The internet has been abuzz.. dare I say aghast today at President Trump's budget completely eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Faced with the prospect of zero federal funding for the NEA people have been losing their minds on social media once again calling for the head of the Orange Nazi, lighting their torches to go after the oompa loompa (their words, not mine), etc. In a much more productive style of engagement, one friend of mine on FaceBook simply and elegantly challenged anyone to defend the President’s action. “Someone defend this, I dare you, try me.”
So, let me just play Devil's Advocate for a minute....
Let me preface this by saying that I am not now nor have I ever been a Trump supporter. I personally think that the Arts are important, even integral to the very core of our society. Without them what’s the purpose of a society at all? People should absolutely support the Arts.
But those are my values. They are not everyone's values.
The National Endowment for the Arts is not money that came from thin air. It was collected by force from the population, whether or not those people even value the arts. Additionally, there are people who loathe the Arts. Hard to imagine, right? But still those people do exist and who are we to impose our values on them and take THEIR money from them by force to support the things that WE have decided have value and merit. Defunding the Arts means that money that the government forcefully appropriated from the populace will no longer be used for the arts. It does not mean that people who do value those Arts cannot support them on their own. It would actually give us all a much more accurate picture of how much we as a nation actually do value the Arts when the support thereof is strictly voluntary and we have to opt in with our own money and have to consciously make the choice to spend those dollars on art or donate it to arts foundations and initiatives above all of the other things in our lives that contend for our hard earned dollars. The forced compliance model we have now gives you a distorted view of how much people actually care about the arts and I think that is what people are afraid of. That this thing they love will go away when other people are no longer forced to support it because they themselves don't value it enough to support it with their own money.
Now, again, I do highly value the Arts and think that they are a cornerstone of our culture. But, I would support ending Arts funding that comes from collected taxes.
It's just not fair for me to expect everyone else to pay for this thing that I love.
Now... my opinion in that regard is predicated on two things:
1. If the Arts funding were to be halted, those taxes would cease to be collected and people would be able to keep that portion of their own money to support the Arts or whatever else voluntarily. However, I think that we know this government and every one that has come before it and all that will come after it well enough to know that we are NEVER getting that money back and if it stops going to the Arts, it will just be allocated to some other thing, probably an already over bloated military or more drug war bullshit.
2. There are way bigger fish to fry that are eating up people's hard earned tax dollars already. Again, let’s go back to our INSANE military budget, a costly and failing drug war and everything else eating up trillions and trillions of dollars per year and which are currently being expanded. If it were up to me (it’s not), I personally wouldn't support any reductions in Arts funding until these WAY more pressing matters had been addressed and by the time you actually did address them, there would very likely be no need to cut arts funding at all. I would imagine that at that point the tax rates would be so low that the public outcry to defund the arts would no longer exist, or at the very least would be far less enthusiastic.
In an era such as this where we are caught in a storm on the high seas of wasteful spending, it’s really not that hard to see why some people would support cutting off Government funding of the Arts.
It’s just a drop in the bucket and certainly, most of the people who actively support defunding the arts aren’t taking the big picture into account, but I don’t think that they’re bad people for wanting to dial in the spending. I think it's easy to just label them as bad people and dismiss their concerns out of hand but that doesn't help the situation at all.
The National Endowment for the Arts is about 138 million dollars out of 3.8 trillion. Military spending that has displaced millions of people and killed hundreds of thousands in the Middle East, allowed our government to detain and put to death our own citizens without due process of law and has served to do nothing but stoke more and more anti-American sentiment abroad, breed terrorism and make us all less safe, accounts for 530 billion dollars per year and is growing.
Someone defend this, I dare you, try me.
All the best,