The Trump administration’s 2018 budget “blueprint” proposes significant cuts in or the elimination of funding for federal agencies that support the arts and culture, the humanities, human services, and community, regional, and international development.
As had been feared by many in the nonprofit sector, America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again (62 pages, PDF) calls for the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The proposed cuts, in turn, have sparked frantic lobbying efforts to save the NEA and NEH, with a focus on the House, which will draft a final budget proposal in the coming months. While the two endowments’ combined annual budget of $300 million is a tiny fraction of the federal government’s $1.1 trillion in total annual discretionary spending, grants from the two endowments are a critical source of support for artists and cultural organizations nationwide. Trump is the first president to propose eliminating the NEA and NEH since they were created in 1965.
“With only a $148 million annual appropriation, the NEA’s investment in every congressional district in the country contributes to a $730 billion arts and culture industry in America, representing 4.2 percent of the annual GDP,” said Americans for the Arts president and CEO Robert L. Lynch in a statement. “This arts and culture industry supports 4.8 million jobs and yields a $26 billion trade surplus for our country. President Trump does not yet realize the vast contribution the NEA makes to our nation’s economy and communities, as well as to his own agenda to create jobs ‘made and hired’ in America.”
Other agencies facing loss of all funding under the administration’s proposal include the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Inter-American Foundation, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (Neighborworks America), the U.S. African Development Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
In addition, proposed cuts to various department and agency budgets range from as little as 4 percent at the Departments of Justice and the Treasury, to as high as 29 percent at State and 31 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency. The only departments looking at proposed budget increases under the White House plan are Veterans Affairs (6 percent), Homeland Security (7 percent), and Defense (9 percent).
Responding to the plan in a statement, the Association of Art Museum Directors said: “Museums offer art programs to help teachers and homeschoolers prepare lessons, to train medical students to be better doctors, to ease the suffering of veterans with PTSD, and to share with people across the country the best of creative achievement. The NEA and NEH are essential partners in this work, providing grants to many types of nonprofit organizations and helping to bring the arts to every part of America, from rural areas to military bases to urban centers.”
“This is the beginning of a long road,” Teresa Eyring, executive director of the Theatre Communications Group, which represents more than five hundred nonprofit theaters around the country, told the New York Times. “Now, advocates and people in the arts community will communicate with their legislators and really try to make clear the value of this relatively modest but very important investment in our country through the arts.”