If elected President, Republican candidate Mitt Romney says he will cut federal funding for the arts by half. These dramatic cultural cuts will come in the form of reduced funding for two federal arts and cultural grantmaking agencies: the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In an op-ed piece that was published in USA Today, Romney listed five examples of government programs that are “not absolutely essential” and that “we don’t need or can’t afford.” Among the usual Republican suspects including repealing ObamaCare and eliminating Title X family planning programs was the suggested fifty-percent cut to arts and culture.
The NEA and NEH (along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Legal Services Corporation which were also included in Romney’s proposed arts/culture cut) currently receive $155 million per year each. According to the Los Angeles Times, this is “among the smallest agency appropriations in the federal budget.”
The most interesting aspect of all of this is the fact that while serving as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney recommended steady levels of arts and culture spending for his state. So why is he pushing for such drastic cuts on the federal level?
It appears Romney is playing to the ultra-conservative base in order to win the Republican primary. It’s likely the “right” thing to do politically, especially given his competition that has zero appreciation or understanding for arts and culture (no really, Rep. Michele Bachmann earned an “F” on the Arts Action Fund’s most recent report card grading Congressional voting records with zero points earned out of a possible 100). But is it the right thing to do for society?
Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” As the current field of Republican Presidential hopefuls blow in the wind, we can only hope the roots of those with greater insight run deep enough to hold our tree upright through the coming storm.