Goodbye Arts? Thanks Trump!

President Trump has unveiled his proposed budget plan, named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” and it calls for a sharp increase in military spending with sharp cuts across the rest of the government.

Those cuts include eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Sorry Big Bird, looks like you’re flipping burgers.

While Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying “then, what are we fighting for?” when asked about cutting funding for the arts during World War II (he didn’t say it), he actually did say the below in 1938:

The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them…. Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.

The National Endowment for the Arts was started in 1965 by President Johnson, it’s dedicated to “supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and provided leadership in arts education. The organization has made over 128,000 grants totaling over $5 billion. Its funding makes up just 0.004% of the federal budget. 40% of its funding goes to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations. With a budget of about $150 million that’s about two months of comic sales at local comic shops. The NEA generates more than $600 million annually in additional matching funds and helps to shape a $730 billion arts and culture industry that represents 4.2% of the nation’s GDP and supports 4.8 million jobs.

National Endowment for the Humanities also began in 1965 and is an independent federal agency. It too has a similar budget as that of the National Endowment for the Arts. It provides grants for humanities projects to cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The “Treasures of Tutankhamen” and Ken Burn’s The Civil War documentary were both funded by this. Its also sponsored 15 Pulitzer Prize-winning books.

Both organizations have funded research and spotlighted comic books at times bringing an academic perspective to the entertainment we love. Check out this podcast with Mike Mignola or essay by Gene Luen Yang for examples.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was founded in 1967 and is an American Private non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide non-commercial, high-quality content. 70% of its funding goes to 1,400 locally owned stations. Its budget is about $445.5 million (in 2014) which is about 0.012% of the federal budget. It helps supports television like PBS and radio programming. Series like NOVA and Sesame Street are available and accessible because of this. Programming that might not be commercially viable, but provides quality and educational entertainment to Americans and programming where you’re not bombarded by advertisements. If you’ve watched Sesame Street, you’ve benefited from this.

This isn’t the final budget that we will eventually get. Congress needs to still pass it, reach a separate agreement over a temporary funding bill, and raise the debt ceiling. But, what this does is lay out the Trump administration’s priorities, and the arts is not a part of that.

This is a wake-up call that we must defend the arts. March 20-21 is an Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. If you’re unable to participate you need to call your Congressman and tell them to support the arts and not defund these three vital organizations.