Hey, you. Yes, you with the newspaper. The fact that you’re reading this means that you should be concerned about Donald Trump’s plan for lowering government spending. Among the nine organizations targeted for cuts are the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Now more than ever, it’s vital to acknowledge that these organizations are relevant to everyone. If you’ve seen the Santa Rosa Symphony at the Green Music Center, this affects you. If you’ve admired the public art in downtown Santa Rosa, this affects you. If you’ve visited a library or listened to public radio or remember watching Arthur as a kid, this affects you.
The NEA and NEH provide grants for educators and artists, both locally and nationally. The CPB funds public broadcasting, from television to radio. Especially in rural areas, the funds from CPB are what keep businesses alive.
When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill in 1965 he said, “While no government can call a great artist or scholar into existence, it is necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to help create and sustain not only a climate encouraging freedom of thought, imaginationand inquiry, but also the material conditions facilitating the release of this creative talent.”
Trump wants to frame the NEA, NEH and CBP as a federal issue, but it needs to be viewed as a local one. A report from the NEA shows that in 2012, Santa Rosa received a $50,000 grant to support a public master art plan for the city. With that grant came local jobs and dedication to making Santa Rosa an artistic destination. Additionally, the Santa Rosa Symphony received multiple grants of up to $10,000 that supported special performances and funding of music education classes.
“I feel extremely discouraged for the future youth of our school system whose creative passions and pursuits could be hindered. Art really does change lives for the better and brings and inner peace to the maker and the viewer,” said Brooke Mallory, an art student at Sonoma State University.
According to the New York Times, the 2016 budget for both organizations was $148 million. For CPB it was $500 million. That is just 0.02 percent of the $4 trillion Trump is projected to spend this year. Conservatives like Ronald Reagan, Jesse Helms and Newt Gingrich have fought to lower federal funding of the arts before, but reports say that Trump is planning to abolish them completely. The low cost of these organizations sparks the question, why do republicans want to dismantle the funding for the arts? It has been said that some politicians see art as a threat to the conservative agenda. The arts allow freedom of thought and human connection, posing a threat to the propaganda that is “Make America Great Again.” Trump’s campaign was based off of his claim that America is in peril and he is the only one that can fix it. Fortunately, the media, educators and artists have the power to explore those claims. Without funding, public thought will become less visible. North Korea maintains its totalitarianism by disallowing any connection to the outside world. Tourists can’t even bring Bibles into the country. Taking away outlets for expression only gives those in power more control. Trump, a president who takes questions as insults, would certainly sleep better at night by limiting the arts, especially in the form of media. Supporting conservatives frames the arts as an extravagance for the elite. But in reality, art is what fuels a pure and democratic society.