The Office of Management and Budget, which prepares the president’s budget proposal for consideration in Congress, is scheduled March 13 to release a list of programs Trump plans to eliminate as he works toward balancing the federal budget. That budget would prioritize military spending and use cuts in other areas to increase the defense fund.
The United States’ $610 billion military fund eclipses the military budgets of the next eight countries behind us. President Trump apparently wants to increase that spending by 9 percent, and his plan relies, in part, on the elimination of the National Endowments for the Arts to free up the extra money.
As a financial measure, this decision makes no sense. The NEA had a budget of only $148 million in 2016, which meant it only used 0.004 percent of the federal budget as a whole. NEA grants are actually more lucrative than draining because they often use indemnity agreements to help organizations cover the costs of insurance for art exhibitions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, will require assistance from the NEA to display several works by Michelangelo for which the insurance amounts to $2.4 billion.
Separate from indemnity assistance, the actual NEA grants typically offer approximately $26,000 for the realization of ambitious, public-serving art projects, and the recipients are required to match the grants they receive dollar for dollar.
Art communities across the nation are responding defiantly, as they should. The nonprofit Americans for the Arts has set about creating 5,000 local councils staffed by 300,000 citizen activists “to flood members of Congress with calls, sign a petition to the White House and generally get the message out” about saving art from the criminal underestimation of the current commander in chief.
I knew a Trump presidency would require renewed defense of many social programs that had been previously established, and the contents of his budget proposal are only the latest additions to a long list of offenses.
Luckily, although there is much that this shortsighted man can take away, the ability to create is beyond his reach.
That said, our government should have a responsibility to protect and promote art. As the Association of Art Museum Directors wrote in a statement released Jan. 19, “it is the mark of a great democracy to support the arts, which are an expression of what makes us human.”
Trump, if he is truly committed to making America great, will leave the National Endowment for the Arts intact.