Trump’s 2020 Budget Is the Largest in Federal History—and It Would Entirely Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts

It's the third straight year Trump has tried to shut down the agency.

US President Donald Trump smiles. Photo courtesy of Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump smiles. Photo courtesy of Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

It’s that time of year again: the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are in trouble, with President Donald Trump again aiming to eliminate the two agencies, this time in his budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

Trump unveiled the whopping $4.75 trillion budget—the largest in federal history—on March 11, but details about his plans for the NEA and NEH were only revealed today, in the administration’s full proposal. According to the documents, the NEA’s budget is marked at $29 million and the NEH’s is at $38 million—which the proposal describes as “sufficient funding for orderly termination of all operations over two years.” (artnet News previously reported that the two agencies would cost a quarter of their annual budgets just to shut down.)

“The Administration does not consider NEA [or NEH] activities to be core Federal responsibilities,” according to the plan, which would also defund the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Since 2017, Trump has been vocal in his desire to eliminate the two agencies entirely. That plan is widely opposed, even by some Republicans.

Copies of the second phase of the President Donald Trump’s FY2020 budget are on display at the Government Publishing Office, on March 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.Copies of the second phase of the President Donald Trump’s FY2020 budget are on display at the Government Publishing Office, on March 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Copies of the second phase of the President Donald Trump’s FY2020 budget are on display at the Government Publishing Office, on March 18, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

“We see our funding actively making a difference with individuals in thousands of communities and in every Congressional District in the nation,” said the NEA in a statement, touting its “2,322 awards totaling $121.2 million in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five additional US jurisdictions.”

Trump’s proposed budget will likely have little resemblance to the final plan, which will go through various revisions as lawmakers offer their input. Instead, it serves mainly as an illustration of the administration’s political priorities.

“As NEH awaits Congressional action on the President’s proposed budget, the agency is continuing normal operations and will announce our latest round of FY 2019 awards this spring,” NEH chairman Jon Parrish Peede said in a statement.

Despite the record budget, the proposal would make $1.9 trillion in cuts to programs like Medicare and Medicaid. It also shrinks the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31 percent, eliminating $19 million earmarked for scientific research on climate change. There are also substantial cuts to Social Security and student loan programs.

Other programs would get a boost, including a nearly five percent increase in military spending and $8.6 billion for Trump’s proposed border wall between the US and Mexico. Democrats have been steadfast in their refusal to pay for the wall, leading to a record 35-day government shutdown in December and January.

Annual NEA funding topped out at $176 million in 1992. It cratered in 1996 to $99.5 million and remained under $100 million until 2001. Since 2007, NEA and NEH appropriations have been in lockstep. In 2017, the budget for each agency increased $2 million from the year prior, followed by a $2.2 million boost for each in 2018.


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