Trump's Budget Plan Would Eliminate Arts, Public Media Funding

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President Donald J. Trump photographed on Feb. 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.

If Congress follows the president's blueprint, it would spell the end of the National Endowment for the Arts and cut off crucial funding for NPR and PBS.

President Donald Trump's first federal budget plan, released early Thursday, calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which provide key grants for nonprofits and artists across the country. The budget, released hours after Trump's oldest daughter, Ivanka, attended a new Broadway musical, would also cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps to fund NPR and PBS.

Though both independent agencies have been targeted for cuts before, this marks the first time a president has called for ending the endowments, which combined have annual budgets of roughly $300 million. Both the NEA and the NEH were established by Congress in 1965 as part of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act.

Endowment leaders responded to the proposed cuts on Thursday with carefully crafted statements -- as federal officials they are not allowed to lobby Congress. (Note: Congress writes the federal budget, so a president's budget plan is essentially a wish list, albeit a highly influential one.)

"We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation," said NEA chairman Jane Chu. NEH chairman William D. Adams added in a statement, "We are greatly saddened to learn of this proposal for elimination, as N.E.H. has made significant contributions to the public good."

Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the CPB, a private nonprofit that acts as the steward of federal funds directed to them, was more blunt in her response to Trump's proposal, which she said would lead to the "collapse" of public media.

"There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services," she said. "The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions -- all for Americans in both rural and urban communities."

For fiscal year 2016, the CPB's appropriation approved by Congress was $445 million. "At approximately $1.35 per citizen per year, [public media] pays huge dividends to every American," Harrison argued in her statement.

Trump's $1.15 trillion budget takes aim at many other domestic programs as well, including the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, among others.

The budget boasts a $54 billion boost in military spending and includes "additional resources" for Trump's proposed border wall. "A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority -- because without safety, there can be no prosperity," Trump said in a message accompanying his proposed budget.

The president's plan, dubbed "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again," can be found here.