Donald Trump’s Newly Released 2018 Budget Calls for Eliminating the NEA

Trump's 2018 budget proposes to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, among other dramatic cuts to domestic programs.

President Donald Trump is seen through a window speaking on the phone with King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, in the Oval Office of the White House, January 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Courtesy of Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
President Donald Trump. Courtesy of Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Donald Trump’s much-anticipated 2018 budget proposes steep cuts to domestic programs—including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

According to an outline of the budget released last night, the proposal reiterates many of the cuts first rolled out by the administration earlier this year, including the elimination of the NEA and National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). As usual, however, Congress remains intent on writing its own budget, so Trump’s plan is unlikely to go far on Capitol Hill. Trump’s proposal, CNN notes, is more a symbolic statement of policy than a practical budget that is expected to be adopted in full.

A spokesperson for the NEA confirms that the president’s 2018 budget proposes the elimination of the department, and includes a request for $29 million from Congress to shut down the agency in an orderly fashion. The spokesperson says that the organization is fully funded for the fiscal year, and will continue to make 2017 grant awards and “honor all obligated grant funds made to date.”

She adds: “This budget request is a first step in a very long budget process. We continue to accept grant applications for FY 2018 at our usual deadlines and will continue to operate as usual until a new budget is enacted by Congress.”

The news of the proposed elimination of the NEA and NEH comes one day after NEH chair William D. Adams abruptly resigned from his post. In a statement, a spokesperson for the NEH noted that Adams’ “decision to resign and the timing of his decision were both self-motivated” and unrelated to the budget release.

The Trump administration first revealed a proposal to cut the two departments in its federal budget plan this past March. The elimination of both agencies would save a paltry $300 million from the government’s allotted $1.1 trillion in overall annual discretionary spending.

Despite their relatively small size, supporters of the programs say they punch above their weight, and that their elimination would have a serious impact on cultural production. The NEA provides funding to often-overlooked cultural organizations outside major US cities and, through its international insurance indemnity program, enables museums to organize ambitious loan shows that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive.
“On a purely economic basis, this budget submission regarding the NEA and other arts funding agencies is illogical, short-sighted and unproductive for our country,” said Bridgitt Evans, a philanthropist and founder of VIA art fund, a nonprofit that pools donations to support a wide range of art initiatives.

She also expressed alarm about the potential elimination of the NEA’s arts and artifacts indemnity program, which enables museums to borrow expensive works from abroad without paying for insurance out of pocket. “What an economically efficient use of our country’s collective balance sheet to self-fund and minimize the cost of insuring domestic and international exhibitions for our museums and exhibitors so that precious and priceless works of art can be freely shared for all to enjoy and learn from,” Evans says. “I can assure you that no museum will be in a position to exhibit the works we’ve enjoyed under the NEA’s indemnity program.”

Still, arts advocates shouldn’t be too worried—yet. Trump’s proposal is likely to face fierce opposition in Congress. Several Republican politicians have come out in favor of federal support for cultural organizations in recent months.

Congress’ $1 trillion budget to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on September 30, which passed earlier this month, included $150 million each for the NEA and NEH (a $2 million increase, respectively, from 2016). The Institute of Museum and Library Services, also targeted by Trump for elimination, saw a small increase in its annual funding, from $230 million to $231 million. The Smithsonian Institution’s budget increased to $863 million, up $23 million from last year.

Today, the Smithsonian released its 2018 federal budget request, totaling $947 million, an increase of $108.4 million from 2017. According to a statement, much of the increase will be directed to the National Air and Space Museum’s multiyear revitalization project.

Mark Meadows, a Republican Representative from North Carolina and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told the New York Times that Trump’s budget is “probably is the most conservative budget that we’ve had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades.”

To finance a dramatic increase in spending on the military and border security, Trump has proposed cutting more than $800 billion from the healthcare program Medicaid over the next decade and $192 billion from nutritional assistance programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to the poor. Meadows told the Times: “Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far.”


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