Donald Trump’s transition team is eyeing staggering cuts to the federal agencies that support the arts, humanities, and public broadcasting, the Hill reports. Under the team’s plan, the non-profit Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public television, public radio, and PBS, would be privatized. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which offer grants for artistic and educational productions, exhibitions, research, and more, would be eliminated entirely.
As The Hill points out, the proposed plan hews closely to a blueprint prepared by conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, which has had an outsize influence on the staffing and direction of the new administration. Two transition team members reportedly discussing the cuts to arts funding, Russ Vought and John Gray, previously worked for the Heritage Foundation, and for vice president-elect Mike Pence.
The U.S. has always trailed countries like Canada and and the U.K. in public funding for the arts and public media, in part because the NEA is a longtime target of conservatives. Ronald Reagan hoped to eliminate it when he took office in 1981, and Newt Gingrich attempted to kill it again in the mid-1990s. (Both wound up cutting its budget.) In the late ’80s, the NEA became a flashpoint in the culture wars when Republican Senator Jesse Helms crusaded against the agency for supporting art he judged to be “obscene” and “indecent,” like the work of photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano.
Other reported targets on the Trump team’s budget list are equally alarming: deep cuts to the Department of Energy, no money to support the U.S.’s role in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and the elimination of 25 different grant programs that counter violence against women. A final version of the incoming administration’s proposed budget is expected within Trump’s first 100 days in office, likely in mid or late April. Fortunately, budgets must be approved by Congress before they go into effect; unfortunately, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is an infamous deficit hawk who’s just as eager to cut off the NEA, the NEH, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.