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Republicans and Democrats Fight Hard For Arts Funding

by Countable | 4.13.17

Congressional leaders have begun actively pushing back against President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint for 2018, which proposes to entirely eliminate the $148 million budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

It began with a bipartisan letter in mid-February from 24 senators that was sent directly to the president, and highlighted the economic and cultural impacts of the NEA. It also pointed out that congressional support of the arts is enshrined in our Constitution:

"The ideals of these agencies are enshrined in our Constitution as a fundamental tenet of American civil society. Article I, Section 8 explicitly empowers the United States Congress to promote the “Progress of Science and useful Arts." The importance of federal support for these activities inherently aligns with the founding principles of this country.”

Then, on March 22 former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee published a blistering op-ed in the Washington Post championing the work of the NEA. His attacks on "hateful high-dollar Hollywood and music-industry stars" and their “insufferable political whining” are similar to his rhetoric on the campaign trail, but you might be surprised by his referencing Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In the Wall as an image of what education without the arts would look like:

"Music and art deliver, especially for students likely to get lost in an education assembly line that can be more Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall" than about creative thinking and problem solving.”

He also made a strong case for the broad economic impacts of the arts, especially in comparison to other industries, saying that the arts are a strong nationwide economic driver:

"But if the decision is to be made on purely economic grounds, consider the case laid out by advocates Earle I. Mack, Randall Bourscheidt and Robert L. Lynch in a recent op-ed in the Hill: The arts are a $730 billion industry, representing 4.2 percent of our gross domestic product — more than transportation, tourism and agriculture. The nonprofit side of the arts alone generates $135 billion in economic activity, supporting 4.1 million jobs. President Trump rightfully wants to end the U.S. trade imbalance, but the American arts generated a $30 billion trade surplus in 2014, on the strength of $60 billion in exports of various arts goods."

On March 30 150 members of Congress, including 11 Republicans, sent a letter to the chairman of the House subcommittee that provides annual appropriations for the NEA, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), and the ranking member, Rep Betty McCollum (D-MN), asking for the committee to not just continue NEA funding at the current federal level but increase it, from $148 million to $155 million.

The letter quotes much of the same data around the arts as an economic driver that both the February letter and the March op-ed do. It also notes that "students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPA’s and standardized test scores and lower drop-out rates." But it takes a new strategic tack, noting the positive impact that NEA funding for art therapy has already had on the lives of the military community:

"In addition to grants made to every Congressional district, national research and critical partnerships with the states, the Arts Endowment is at the forefront of a national effort to support arts and health in the military. The launch of the Creative Forces Healing Arts Network in October- an expanded partnership between the NEA and Department of Defense- now further increases access to therapeutic arts activities in local communities for members of the military, veterans and their families. Creative Forces continues the successful work of the NEA’s Military Healing Arts Partnership to bring healing arts to more service members, veterans and families in both clinical and community settings. As the NEA may continue to build existing programs into this network with federal investment, every state will benefit from this program."

President Trump’s budget proposes cuts to many programs, including the NEA, in order to provide for a $54 billion increase to military spending. The budget blueprint states:

The core of my first Budget Blueprint is the rebuilding of our Nation’s military without adding to our Federal deficit. There is a $54 billion increase in defense spending in 2018 that is offset by targeted reductions elsewhere. This defense funding is vital to rebuilding and preparing our Armed Forces for the future...The defense and public safety spending increases in this Budget Blueprint are offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the Federal Government. Our Budget Blueprint insists on $54 billion in reductions to non-Defense programs. We are going to do more with less, and make the Government lean and accountable to the people.

Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, has committed to continuing her work to support art therapy as part of her efforts as Second Lady. This highlighting of the work of the NEA through Creative Forces may, therefore, be a strategy that actually appeals to the administration on multiple levels and preserves the NEA. Already, over a third of Congress hopes so.

Should Congress fight to preserve funding for the NEA? Use the "Take Action" button to share your opinion!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Cpl. Andrew Johnston via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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(195)
  • M
    04/13/2017
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    After 30 years of teaching I can tell you that funding for the arts is not a luxury for the American people especially our youth. Don't cut funding for the arts to waste money on a wall that will be an embarrassment for America for years to come!!

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  • verymary
    04/13/2017
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    Removing the arts and humanities from a country also removes its soul. When Chairman Mao ascended to power in China, his regime tossed out the music, the ballet, the art, and the wisdom of a people who had revered all of those entities for several thousand years. Congress must not pay for President Trump's wish list by destroying America's ideals.

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  • JaredThePoet
    04/13/2017
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    Here's an idea, scrap the wall that won't work and cost us even more money...and use just a fraction of that money to keep funding the NEA.

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  • Joan
    04/13/2017
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    Well it's lovely to hear good news for a change. I hope they continue to do so and that they increase funding while they are at it. Art is so important I. Society in General but most important for education in schools. All arts music visual performing etc. it mentally emotionally and intellectually enriching.

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  • LiberTea
    04/15/2017
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    I come from a family of artists, engineers, musicians, priests and pilots, mainly from Ireland and Hungary. When the Nazis and then the Communists took over Hungary, it was the artists, poets, and musicians they killed first. They had the power to inspire and mobilize the entire country. Then they hunted down the spiritual leaders that offered hope. Finally, they killed the educated who could think and lead rather than be sheep. Wake up, America! The arts are the crown of our humanity and freedom.

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  • Jeanne
    04/13/2017
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    We need art and beauty in our lives, not dropping outrageous bombs. Please spend my money for the benefit of the American people. War is NOT for our benefit!

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  • Pamela
    04/14/2017
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    Art is not just something that is appreciated by the rich. It is Shakespeare in the Park in Montana. It is creativity encouraged in our children. It is Cowboy poetry reading. Defunding the arts takes away our humanity. It hurts our children. It increases our poverty. Fight for funding for the arts. Fight for us. I vote and I influence others. Pam Boyd

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  • Delain
    04/13/2017
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    Please continue to fight hard for Arts funding! Our children need it!

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  • Gary
    04/13/2017
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    WE NEED ART Help the petition reach its goal: URL: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/keep-nea-alive... WE NEED NEW MONEY Help the petition reach its goal: URL: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/new-money...

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  • Jodi
    04/13/2017
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    Please support the arts and fight the forces who are attempting to defund them. The arts investments are small compared to military expenses and even smaller compared to what we have to pay to support Melanie and Donald Trump's security detail in NYC and Mar al Lago.

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  • Migdalia
    04/13/2017
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    Please continue Federal Funding the Arts.

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  • Pamela
    04/15/2017
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    Reading most of the comments on her makes me cringe! DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT ART WILL STOP IF THE FEDS QUIT FUNDING IT???? REALLY???? Most ART PROGRAMS ARE ALREADY FUNDED BY LOCAL ARTS GROUPS - NOT THE FEDS ANYWAY!!! Federal funding ONLY GOES TO EXTREMELY LIBERAL ARTS AND ARTISTS - RECALL THE PAINTING OF MARY OR THE CRUCIFIX WITH DOG CRAP ALL OVER IT??? THIS IS ART??? I'm an artist struggling to make a living - BUT I WILL NOT AGREE TO THE FEDERAL FUNDING OF ARTS. ARTISTS ARE SMARTER THAN THIS! WE ARE AGAINST FEDERAL FUNDING OF THE ARTS

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  • Rick
    04/17/2017
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    Preservation of the national endowment for the arts keeps the flame of our country's soul to remain alive! The enrichment we all receive from the arts is unmeasurable and behind the very spirit and existence of America!

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  • Pamela
    04/15/2017
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    As an artist I see that FEDERAL FUNDING for the Arts Has produced a slush fund for extremely questionable "art". Funding for Arts programs in every state - SHOULD BE PROVIDED BY THAT STATE and local arts enthusiasts! This is part of Trump giving powers BACK to the states that are rightfully ours / not the FEDS! The Federal government has overreached its powers in many ways - LETS GIVE THE RIGHTS BACK TO THE STATES TO GOVERN!

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  • Nicole
    04/14/2017
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    The arts are an essential component of life. Early people made cave paintings. Music and dance are ancient arts. Don't deprive us, and especially not the children!

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  • Carla
    04/17/2017
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    Please fight for the national endowment of the arts. Funding the arts is a cornerstone to civilised culture. Teaching the arts encourages critical thinking and imagination necessary to every other problem solving skill. Fight for the arts keep them alive and vibrant in our country.

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  • TuckerWantsLiberty
    04/13/2017
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    It is not the federal government's place to force the funding of art via taxation. It's a crime, really. Government has absolutely no justifiable role in the arts. The value of art is irrelevant to this issue - the role of government is to protect against infringements that threaten life, liberty, or property. Bankrolling artists that wouldn't be able to convince free people in a free market to fund their projects voluntarily is literally the exact opposite of the government's role.

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  • Beth
    04/13/2017
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    I applaud the bipartisan coalition defending funding for the NEA. The argument that only "the elites" (whoever they are supposed to be) care about the NEA, the NEH, and Public Broadcasting is both absurd and insulting to all Americans. We NEED these institutions. I urge ALL members of Congress to oppose 45's ill-conceived, destructive budget proposal and fight for what educates, entertains, enriches, and ultimately makes us stronger, better, kinder citizens. Senators Cassidy and Kennedy and Representative Scalise, are you listening?

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  • Camelotagain
    04/13/2017
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    I work at a low-income Arts high school. Art saves lives, teaches our future generations empathy, creativity, problem solving and gives them a sense of pride, both in themselves and their communities. Eliminating funding for the NEA eliminates intelligence and compassion in future generations.

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  • Carolyn
    04/14/2017
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    The NEA makes up such a small portion of the overall budget that it's ridiculous to cut it. It's like throwing a pebble into a damn and expecting that to somehow stop the flow. The cutting of this program and others like it is just a partisan backlash against anything cultural or taken as elitist. Please do not allow him to cut funding that is important for our overall well-being. It's fine to live but without the arts we don't have life.

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