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House Republicans unveil plan to end federal arts and humanities agencies and aid to public broadcasting

January 20, 2011 |  8:20 pm

USCapitol Federal support for arts and culture is now officially in the cross hairs of congressional Republicans, if that's a metaphor we're still allowed to use.

Any way you want to describe it, the Republican Study Committee, made up of about 165 GOP members of the House of Representatives, on Thursday announced a budget-cutting plan aimed at slashing federal spending, and it calls for the elimination of the nation's two leading makers of government arts grants: the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Also on the chopping block is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The arts and humanities endowments each get $167.5 million a year; the broadcasting agency, which supports public radio and television, gets $445 million.

The NEA last had to fight for its survival in 1995, when Republicans gained control of the House and Senate and sought to get rid of the endowment. It had outraged some conservatives with grants that in certain highly publicized cases had supported performances or exhibitions they deemed offensive. While the NEA survived, It took a 39% budget cut and saw the elimination of nearly all grants to individual artists. Despite increases over the past 10 years, the NEA's inflation-adjusted buying power remains $58 million a year less than it was before those mid-'90s "culture wars."

This time, the ax would fall on the agencies as part of a bid to reduce the federal deficit. The bill, called the Spending Reduction Act of 2011, aims to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over 10 years. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Republican Senate Steering Committee, also backs the plan.

Federal arts and culture spending is currently about $1.6 billion a year, not counting construction budgets. The legislation does not call for cuts to the annual budgets for the Smithsonian Institution ($761.4 million), the Institute of Museum and Library Services ($282.3 million), the National Gallery of Art ($167 million) or the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (about $20 million).

All those organizations except the IMLS offer performances and exhibitions -- free, in the case of the Smithsonian's museums and the National Gallery -- that might be seen as a perk of living in Washington, D.C.; grants from the NEA and NEH are national in scope.

Culture Monster is momentarily incapable of doing the math to figure out what percentage $7.8 billion (10 years' savings from NEA, NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting) is of $2.5 trillion, but our sense is that it's fairly small.

The NEA provides $1 million a year for California's state arts agency, the California Arts Council, about 20% of its $5.3 million budget.

In an interview Wednesday, before the GOP plan had come out, Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, a leading advocacy group for government funding of the arts, had said arts supporters "are cognizant of the attitudes out there among some leaders, and we have to do a good job of education."

A key argument, Lynch said, is that the government's existing arts-funding model follows conservative budgetary principles: A small federal investment that's important to the health of the nonprofit arts sector helps sustain its 5.7 million jobs and the $30 billion in annual returns to federal, state and local coffers that those workers pay in taxes.

-- Mike Boehm


Comments () | Archives (35)

Its not about cost, deficits or funding principles. The cuts are about ideological pandering to morons. Gingrich started all this crap! And it never dies like it should. Its a Republican zombie! It also leads no where but to a backwards, ignorant, wage slave society of fools.

Oh, wait--we are already a country of fools adrift upon a post modern sea of insanity, war and poverty, I forgot! America is already dead.

The cuts amount to 0.31% of the deficit over 10 years. Even if the deficit number shrinks to $1 trillion, the difference in order of magnitude is so large that the percentage cut would remain so miniscule as to be unnoticed in the federal budget.

The percentage you're looking for is 3/10ths of 1%

Big surprise, no big cuts to the largest spendthrift; the U.S. Military. We can't have a national public radio system, but we sure do love to build (and subsequently crash) planes!

It would be helpful to provide some context about federal spending to help readers understand why this proposed legislation is entirely about political posturing. Put these numbers alongside military spending or no-bid contracts during the Bush administration.

Do you guys really not have a photo with less noise than that to illustrate this post? That's pretty terrible quality.

this article in the Los Angeles times starts out as follows: "Federal support for arts and culture is now officially in the cross hairs of congressional Republicans, if that's a metaphor we're still allowed to use." The media is very good at accusing politicians, especially the more conservative ones, of using terminology that leads to violence. Knowing this, why does the Los Angleles times use the term "cross hairs"? Many people believe that the media enjoys creating controversy. Perhaps we should blame the Los Angeles Times for the next act of vilence that occurs in the country!

NEA and CPB are very important facets of American life, and just because art makes you angry is no reason to remove it from your life. If it's making you angry, it should, in theory, also be making you THINK. Thinking's not a bad thing, really.
Who do we write to? Who's the person we should be yelling at until they actually listen, that American citizens care about the arts? I'm tired of feeling that whenever the word "budget" enters the government's mind, the first thing up to the chopping block is art.

Thinking is not art, especially when of such mediocre and self absorbed "concepts". Look at art throughout the millenia, and what is the common thread? One, it defines who that group is, with Modernism, that is all of humanity. Two, it explores nature, attempts to find our place in our world. Three, it searches for God, that sense of purpose, of meaning, of being at one.

What also is common about these things? It is NOT about the individuals wants and desire, his cleverness and self absorbed rage. That is for children, adolescents, not adults. Where sacrifice, commitment, responsibility to the whole is understood.

It cannot cater to either wingnuts, it must be of us, be steady in the face of all pressure, from left and right.
In other words, it is NOT about YOU. It is, and always has been, about US.

art collegia delenda est

The case for the arts is never closed. Human kind, going all the way back to Cavemen, could appreciate art on their walls. So where does that put House Republicans in the grand evolutionary timeline?

Interesting that in an era when Republicans are trumpeting (pun intended) job creation as one of their chief goals that they would cut programs that, in fact, help to create and sustain jobs.

Unfortunately, living in a liberal democracy does not guarantee minimum standards of living nor access and support for cultural activities that, apart from being enriching, have proved to be drivers of economic growth in community after community. Living in a democracy means that majority rules. Rather than bemoan the actions of those who would politicize the funding of culture, why not either vote for politicians who recognize the merits of preserving and enhancing our cultural heritage or give directly to any one of a myriad of non-profit organizations that support creativity at its source - the living artist.

Once again, the American public must champion the arts in the United States, convincing our representatives that a creative cultural environment is essential to a thriving economy and our well-being. We must jump through all too familiar hoops recounting the numerous economic, educational and civic benefits of investing in the arts. For those of us that value the experience of live music, theater, contemporary art, great literary works, and seeing our own cultural identity reflected through the eyes of artists, we must search through our databases of research outcomes and quotes to justify the relatively modest expenditures for the NEA, NEH and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

However, this isn’t about the arts. It is a continuation of the cultural wars of the 1990’s. I am not surprised that extreme right-wing conservative Senator Jim DeMint, chairman of the Republican Senate Steering Committee, also backs the plan. This is the same senator who stated in today’s PBS NewsHour, that he was skipping this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, because the annual gathering of conservative activists has become too friendly with pro-gay and libertarian groups. Clearly, Senator DeMint is not an arts advocate.

This is the time to mobilize as we await guidance from Robert Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, and the leadership situated within the state and local arts agencies.

It was about time! Art Non Profits have historically mismanaged public funds.

The last time Republicans tried to kill Big Bird there was such a huge public outcry they had to back down. CPB is already beating the bushes mustering their troops. And this IS just political posturing; pandering to their far right fringe nut, looney base. The House Rep. know damn well this would never get through the Senate.

Taking money from the arts, libraries, schools and social programs to fund corporate bailouts and wars, be they on drugs, terror, immigration, or on a country's own citizens does nothing but create ignorance and poverty while providing a very select population with a false sense of short term security. The good and welfare of very few will be borrowed to the detriment of the muted masses.

About time!!! When an person, family, or business faces a financial crisis, the first logical things to eliminate from the budget are the luxury items. That is how the rest of the country functions - why not the government? They are, after all, spending OUR money and have an obligation to spend it wisely and in accordance with the will of the people.

Stop whiining and pay your taxes. The only way out of this financial mess of children run amuck with daddies credit card is to cut spending and raise revenue. You know, the IRS. I am mad at Obama for renewing the idiotic and selfish Bush tax cuts. Cutting taxes during time of war is ithe ultimate in avarice. All the cuts should have been axed. the middle class that still have jobs are fine, they got as much as the fat cats.

Time to grow up America. pay your damn bills. It called responsibility. Try it.

art collegia delenda est

Europe is facing the same dilemma, but wise enough to see that they'd be shooting themselves in the foot. Destroy arts funding and you in turn demolish the cash flow from cultural tourism, which is substantial.

How can you expect anything resembling enlightened thought from a group of political miscreants who'd take us ALL the way back to the Salem witch trials if they had their way?

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