NEH in the News
Want the White House to tell you whether or not it’s pardoning a whistleblower? Or take a position on modifying the technology you own? Or explain why America can’t build a Death Star? For the past six years, you could do all these things through We the People, an imperfect but valuable petition system that gave ordinary people a direct line to the president. But we’re over two months into the Trump administration, and it’s not clear whether the system is still active, or what its future holds.
We the People survived Trump’s White House website reorganization, unlike several other government pages, but it’s not in great shape. You can create an account, publish a new petition, or sign an existing one. The page for responses, however, seems to have been removed. Old petitions are accessible through the Obama administration archive, but there’s no sign that Trump’s White House will respond to the seven petitions that reached their 100,000-signature threshold after he took office, including a request to release Trump’s tax returns, two petitions to preserve the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts, and one to let American farmers grow industrial hemp. A White House spokesperson did not respond to an email requesting comment.
That’s right, we’re about to go the way of the Romans because we’re not spending enough on bread and circuses. Partly, this is the same Kabuki theater we get every year, in which anything that is not a massive increase is portrayed as a draconian cut. But the main reason people are upset about this budget is because it targets programs that are pretty insignificant in terms of actual spending but are culturally and politically important to anyone who is left of center: public funding for broadcasting, art, and the humanities.
The Trump budget proposes to zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. That’s why Nick Kristof thinks this is the end of civilization, because unless the federal government shunts money to these activities, we all know that they will completely disappear. There will be no more art, no more ideas, no more broadcasting.
Michael Lomax (president of the United Negro College Fund) said 55,000 HBCU students would be affected by elimination of Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and reductions to work-study programs and other federal spending could affect another 26,000 students at these schools and also reduce their chances for future employment.
HBCU schools typically have lower costs, but their students tend to accrue more loan debt than students at other institutions, the United Negro College Fund says. HBCUs enroll nearly 300,000 young women and men — primarily first-generation, low-income minority students — and typically confer about 18 percent of all baccalaureate degrees received by African-American students, even though the HBCU sector constitutes only 3 percent of the country's institutions of higher education.
Other Education Department programs slated for elimination are the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Community and Public Service. The latter runs national volunteer programs, including Americorps, which places young people in service positions at nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community groups nationwide.
Trump has called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, making clear that his contempt for education, science and the arts is part of an aggressive project to eliminate those institutions and public spheres that extend the capacity of people to be imaginative, think critically and be well-informed.
The Trump administration has enacted a hiring freeze on government agencies such as the National Park Service (NPS) and has proposed a 12 percent cut to the Department of the Interior’s budget, under which the NPS functions. The freeze and threatened budget cuts have already prompted the closure of historic and cultural attractions.
Independence National Historic Park, located in historic Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States, has been forced to close seven sites, including some prestigious places such as the Declaration House, where American Revolutionary Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, exhibits at founding father Ben Franklin’s home and print shop, and the house of the Polish-Lithuanian military leader, Tadeusz Kosciuszko.
Amenities near Independence Hall, including bathrooms, have been shut down because the NPS can’t hire any workers to clean them. Visitors, including the elderly and children, will now be directed to bathrooms that may be located at considerable distances from the sites they are visiting.
Citing NPS sources, Bob Skiba, former president of Philadelphia Tour Guides, told Philly.com that the hiring freeze was the main cause of the closings, and that it is not yet clear whether they will be temporary or permanent.
“When a group comes to the mall, people spend an hour and a half to two hours on tours—and as a tour guide, when I bring people around, I’m not just showing them the sites. I’m telling them stories,” he said. “And [now] I don’t have pieces of the story available.”
The sooner we are done with the Medicis of mediocrity, the better. Of course we should kill the National Endowment for the Arts — not because we don’t care about art, but because we do. The ladies and gentlemen of the NEA are the Medicis of mediocrity, and the sooner we are done with them the better. The case against the NEA is not that abolishing it will save the federal government a tremendous amount of money. It won’t. The NEA’s budget is, relatively speaking, chickenfeed — $148 million this year. (Which is literally less than Tyson spends on chickenfeed, if you were wondering.) We are not going to balance the budget on cuts — even cuts of 100 percent — to the NEA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and foreign aid. About 80 percent of the federal budget is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other health-care programs, national security, and interest on the debt. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t pay attention to the little things, but our fiscal problem is far larger than the NEA and similar programs.
Our concern is the budget primarily puts the burden on those most in need of assistance and, ironically, the working-class Americans in rural districts who boosted Trump’s candidacy. The National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts would get the ax, affecting community orchestras and other cultural groups. Library and museum funding would end.
The fight to save arts and culture funding moved to the steps of San Francisco City Hall Tuesday. Approximately 200 arts leaders chanted “culture is power,” and rallied on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as for a bump in city funding.
After President Trump released his budget proposal revealing severe cuts to arts and public media, a campaign from the Creative Majority PAC began the fight to save funding.
The Wait Wait... Don't Cut Me! campaign -- named after the NPR game show "Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me!" -- launched Friday with a microsite and video. It was created by Creative Majority PAC, Revolution Messaging, and Los Angeles-based PR agency TaskForce.
The video features a puppet calling the White House -- a parody of a Hillary Clinton 2008 campaign ad -- because she can’t remember how to count. It is supposed to serve as a reminder that many people grew up watching free educational TV on PBS.
"This is way more devastation than just the National Endowment for the Arts and PBS -- it is all of the arts and all the humanities," said Scott Goodstein, cofounder of Creative Majority PAC and CEO of Revolution Messaging. "We feel it's important that these programs are federally funded, so young kids, no matter their economic background or parents’ income levels, have the ability to learn how to count and how to dream."
The budget proposal released last week called to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and completely cut federal funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which runs PBS and NPR.
Conservative Republican politicians don’t believe that “democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens”. They attack the findings of geology, evolutionary biology, and climate science. They support the spread of fake news and promote alternative facts. They disparage the media in general. There is nothing new about the attacks on truth and knowledge by the Trump administration except its shamelessness.
Let’s go back to the words of the Congress in 1965, a time when Americans also wanted our country to be great. “The world leadership which has come to the United States cannot rest solely upon superior power, wealth, and technology, but must be solidly founded upon worldwide respect and admiration for the Nation’s high qualities as a leader in the realm of ideas and of the spirit”.