The Concerned Archivists Alliance joins with many other interest groups in opposing the ideological fantasy that Donald Trump has chosen to term a “budget”. The purpose of this post is not to discuss the budget as a whole, with the terrible impact it will have on the lives of millions of Americans generally, but to speak specifically against its effect on the cultural agencies of the Federal Government. Bear in mind that the costs to the taxpayer for these agencies is a miniscule percentage of the total federal budget, yet these agencies are crucial to ensuring the continuation of the American cultural economy.
This budget is, simply atrocious.
- It requests $42 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Not to fund its continuing activities, but to quote the budget justification, “to begin the orderly closure of the agency”. In short, this budget terminates the NEH altogether.
The NEH has been operating since 1965, having awarded over $5.3 billion through more than 63,000 grants in its 52 years of operation. Those grants have gone towards enriching Americans’ exposure to and understanding of the humanities, from art to literature to film to history. It is an immensely valuable service to Americans and the cultural effects of its loss would be incalculable.
- It eliminates the $230 million budget for the Institute of Museum and Library Services. For the last 20 years, IMLS has done sterling work in providing support to museums and libraries across the country, helping to ensure that cultural institutions may expand and thrive. The funding that IMLS supplies allows libraries serving vulnerable populations to provide their patrons with informational literacy training and help them to gain job-related skills and/or employment. Our museums and library systems are justifiable points of pride in this country; they are among the best of what we can do and what we believe as Americans. IMLS funding has been critical in maintaining those institutions. This budget treats those institutions as enemies, as obstacles to move aside in the name of nebulous “debt reduction” and ensuring the continued transfer of wealth to the rich.
- It eliminates the $148 million budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA since 1965 has provided over $5 billion in grants to artists and art communities across the nation to support theater, dance, music, literature, film, and arts education. It is one of the federal agencies that should make us the most proud to be Americans, because its existence demonstrates the commitment of a democratic government to preserving and building our national cultural legacy.
- It eliminates the $445 million budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It is the 40th anniversary of the CPB this year, and in the last four decades it has worked to ensure universal access to quality educational television, primarily through distributing funds to more than 1400 locally owned public television and radio stations. Through both the Public Broadcast Service and National Public Radio, the CPB brings news, music, children’s educational programming, discussions of public affairs, and other important productions to every part of the United States. The CPB has educated, entertained, and enlightened generations of Americans, and if it is eliminated, we will be intellectually and culturally poorer for the loss.