Forum

Proposed cuts to NEA won’t aid government recovering from recession

House Rep. Tim Wahlberg (R–Mich.) succeeded in passing an amendment that would cut $20.5 million from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) this year, the largest cut to the NEA in 16 years. The amendment will work as part of a larger bill targeting AmeriCorps, PBS, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The government is targeting these public programs instead of focusing on larger expenditures, such as defense. While sinking more than $950 billion into military defense, the government is attempting to trim down cultural services in order to stabilize its budget. Wahlberg stated that the private sector should be responsible for arts funding, and that the focus should be on building a better economy to allow that to happen. In the meantime, it looks as if Republicans want to push the arts aside for a couple of years until the federal budget gets back on track. Democrat Rep. Jim Moran (Va.) pointed out that Wahlberg’s amendment would be on top of a $22.5 million cut to NEA proposed early last week.

The bill, H.R. 1, would almost entirely eliminate nonprofit arts and humanities organizations, and force many larger organizations into filing bankruptcy or folding. The NEA serves as the largest grantmaker for the arts in the United States, and its current budget is roughly the same as Canada’s Council on the Arts, despite the difference in population. Many of the smaller arts organizations receive funding through museums and other local arts programs. With a total of $43 million cut across the NEA, many of these museums and programs would be in danger. Locations such as the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, Carnegie Mellon’s own STUDIO for Creative Inquiry in CFA, and programs such as the Pittsburgh Arts Council have received generous grants from the NEA and may be in serious danger of extinction if the bill is passed.

The arts cuts pale in comparison to some of the rejected options, which included a $1.5 billion cut on spending on Iraq, the elimination of the Innovative Research Fund, and eliminating government sponsorship of NASCAR. It seems that the proposed cuts to the Defense department were all rejected, while many important organizations came under attack.

President Obama has threatened to veto the latest bill, stating that it will “sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation.” We hope that his threat turns into action, as many of us have enjoyed the great programs that have been made possible by the NEA. NEA grants normally require matching funds from non-federal sources, in an effort to promote partnership agreements. Many individual events and artists are frequently sponsored by the NEA, and these will likely be much more difficult to accommodate after the bill takes effect.

Americans for the Arts, a large national nonprofit organization, sent out a message urging readers to take a few minutes to contact both Senators and House Representatives about the bill. The group’s website, http://www.artusa.org, has links to alerts that can be sent out to Congress and local media outlets in an attempt to prevent Wahlberg’s amendment from passing. The Carnegie Mellon School of Art shared this information with staff and students, and we urge anyone interested to take a look and help in the fight.

Editorial Dissent
Celia Ludwinski

In our continuing recession, it is important to tighten our belts and sacrifice our luxuries.
Investing in the arts is great for cultural development while the nation is riding a wave of success. However, it seems a little extravagant to spend our money on museums and performances while the job market, the housing market, and most of the economy is in the dumps.

In fact, it seems almost negligent to use our national budget for superfluous indulgences during these tough times, especially since it requires that we either neglect other essential programs or go further into debt.

I would much rather have a stable job waiting for me when I graduate than have government-funded art programs.
Once our economy is back on track, it will be appropriate for funding of the arts to be reinstated. But for now, this cut seems appropriate and promises a quicker recovery of our economy.