President Trump promised to cut government spending. A report in “The Hill” details the administration plans. In total, the administration aims to cut spending by $10.5 trillion over the next decade. President Trump has suggested cutting the Department of Education. He thinks eliminating the Affordable Care Act will save us all dollars. He has suggested totally eliminating all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. These agencies are easy to pick on. They have been targeted before. Their budgets were cut by nearly 40 percent back in the 1990’s. They seem like frivolous decorations and not essential for the well-being of our nation.
You might think that these cuts would have no impact on us here in the frozen outback. You would be wrong. Funding from the National Endowment for the Arts provides a major part of the funds available for the North Dakota Council on the Arts. The NDCA provides a significant part of the funding for our local Northern Lights Arts Council in the form of an annual grant which covers part of their operating budget. The NLAC has been responsible for organizing and carrying out arts enrichment programs in local schools, programming for elders in the local nursing home, community theater, children’s theater, music and arts events, annual public book discussions, a book club and a writers group. The NLAC provides scholarships for students studying the arts. The local arts council owns and runs the local movie theater and collaborates with other local organizations to enrich and support other community programs. Other local organizations provide similar programming across the state. Without funding from the North Dakota Council on the Arts, the operating funds which keep the organization running would be hard to find.
According to the North Dakota Humanities Council, the organization was established to provide people opportunities to engage with and debate powerful ideas, because democracy cannot exist without thoughtful and informed citizens dedicated to freedom and justice. Locally the council provides resources and funding for Chautauqua programming, book discussions, cultural events, writing workshops and more.
It is estimated that every dollar invested through the National Endowment for the Arts is matched by $7 of additional investment and generates $26 in economic activity. This means that in 2015, when the NEA invested $146 million in 2,300 grantees across the country. Those dollars were matched by another $600 million in matching support. There are an estimated 5.2 million arts-related jobs in this country. The arts are big business and the NEA and the NEH provide arts and humanities opportunities for citizens in small towns and urban areas alike.
The total budgets of the NEA and NEH are a tiny drop in the bucket of federal spending. Together federal dollar for the two equals .006 percent. Add another $455 million for Public Broadcasting and the total for all three is less than .02 percent. Eliminating those budgets completely will not make much of a dent in the deficit.
The loss of this source of funding for the arts will have a major impact in our rural community. It will impact the number and quality of programs available to children in school, residents of nursing homes and the public in general. The savings will not stimulate private sector spending, but will result in a decrease in the quality of life we value so highly and will result in a loss of valuable employment. Cutting taxes also has the unintended consequence of reducing tax exempt donations to all nonprofits including those dedicated to the arts.
Cutting the budget is not easy, but it is the job of our elected officials to make sure that we are making real and positive changes that benefit everyone, not just the rich and the powerful.
Copyright © 2017 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains