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Trump Threatens to Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, Again

The 2021 budget proposal labels the NEA, as well as National Endowment for the Humanities, under the category of “wasteful and unnecessary funding.”

President Donald Trump (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks, via Flickr)

For the fourth consecutive year, the Trump administration wants to stop “wasteful and unnecessary funding” in its annual budget proposal by targeting the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), among other programs.

Released on Monday, February 10, Trump’s $4.8 trillion “Budget for America’s Future” proposes to increase defense spending in 2021 while slashing funding to culture and the arts, social welfare, and student aid.

The NEA and NEH are included in a section titled “wasteful and unnecessary funding.” According to the proposal, these agencies “are not considered core Federal responsibilities, and make up only a small fraction of the billions spent each year by arts and humanities nonprofit organizations.”

The budget defines “core federal government functions” as investments in national security, cybersecurity, violent crime and targeted violence reduction, immigration, drug enforcement, and the opioid epidemic. It also includes plans to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The White House has been threatening to cut funding to these agencies since Trump’s election in 2016, but its proposals have so far remained as mere threats. The authority to pass budgets is in the hands of Congress, which has been implementing an opposed policy. Last year, the House of Representatives approved a $1.4 trillion spending package that included a $7.25-million increase for the NEA, its largest budget increase since 2013.

In a statement, Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, called the White House’s budget request “misdirected.”

Lynch said that in a testimony for the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee last week, he urged lawmakers to increase NEA funding to $170 million next year with an additional $7.75 million over 2020’s budget. “For context, these cultural agencies are still inching their way back up to levels once enjoyed two and a half decades ago,” he said in his statement.

“For more than 50 years, the NEA has expanded access to the arts for all Americans, awarding grants in every Congressional district throughout all 50 states and US territories, particularly benefiting communities that have fewer opportunities to experience the arts,” Lynch added.

Lynch expressed his faith in Congress, stating that lawmakers provided increased funding to the NEA 2020 with an additional $7.25. “I expect to see similar action by Congress this year, and hopefully a $7.75 million increase,” he said.

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