In times of civil and political unrest, the arts are one industry that tends to thrive. The counterculture movement of the ’60s gave us Woodstock. Nearly all of Banksy’s most iconic Bush-era installations are steeped with a political message. But in Trump’s America, financial allowance for creative endeavors is simply not in the government’s budget. The proposed 2018 federal budget plan Trump announced this morning could leave artists, writers, musicians, and scholars without the funding they need to contribute to our culture.
In Trump’s newly released budget plan, he proposes not just cuts but the elimination of three organizations crucial to American arts: the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporations for Public Broadcasting. In case you’re not super familiar with exactly what each of these agencies do, here’s a quick cheat sheet:
THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS
Maybe you’ve noticed
#SavetheNEA trending on Twitter. The NEA is the largest grantmaker to arts organizations in the country and the only funder — public or private — that provides equal access to the arts in all 50 states. Because it is a federal agency, promoting American art and culture is the agency’s core mission. Currently, it offers multiple grants, two of which specifically work to incorporate art into the “livability of communities” and “underserved populations.” 40 percent of this agency’s funding goes to the state arts agencies and regional arts organizations.
In 2016, the NEA helped fund everything from a music mentorship program for Baltimore students to a film festival in Phoenix to a project furthering ways deaf and blind people can participate in theater. For a full list of projects that would not have been possible without the help of the NEA, check out this powerful website artist Tega Brain has created.
THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES
The NEH has a similar mission to the NEA with more of an emphasis on philosophy, humanity, and conveying and preserving lessons in American history. NEH awards grants that typically go to cultural institutions, like museums, archives, libraries, colleges, and universities.
Last year, the agency gave out $21.1 million in grants for 248 humanities projects. Over the course of its lifetime, 16 books commissioned by this federal agency went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. It also funded The United States Newspaper Project, which cataloged and microfilmed 63.3 million pages of historic American newspapers. For a full list of projects funded by the NEH, head here.
CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB for short) is an important source of revenue for PBS and NPR. More than 1,041 local public radio stations and at least 365 local public television stations currently receive support from CPB. Its main goal is to help shield stations from political influence and to deliver federal support in a way that still allows stations to operate independently.
Podcasts like This American Life, The Moth, StoryCorps, Fresh Air, and Serial are all funded through public broadcasting. Meanwhile, PBS just unveiled the first feature documentary about Maya Angelou — part of a yearlong campaign the PBS is hosting titled #InspiringWomanPBS.
WHAT ELSE IS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?
Also on the chopping block according to Trump’s budget: 3,200 staff positions from the Environmental Protection Agency, advancement on climate change initiatives at the UN, $4.2 billion in community services programs, funding for before, after-school, and summer programs, the access to the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (reserved for college students with the greatest need for financial aid), and programs supporting the research of clean energy technology.
SO THEN WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?
To start, a $2.6 billion increase is proposed for Homeland Security. Some of this would go toward hiring and training 500 Border Patrol agents and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel. Some of this would also go toward the cost of creating a wall on the Mexican border. Yes, that’s the same wall President Trump promised Mexico would pay for, not the American people.
The biggest increase in spending (a $52 billion increase to be exact) will go toward military and defense initiatives. Exactly how this generous amount would be disbursed is not entirely clear. The New York Times reports that some of it would go toward fighting ISIS, more warships, and fighter jets.
IS THIS A DONE DEAL?
No. Technically, Congress creates the federal budget. The White House’s budget plans are really more of a formal document laying out where the administration’s priorities lie. The Senate and the House draft their versions of the plan. Those are then sent to appropriations committees. Then a conference committee meets to resolve the difference between the two proposed budgets and draft a final plan. Only then does it go back to the president, where he signs it into law.
Not surprisingly, Trump’s plan is not getting much support from Democratic members of Congress. In a statement about the budget, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi writes, “President Trump is not making anyone more secure with a budget that hollows out our economy and endangers working families. Throwing billions at defense while ransacking America’s investments in jobs, education, clean energy and life-saving medical research will leave our nation weakened.”
California Congresswoman Kamila Harris tweeted, “President Trump’s proposed #budget attacks seniors, workers, science, and the poor. It’s disgusting and will have harmful repercussions.”
Democrats in Congress have been reliably quick to protest Trump’s policies. This sort of reaction is to be expected. But remember, Republicans are currently the majority in Congress. And so far they haven’t voted against any of the Trump controversial actions and nominations that require confirmation from Congress. It’s the Republican members of Congress who will need to stand against Trump’s budget plans to avoid devastating our nation’s arts, science, environmental protection, and foreign aid.
What are your thoughts on the budget? Share with us on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)