Five Things That Cost More Than the NEA

 In Michelle Green Arnson, The CAPE Blog

Last week it was announced that the NEA (and the NEH, PBS, and others) are under attack, yet again, by members of Congress who have threatened for years to eliminate funding for our nation’s cultural institutions.  These agencies represent a minuscule portion of our federal discretionary spending but have a massive amount of support and appreciation from the public, making them easy bargaining chips that cost conservative lawmakers little to offer back during negotiations in exchange for cuts to other areas that result in far less public outcry. (Jump to Five Things That Cost More Than the NEA)

So, let’s look at the facts:  The current annual budget for the NEA is $148 million, or 0.003% of the federal discretionary budget in 2016. The desire to eliminate the NEA, NEH, PBS, etc. is not driven by a belief that doing so will in any way impact the federal deficit, but, rather, is part of a long-term goal to reduce the reach and power of public institutions that encourage social engagement, equitable education, creative expression, critical thinking, and open-mindedness. Exactly why politicians wish to destroy pathways to such positive outcomes is anyone’s guess, but maybe it is related to The Heritage Foundation, a “conservative research think tank,” calling the NEA “welfare for cultural elitists” and insisting that “the NEA does not promote charitable giving.”   CAPE is one of many NEA grant recipients who use their funding to support struggling communities through hands-on programs; 80% of CAPE students are from low income families, and one would be hard-pressed to argue that the other 20% qualify as “cultural elitists.” To the Heritage Foundation’s second point, grants provided by the NEA require recipients to match those grants with other private funding, from individuals, foundations or corporations. Every $1 in NEA grant funds leverages another $9 from other public and private sources (pdf), which demonstrates how the NEA does, in fact, promote a significant amount of charitable giving.

Please take a moment today to call your Representatives and Senators and demand that they stand by the NEA and other institutions that represent and better serve more of the country than any one elected official can dream of. Here’s a sample script you can read to the person or machine that answers your call:

“Hello, I am your constituent from [your location] and I demand that you protect funding for the NEA and our nation’s other cultural institutions. Please look instead to other expenditures that come at a much greater cost to American taxpayers, such as [see list below].”

At the end, you can insert your own suggestion or any of the examples below for other areas where Congress and the President could focus on making cuts and policy changes to free up a little bit of cash for the arts (in case it really is just about the money….).

Five things that cost more than the NEA:

Don’t forget to make those calls! Writing your elected officials is great, but phone calls and in-person conversations will be even more persuasive and harder to ignore.

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