by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Michael Tanner‘s latest National Review Online column explains why federal taxpayer funding for art ought to dry up.
As the husband and stepfather of accomplished artists, I take art very seriously. It is, in the words of President Kennedy, “close to the center of a nation’s purpose and a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.” But for all that, Donald Trump is absolutely right in his desire to defund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
According to its supporters, without the NEA, art in America would cease to exist. They have a point. Absolutely nothing can happen in this country unless the federal government funds or mandates it. Without Washington we are a wasteland. After all, the NEA wasn’t established until 1965, and before that there was hardly an American artist to be found. Well, except maybe people like Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, John Singer Sargent, Edmonia Lewis, Charles Sheeler, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer . . .
The NEA’s budget is a paltry $138 million. By contrast, private philanthropy contributes more than $17 billion every year to support for the arts. Ticket and merchandise sales bring in another $12.7 billion. In fact, government sources at all levels, federal, state, and local, contribute less than 4 percent of arts funding.
What supporters of the NEA are really complaining about is a lack of funding for art that they like. The boobs and illiterates out there in Trumpland can’t be expected to understand or support “real” art. How could they possible fund art worth viewing? If you want to know why we are saddled with a President Trump, that attitude goes a long way toward explaining it.