Conservative Column

Pucciarelli: Trump’s proposed budget cuts wouldn’t be the end of the world for arts and humanities groups

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

Trump’s proposed budget cuts funding from four agencies that fund art organizations, museums, libraries and public broadcasting affiliates.

The arts and humanities are undeniably important to a country’s culture and education, but the public should not be forced to pay for them.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently traveled to Plattsburgh to oppose President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which would eliminate funding from four agencies that fund art organizations, museums, libraries and public broadcasting affiliates.

Gillibrand said in Plattsburgh that she believes rural communities in the “North Country” would suffer the most, according to NBC. These areas heavily rely on federal funding of the arts, considering about 79 percent of National Endowment for the Arts block-grant funds go to rural communities and low-income areas, according to The Washington Post.

What opponents of the budget cuts must understand is that former President Barack Obama is no longer in the White House, where he excessively spent taxpayer dollars through his federal budgets and contributed to a burgeoning national debt. Trump, unlike his predecessor, aims to stop the trend. It’s unfortunate that these agencies were chosen, but it’s a reality that the budget needs to be trimmed.

The United States debt continues to rise, and although the arts and humanities funding is only a small fraction of the budget, the proposed cuts are a decision made in the best interest of the nation and its citizens. The arts and humanities may benefit children’s cultural development, but it’s of no use if they are forced to spend the rest of their lives paying for it.

David Prince, associate director and curator of collections at Syracuse University Art Galleries, is in agreement with Gillibrand, and said smaller institutions will suffer from the proposed cuts the most because they don’t have the connections to secure funding elsewhere. But some institutions, like SUArt Galleries, can acquire their own funds.

“I sleep better at night knowing money is coming in by our own efforts,” Prince said.

He added that every state also has agencies that support the arts, and there are some local governments that provide assistance.

Perhaps it’s time for the arts and humanities to become more reliant on state funding. People who are concerned about losing funding can lobby their state governments, which can raise state income taxes to cover the costs.

Some states value the arts more than others. New York spends upward of $45 million annually, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Other states spend far less, like Iowa, which spends about $1 million.

The District of Columbia, which has a population of about 600,000 people, spends $15 million, according to the National Assembly. If the arts and humanities are that important, larger states should have no problem raising the necessary funds.

If the funding is cut, another plausible solution would be personal donations. Hollywood always preaches the importance of art during award shows. These celebrities should put their money where their mouths are and take the lead in funding the arts.

The NEA has a $148 million budget, which constitutes .003 percent of the federal budget and is distributed to all 50 states, according to The New Yorker. If this number was distributed equally, there would be $3 million in funding for every state. Wealthy donors and state agencies could easily compensate for these losses.

Challengers to budget cuts continue to argue that the cost of these agencies is only $1 billion. They believe that since arts and humanities funding comprises only .02 percent of the federal budget, per The Washington Post, that the funding is not even worth cutting.

It’s wrong to think that opportunities for the arts and humanities are eliminated by Trump’s proposed budget, and that these cuts threaten cultural development in the U.S. But that is not true. The arts and humanities are not going anywhere.

“If there’s support for what you do, you’ll get it,” Prince said.

Gillibrand, and other politicians and constituents alike, have every right to fight for the arts and humanities. Their importance is undisputed. But people need to start rationalizing Trump’s proposed budget cuts and think of other methods to fund these subjects that do not include the federal government.

Joseph Pucciarelli is a sophomore newspaper and online journalism and history dual major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jjpuccia@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @JoeyPucciarelli.

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