As telegraphed, President Donald Trump's new budget takes an axe to so called "soft power" programs and agencies to make room for boosting the budgets of "hard power" departments like Defense and Homeland Security, including billions for The Wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The President, in a letter to Congress, called his budget cuts "sensible and rational" and an attempt to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. OMB director Mick Mulvaney added that it was also aimed at the "crisis" of a $20 trillion national debt.
"The decision to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities is a new low point for the current Administration," said Ovation VP, network strategy, Liz Janneman. "By ignoring the voices of millions of Americans, and focusing on the ill-informed advice of organizations like The Heritage Foundation, President Trump has taken an ax to one of the best investments the federal government makes year in and year out.
"Rather than the short-sighted point of view that the arts are a frivolity or a luxury not worthy of federal funding, this Administration fails to recognize the well-documented fact that arts and culture industries generate $22.3 billion in revenue to local, state and federal governments every year, and create 4.13 million full-time jobs, generating $86.68 billion in household income," Janneman continued. "The arts are also one of America’s biggest exports. So, if the contention is that eliminating the NEA and NEH budgets are somehow going to save the federal government money, then someone needs to check the batteries in their calculator. According to 21st century economists, the arts are a valuable commodity for U.S. consumers, as well as a strong contributor to America’s economic vitality. “
Trump's budget is only a proposal that Congress needs to approve, so there is still hope for those programs.
In that spirit, Ovation, which has long fought to preserve NEA and NEH, has recruited some high-profile, non-profit arts organizations and artists -- including the Fords Theatre Society and the American Ballet Theater -- for a 2017 Stand for Arts campaign to try to save the programs.
NEA is the independent government agency established in 1965 to partner with federal, state, and local agencies and funding sources to support arts learning and equal access to the art, according to NEA, which has awarded more than $5 billion over that time.
In 2015, for example – the year of its most recent annual report — it partnered with Playbill and Disney to create a Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge for high school students, sponsored poetry reading competitions, and funded fellowships in writing and translation. Its total budget was a little less than $150 million, about one-sixteenth of one stealth bomber.
NEA sponsored 30,000 concerts, readings, and performances; more than 5,000 exhibitions (attended by 33 million); and supported performances on broadcasting and cable to at least 360 million more.
NEA has helped create art therapy for injured servicemen and even partnered with the White House for its 2014 holiday tour.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) decried the massive budget cuts in various programs, including for the arts, saying creative industries "support a vibrant and secure economy."