President Obama’s proposed budget for 2013 totals $3.8 trillion.
Of that, approximately $1.576 billion would go to the arts.
That means the arts would make up 0.04% of the budget. That might seem like small potatoes, but it’s actually a 5% raise for organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Portrait Gallery.
That’s good, right?
Not so fast, according to the LA Times’ Mike Boehm, who says the president’s show of support for the National Endowment for the Arts is still is a far cry from ‘the good old days.’
Obama, for his part, cast the arts as a unifying force on Monday in a brief afternoon speech at the White House, before conferring this year’s National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal to recipients including actor Al Pacino, visual artists Will Barnet and Martin Puryear, and poet John Ashbery (pianist Andre Watts missed the ceremony).
“Equal to the impact you have on each of us every day as individuals is the impact you have on us as a society. And we are told we’re divided as a people, and then suddenly the arts have this power to bring us together and speak to our common condition,” the president said.
He was clearly overlooking the “culture wars” of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which spelled doom for NEA grants to individual artists and resulted in funding cuts from which the agency, whose annual budget stood at $176 million in 1992, still hasn’t recovered. To return to that level in inflation-adjusted spending power, the NEA would need a budget hike to $282.2 million, or nearly double what Obama is proposing.