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Trump’s Team Gears Up to Slash Tons of Vital Government Programs

According to the The Hill, members of Trump’s transition team plan to propose a budget that would eliminate a huge number of government programs: 

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice, and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely. 

First of all, let me briefly wade into the blue-on-blue battle about NEA / NEH funding. Critics say that the government has no businesses “giving money away” to the arts, citing the controversies surrounding Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” and Robert Mapplethorpe’s “The Perfect Moment.” Little old ladies in Kansas don’t want their tax payer dollars going to figurines of their lord swimming in pee, or to photos of gay men kissing each other. And anyway, let the free market decide what’s good art and bad art. 

 

To which I say: psh. I deny the premise that art isn’t an essential human need that the government would do well to preserve in all its forms, even basketmaking. Also, the government doesn’t just “give money away.” Artists and orgs apply for grants. It’s a competition. The government selects projects—and only projects—for excellence and for the public good. 

This year, Washington state received nearly a million dollars in NEA grants. Here’s where some of the money went, per the Seattle Times

Washington grantees include Seattle theater On the Boards ($30,000), Port Townsend poetry publishing house Copper Canyon Press ($75,000), Seattle art-house cinema Northwest Film Forum ($35,000), Pacific Northwest Ballet ($60,000) and the dance/prison-education company led by choreographer Pat Graney ($20,000).

Its largest Washington grant went to arts-education programs in Seattle’s financially strapped public schools ($100,000).

I don’t want to live in a world where OtB, Copper Canyon Press, NWFF, PNB, and Pat Graney have to spend more time fundraising than making good art—but that’s a selfish concern. The real story here is that NEA money goes to people and organizations who work to correct shortfalls in education funding. Poets, more often than not, are overworked and underpaid teachers who use a $25K grant from the NEA to pay off student loans, or to reduce temporarily their teaching load in order to work on a book. These artists are working to work, and often not just for themselves. 

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel’s powerful statement on the importance of the NEA/NEH: 

 

The National Endowment for the Humanities, founded in 1965, is a leading source of funding for humanities programs in the United States. Its grants support cultural institutions including museums, libraries, and public television, as well as universities and individual scholarship. It has supported over 7,000 book projects, including 16 Pulitzer Prize winners, and the United States Newspaper Project, cataloguing over 60 million pages of historic newspapers for future use by scholars.

The National Endowment for the Arts, also established in 1965, supports participation and scholarship in the arts, works to ensure equal access to arts and culture for all Americans, and partners with state and local leaders to support creative initiatives at the community level. Its funding supports literature, visual arts, dance, theater, museums, and arts education programs around the country

The announcement that this is even under consideration casts a sinister cloud over our vibrant national culture, stoking fears that the Trump Administration aims to usher in a new Dark Ages in America. 

But as I say all this, I fear I’m falling into the hands of the conservative media outrage machine. Yes, it will suck if Trump and the Republican goons who sold their souls to him kill CPB, the NEA, and the NEH. Art will survive, even if it’s harder for artists to do the same. But the headlines shouldn’t just be about liberals crying over the future of the arts and public broadcasting.

Here’s the Heritage Foundation’s Blueprint for Balance that looks a lot like the budget Trump’s team wants to pass. “Gutting” isn’t a sharp enough word. This proposal kills programs designed to help women, people of color, artists, scientists, and increases our military’s capacity to destroy.

 

I mean look at this: 

This is just one of 3.5 pages of discretionary budget proposals.

This is just one of 3.5 pages of discretionary budget proposals. SCREENSHOT FROM BLUEPRINT FOR BALANCE 

They want to eliminate Violence Against Women Act grants, prohibit funding for National School Lunch program standards, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, cut funding for “non-combat research” and place a “high priority” on missile defense. 

Okay, but will any of this really happen? 

We know that Republicans have been going off about cutting government programs forever. We also know that Trump believes firing people is his primary role as an executive. It’s his favorite thing to do. I heard he had a show about it. The only thing, internally, that might stop him and his administration from dismantling government programs is the fact that they’d be, in effect, reducing their own power. It would not surprise me, though, if Scott Pruitt wanted to be the last director of the EPA. Or if Betsy DeVos wanted to be the last Secretary of Education. 

However, Congress would need to approve the budget. As Bolton mentions in the piece, a similar bill failed in 2015’s GOP-controlled congress, and by plenty: 132 to 294.

This means there’s room to resist. Call your representatives. Tell them you want them to fight for the government programs you want to keep around.

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