I are outliers. I agree, it is a great show.

          • Gary F

            There are plenty of big foundations that will pony up. PBS will survive.

          • Looking forward to seeing if Congress agrees to lift restrictions on public media when it drops funding. Might be interesting to allow pubmedia to make calls for action, for example, which they’re barred from doing now. If they’re going to get out, get ALL the way out. Would also allow for editorials and maybe even make pubmedia more bold and less risk-averse than it is.

          • Gary F

            With a gazillion cable/satellite TV stations, HD radio stations, and internet streaming, there is no need for government subsidized media.

            Yep, cut it loose, un-shackle it, and see if it can compete.

          • MikeB

            A good idea, in theory. Then they (Congress) give up control, which they will never do. Similar to the Post Office.

          • And Major League Baseball.

          • MikeB

            And the District of Columbia

          • Gary F

            The Post Office is in The Constitution, so that will require more work.

          • seedhub

            While we’re at it, let’s cut our National Parks loose, too, and see if they can “compete.”

            There are other kinds of value besides monetary.

          • Jerry

            Oh, you know they would love to.

          • Rob

            Think of all the naming rights opportunities!

          • RBHolb

            Because a great nation needs more reality shows. “Redneck Island” has done more for our collective intelligence than anything the CPB could ever fund.

          • rallysocks

            There are swathes of the country that do not have access to cable because the cable companies are loathe to take on the expense in low population areas. There are households who cannot afford satellite or have the ability to stream.

            Technology and broadband initiatives have made strides, but people would still be S.O.L. w/out public television. For elderly shut-ins living on a strict budget? It’s sometimes the only thing they have.

        • Al

          We watch NewsHour the day after on YouTube (sadly, its original air time coincides with the kids’ witching hour at our house, and we’d never see a minute of it if we tried watching at the original time). Thank goodness for social media.

          • When my kids were young, we called that the Gangrene Hour. Because it just kept getting worse.

          • Al

            OOO, GOOD ONE. Very apt.

        • Rob

          shhh! don’t give them any more targets

      • Ben

        Postcards from Buster, an Arthur spin-off, ruffled some feathers in the past around the issue of same-sex marriage.

      • Rob

        Au contraire, mon frere – it was the TeleTubbies that really got the wingnuts’ undies in a twist. : )

        • Jack Ungerleider

          That’s it! The TeleTubbies came back in 2016. They’re causing all this trouble. 8^)

        • Al

          Best use ever of “au contraire, mon frere.” You win.

  • guest

    When looking to pay off $10 Trillion you must start with deciding between the Good to Have (there are real benefits) and the Must Have (a core function, not done elsewhere).

    • Al

      Funny, because a myriad of research has shown the huge ROI of arts in K-12 education, and I’d categorize education as a “must have,” as arts outside of schools are really limited to the well-off.

      • Anna

        Scientific research has shown that learning a musical instrument boosts math and science ability.

        Playing classical music like Mozart softly in the background eases test anxiety.

        But of course, I am a professional musician so I am a little biased.

  • Bob Sinclair

    Bob, I know that you’ve said something about the word “may” in the past. We don’t know if this will happen or not. Is this just another idea floated out there to see the reaction? (And I don’t necessarily mean by you personally).

  • dukepowell

    For a nation that is approaching $20 trillion of debt, the Arts, the Humanities and Public Broadcasting are way, way, way down the list of priorities.

    No matter how nice a job they do or how much we would like to keep funding them.

    • Rob

      Because they are a drop in the bucket expenditure -wise, cutting them won’t move the debt meter a whit.

      • dukepowell

        Add enough drops (and it is a target rich environment) then you have a bucket full of savings.

        Again, stock up on the pop corn because it looks as if a lot of people’s hair is going to be on fire.

        • X.A. Smith

          What are the other 10,000 similar cuts we need to make?

          • dukepowell

            Been to Washington lately?

          • seedhub

            Yes. The question remains unanswered.

          • Then again, you can always answer the question…

          • dukepowell

            You know what? I think I’ll just let you wait to see what we have in store for you.

          • seedhub

            Congratulations on finally getting the president you deserve.

          • RBHolb

            That is a fairly typical reply when a “budget hawk” is asked for specifics. He will cite a few examples of chump-change expenditures (“Look how much the city paid for drinking fountains!”), and then retreat into generalities: “There are a lot of other things,” “there’s a lot of fat that can go,” or the new one, “I think I’ll just let you wait to see what we have in store for you.” This is the rhetoric of people who have some vague idea that they want to cut spending, but are forced, in the end, to realize they know nothing about how the federal budget works.

          • seedhub

            Witness Ben Carson’s confirmation hearing: he made it clear that the HUD budget could/should be cut, but when asked about specific HUD programs, he thought they should all be either maintained… or expanded.

          • rallysocks

            Well it ain’t brain surgery…oh, wait. What?

          • Rob

            I love your comment

          • rallysocks

            This is especially true in this case as not even DJT knows what the h3ll he is going to cut. He has no idea what or in what order he is going to issue those now awesome and totes lawful Executive Orders. He doesn’t even know what he is going or do or say in the next five minutes! Putting some thought into something as important as the budget? Pffft! All depends on his mood, who has his ear and is in favor or by reading the entrails of a slain wildebeest…or something.

        • Tim

          Unless they’re willing to cut into the big three (healthcare, SS, and military), which so far, they administration has signaled no real willingness to do, all the drops in the budget won’t amount to anything.

          • MikeB

            The federal government is an insurance company that has an army. That’s where the $ is

          • jon

            Not true… a balanced budget could be had by keeping the big 3 in tact, and cutting everything else. Why we could even afford to keep paying interest on the national debt (number 4), veteran benefits (number 5), but not much else.

            Or we could just slash military spending ~70% and have a balanced budget.

            (based on 2015 budget numbers, cause that’s what google found for me)

        • Bozeman42

          Going to get rich by buying the cheaper brand of toothpaste?

        • Rob

          When you get a dumpster fire as Prez, a plenitude of hair fires is an inevitable consequence

  • dukepowell

    Stock up on the pop corn.

  • This topic is always fascinating to me, because it illustrates how a political talking point can be extremely deceiving. It also shows how little people understand how federal funding for the CPB works in the real world.

    The reality is that these proposed cuts would have the largest impact on rural TV stations and those in states that have less private funding to draw on. Conservatives always like this idea because they perceive it as “we’re going to shut down those liberal big city PBS and NPR stations!” When in reality, it’s the stations in places like rural Kansas or upstate Mississippi that will be in real financial trouble.

    • Maybe we can do like the space program and just find a military application for the arts (although there already is one: one of the grants is for therapy for wounded soldiers at Bethesda)

      • jon

        Until the arts can make a bigger better explosion I don’t think it would be a suitable military benefit to justify funding them.

        Besides our soon to be commander and chief doesn’t like soldiers that were wounded… only ones that weren’t wounded.
        And Paul Ryan called veterans benefits “entitlements” (like his salary).

      • Anna

        There are three things that are central to every great civilization (nation)—language, music and art.

        “Make America Great Again”? By whose standard, exactly?

        I guarantee you Donald Trump couldn’t name the great artistic eras or the great music eras if he tried. He probably couldn’t find them with Google either as he avoids computers like the plague (“They aren’t safe.”).

        He is a few bricks short of a load when it comes to anything having to do with culture and aesthetics. Ostentation is the only thing he understands.

        We don’t need art. Tear down the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. We can crush all that stone up and use it to build infrastructure.

        • rallysocks

          Ha…well, they will likely be torn down shortly and replaced with magnificent statues of DJT. Made from Chinese aluminum with a thin skin of gilt. And the tears of children.

      • RBHolb

        To quote Mao Zedong, “An army without culture is a dull-witted army, and a dull-witted army cannot defeat the enemy.”

    • >>When in reality, it’s the stations in places like rural Kansas or upstate Mississippi that will be in real financial trouble.<<

    • rallysocks

      >>When in reality, it’s the stations in places like rural Kansas or upstate Mississippi that will be in real financial trouble.<<

      Even worse: our little stations in outstate MN that have made great strides in their technology and the purely local content they have been able to offer.

  • Rob

    Arts = waste. Only in the minds of plebeian politicians.

    • RBHolb

      I don’t care how rich he is, but “plebeian” is one of the most fitting adjectives to describe Donald Trump. He is a living example of the idea that you can’t buy class.

      • Rob


  • Jeff

    Savings which will no doubt be immediately offset by increased military spending. Because, priorities. *sigh*

  • Jack Ungerleider

    As we get ready to inaugurate our 45th President I offer this quote from our 2nd President:
    “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

    It appears we as a nation are not ready to be the third generation that John Adams talks about.

    • MikeB

      I really like that quote. Thanks for the reminder about it

    • Peter Tobias

      Good quote. Do you have a link to a source?

      • Jack Ungerleider

        The source of the clipped quote is different then this link which I believe is the original source of the quote.

        Also the HBO mini-series “John Adams” has him deliver the lines as a retort to a French courtier asking him about studying art.

        • Peter Tobias

          Thank you, Jack.

    • Rob

      good quote, except that it leaves out women.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        Two things in response to your comment:
        First you are applying 21st century sensibilities to an 18th Century quote.
        Second, I believe President Adams would have taken offense to your comment as the last section refers to “their children”, not their sons, so he was including the daughters in the study of painting, poetry, etc. This would be in keeping with subjects that young women would study at that time. His hope being that both his grandsons and granddaughters would be freed to study the arts.

        • Rob

          My humblest apologies.

  • Zachary

    Want to save the most money? END THE *$%#@$ WARS!

  • Zachary

    Maybe this is just arguing semantics, but isn’t NPR already “privatized”? in so much as it is mostly funded already through private funding? I keep hearing on the pledge drives (which I tune out, as I am a Sustainer) that most of the funding does not come from the CPB “bucket o’ cash”.

    This being said – I do think that the federal government funding for “the arts” should be cut off. I don’t think it falls under the duties and responsibilities of the federal system. It should be done under the 10th amendment style that was enacted here in MN (legacy fund). I am also a fan of the “Patronage” (or Paetron) system of “if you like it, support it”.

    Before all that however, I think there are bigger lumps in the budget that should go first. Kind of like how I balance my own budget – the biggest costs that I can remove go first. I’m not cutting out a $10 /month support to MPR if I have a $2000 /month car payment and I can get by with a $2000 total beater.

    • You have a $2,000 a month car payment???

      • Zachary

        I did, until I became a MPR member… :p

    • Melissa

      As an arts nonprofit employee, this hits close to home and gets a little personal. Private funding sources are important, but only one piece of the pie, and MN is incredibly fortunate to have the legacy amendment. This state invests more in the arts than just about any other state, so without federal funding, others will not be so lucky.

      Regarding your thoughts on the patronage system, do you think children receiving arts programs and things like access to publicly funded television should find a way to pay for it? Maybe ask mommy for an allowance or cut out their spending on candy so they can watch an episode of Daniel Tiger or Sesame Street on public broadcasting? Arts funding is about SO much more than who can afford to attend the opera or symphony, and offers so much for those who cannot afford to support it. Just because the arts may be expendable in most people’s personal budgets doesn’t mean that they should not have access to those opportunities, or that it is an expendable part of the federal budget.

      • Zachary

        Melissa –
        First off – thank you for the work you do with non-profits. Having been involved with volunteering for several before – I know it’s not the easiest job to do.

        Second – I want to be clear as to what I am advocating for and against. I will be using capital letters, not because I am shouting, but for clarity. At this time – I am NOT for removing funding for “the arts” (I will be using that term for simplicity, not in any sort of derogatory manner), I think there are bigger fish in the federal budget that need to go before any sort of restructuring of funding of this sort. I am FOR eventually removing federal funding of “the arts” and moving it to a state-by-state system like the legacy fund here in MN. I think it would be a better, more efficient use of funds. I am FOR direct contributions – pick your local or regional charitable org and give. I feel that is more efficient and more valuable than paying more in federal taxes that go “into a nebulous bucket o’ funding”.

        I am FOR people becoming patrons. In what manner and how, I leave up to the individual. I know that my monthly contributions to MPR and others also helps cover for those who want to support, but cannot. This is why I contribute. Not because I listen to or like Transmissions, or The Chart Show, or A Prairie Home Companion, but because I know others do. Same thing with PBS shows. (I do send $21 bills to some guy in Cambridge MA, but he doesn’t fix my car 😉 ) *

        I am FOR the classification of “the arts” as essential. Essential to society and humanity. Essential FEDERAL BUDGET item? Not so much. Again – this is not the time to be cutting it – there are simply bigger items that should be removed first. For example – we just spent over $9 million yesterday on flying a couple of aircraft around the world to drop some bombs. What could that $9 million be better spent on? **

        This is one of those issues where there can (and will be) lots of odd positions taken (how can you be FOR it and AGAINST it at the same time? Like that). The important view that I take from this – I enjoy or see the value in something, so I support it. It’s up to us – We the People – to do the same. There are many things I would like to see be taken to regional or state level of control/funding. This is one of them, but again – NOT AT THIS TIME.

        I hope this clears up my position on this. I wish you the best.

        * no, not really.
        ** see my previous post in this thread

        • Melissa

          Thanks for clarifying. My big concern with moving from federal to state funding of the arts is that Minnesota is not the norm in state funding for the arts. If you check this out: you’ll see that as of 2016 Minnesota ranks third in the nation for state provided arts funding, second only to FL and NY. The next highest on the list are MD and NJ, who spend less than half as much as MN.

          My point is, ending federal funding for the arts (be it now or later down the road after cutting the bigger fish first), could have much more adverse affects on states that don’t invest as heavily in the arts as Minnesota does. We’re the lucky ones.

          I’m happy to hear that you value and support the arts (thank you, we need you!), but the arts tend to receive the lowest level of funding and donations of all services in the nonprofit industry, so we cannot rely on patrons and private funders alone to help us provide arts programming to those who cannot afford to participate and have little access to meaningful arts experiences.

          The arts are taking a big hit in schools as competition for school dollars, time within the school day, and a narrowing focus on the subjects related to standardized tests put arts education in jeopardy.

          Many private funders are also changing their focus away from the arts. For example MN-based General Mills recently moved away from ALL arts funding to focus on global issues and nutrition, an incredibly noble cause, but they have left a lot of local arts organizations with a gaping hole to fill. And while federal funding is a relatively small piece of the pie, when we keep taking hits from other revenue streams, every piece of the pie is crucially important.

          Simply put, arts (and humanities) organizations rely on a combination of earned, private, state AND federal funders to keep our doors open and ensure the programs offered are running in a meaningful, authentic way. Removing federal funding of the arts does not guarantee state government or private funders will pick up the slack if it goes away. Would many organizations survive closing of the NEA and NEH and moving to a state system? Probably, but not without drastic cutting of many valuable arts programs that serve the community.

          • Zachary

            I was not aware that corporate giving was down. Maybe because my attention is on MPR/NPR (who have their underwriters – hmm, I need new wood flooring – any recommendations…) I just assumed that it was that way for many others. General Mills surprises me (I remember the Big G logo on just about every sponsorship as a kid), but I guess it makes sense on a refocusing side of things. Target does a lot of local community giving too, but I don’t really know if that’s more of the “trees ‘n playgrounds” stuff vs “tubas for schools”. (or some of both)

            You have inspired me to re-think my stance, and take another look. I’ve never really been on that side of the finances (I’m a giver, not a fundraiser) so I didn’t realize it was that bad. I’m still on the side of “less big government” but I’m solidly in the camp of “if we can cut the waste elsewhere, do that first.” I feel the same way about NASA – I love everything they do and hate seeing their budget cut when it makes up so little of the overall.

            Thanks for your insight and dialog. Cheers!

          • Melissa

            I’m really glad we could have a very civil conversation about this! Rarely do one of these conversations lead to someone re-thinking their stance, so you have renewed my faith in being willing to read the comments.

            I can’t say if corporate funding of the arts is down overall, just a trend that we’ve been seeing, and GenMills was a big hit to some places. Even the arts orgs that seem to be doing okay tend to run pretty lean, so sometimes these hits can have a major impact.

            A note on Target, so far they have maintained their generous arts funding (thankfully!), but last year they cut all funding of their $432Mil education program grants (you know the one where you could allocate part of your red card purchase to your school?) to refocus on their efforts on health and wellness. They do amazing work, but we’re certainly keeping a close eye on them and our fingers crossed, too.

            Cheers to you as well, and to bigger fish!

          • You need to stop by NewsCut more often. It’s what we do here.

        • Melissa

          And yes, I think we should reduce military spending too.

  • AmiSchwab

    you have to pay for the tax cuts for the rich somehow. no healthcare, no public schools and the poor definitely do not need arts

  • Mark Peterson

    So Trump is eliminating a set of programs that cost the taxpayers less that half that of the cost of security per year at Trump Tower.