Trump Reminds America That the Arts Have No Place in His Agenda

Trump's budget proposal would come at a cost to his core voter contingent.
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President Donald Trump's 2018 budget calls for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and winding down funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, with the ultimate goal of "eliminat[ing] Federal funding" for the CPB in future years.

In a budget proposal released on the White House's website on Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget suggests reducing the NEA's funding by 80 percent from its 2017 levels and the NEH's funding by 72 percent next year in an effort to "begin shutting down" both agencies. The proposal calls for a 94 percent slash to the CPB's budget (the CPB is responsible for funding such services as the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, which also rely on private donations).

Pundits have suggested Trump's official 2018 budget proposal is unlikely to gain approval from Congress, which is seeking to pen its own tax and spending plans. The Trump administration originally recommended eliminating the NEA and NEH and cutting CPB funding in its preliminary 2018 budget plan, which was not corroborated by Congress in its bipartisan budget to fund the government through the rest of 2017. In the 2017 budget, passed in May, the NEA and NEH actually saw small funding increases; CPB's budget remained the same.

All three agencies, moreover, have outspoken allies from both parties in Congress. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) have all voiced support for the continued federal funding of the NEA and NEH. In March, Dave Reichert (R-Washington) co-signed a bipartisan letter to the the House panel supervising the CPB, calling for continued federal funding to the agency. All of this is to suggest Trump's elimination proposal may not get very far.

Still, if nothing else, today's release symbolizes the direction the White House aims to go with its policies over the next four years—suggesting that the arts, humanities, and media are at the top of its cost-cutting agenda.

In the event that Trump's budget does pass, the effects would most directly be felt not in culture-rich cities, but in rural areas, where a core contingent of Trump's 2016 voters reside, and where less private funding tends to sustain arts, humanities, and media initiatives. While just 25 percent of the NEA's block-grant funds go to rural areas, the NEA grants higher per-state funds to rural states including Vermont, Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana; 54 percent of its block grants go to low-income areas. CPB has often been credited with bringing free, high-quality media to rural areas, and the NEH with funding programs for veterans.

Trump's latest budget proposes a 2018 federal budget to $4.1 trillion, with the ultimate goal of eliminating $3.6 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years. The combined budgets of the NEA, NEH, and CPB, however, are $445 million per year—meaning that, with his latest proposal, Trump is only trimming 0.01 percent from next year's budget.

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