As the Trump administration releases its first federal budget plan, it’s clear that weapons companies and wall builders make out spectacularly. While they plan to increase defense spending, pave a way for the border wall and increase school vouchers, everything else of importance to the American people gets cut or eliminated—like job training programs for seniors and disadvantaged youth, Meals on Wheels and medical research, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which provides revenue for PBS and National Public Radio) just to name a few.
Other programs proposed for elimination are the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Because who needs any kind of culture anyway, right?
It was the first time a president has called for ending the endowments. They were created in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation declaring that any “advanced civilization” must fully value the arts, the humanities, and cultural activity.
While the combined annual budgets of both endowments — about $300 million — are a tiny fraction of the $1.1 trillion of total annual discretionary spending, grants from these agencies have been deeply valued financial lifelines and highly coveted honors for artists, musicians, writers and scholars for decades.
Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. We already know that Donald Trump has never been much of a reader—which doesn’t seem to bother his supporters at all while the rest of us know it’s a critically important quality in a president. And if their feud with the cast of Hamilton is any indication, both he and the MAGA gang (remember their ridiculous Hamilton boycott?) are likely not big theater goers. Still, why should the rest of us suffer through four years of no arts? Particularly when, right now, the arts are helping us develop our resistance and resilience as we watch the country descend into chaos before our very eyes.
“I’m sort of dumbstruck,” said Brian Ferriso [the Association of Art Museum Directors president]. “I’m hopeful that Congress will take the time to say, ‘Hey, wait a second. We need these cultural elements to our society.’” [...]
PEN America, an advocacy group made up of literary figures, has been circulating a petition in an effort to save the endowments that has already amassed 200,000 signatures, including prominent names such as Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood.
Or, as Teresa Eyring of the Theatre Communications Group put it, the time has come for “action mode.”
“This is the beginning of a long road,” said Ms. Eyring, executive director of the group, which represents more than 500 nonprofit theaters around the country. “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.”
A long road, indeed. Republicans in Congress have been trying to eliminate these endowments for quite some time but have never come so close. But with their Idiot-in-Chief signing off on this kind of lunacy, who knows what will happen. Welcome to an America where reading, writing, critical thinking and art give way to stupidity and alternative facts.