Now is not the time to be cutting arts funding

President Donald Trump pauses during his speech during a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center, Monday, March 20, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The first draft of the Republican budget is out and it’s not pretty. The budget calls for increases in military spending and for U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill for the border wall (Remember? The one that Mexico was supposed to pay for). White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney defended the move on MSNBC’s Morning Joe saying that the new administration would no longer ask the American people to fund programs that don’t work. It’s a fair idea in principle but like everything recently, it needs to be taken with a grain (or handful) of salt. With the massive bolstering of certain departments, other areas will feel cuts and, in some cases, complete elimination. Some of these cuts are huge mistakes.

The organizations on the chopping block are the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) will not face elimination, but will instead face privatization, removing access from well-needed funds. According to the Washington Post, both the NEA and the NEH received 148 million dollars each a year from the Federal budget. That is both the NEA and the NEH received 0.003 percent each of the federal budget. For perspective, we spent around 597 billion dollars in defense on 2015.

So let’s lay out everything we know. We spend more on our military than any other country in the world but for some reason we feel like we need to spend more. The ludicrous border wall that some people think we need is being paid for by the American people instead of Mexico. Finally, the administration plans to eliminate funding for organizations that are apparently useless.

For those who don’t know, the NEH, NEA and the CPB are all major contributors to the creative sides of the United States. The NEH helps those working or majoring in the humanities get access to needed research materials and helps the country better understand its own history. The NEA “gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities” according to their website. The CPB funds radio news and entertainment services like NPR. All of these organizations play a very clear and important role in developing the future of this country.

One thing I think most Americans look back on fondly is their childhood. Childhood and growing up are times when all people can learn to express themselves and to find what they are interested in. It’s a time when people grow and change and discover who they really are. Programs offered through the NEA and the NEH helps those discoveries happen. Both organizations help fund afterschool programs that help students find their voices and their passions. The NEA also helps fund art programs in schools like art classes and music programs. These programs regularly face the chopping block but can help contribute greatly to the way students think and develop. The CPB might have one of the most important roles in that it helps fund news organizations. In the age of fake news and alternative facts, it helps to know that there are still groups out there fighting the good fight and keeping facts alive.

I can personally say that my music and art career helped provide an outlet for me to express myself in a creative manner and to find a potential career path. As someone who has spent their entire, albeit short, life pursuing rigorous mathematical applications, the NEA has provided me another avenue to try and experience different things. It has allowed me to pursue programs that have taught me to learn from and adapt to the changing world in different ways. For the new administration to say that such groups are not valuable is an insult to all who have experienced some kind of help from these programs. They help provide knowledge in the present and offer up hope for a brighter future.


Amar Batra is a senior staff photographer and opinion’s staff columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email amar.batra@uconn.edu. He tweets at @amar_batra19.