A Case against the NEA

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson and is hailed by liberals for promoting necessary art in America; when conservatives propose cutting it from the budget, all hell breaks loose. But the NEA should be one of the easiest things to cut! There is absolutely no reason the government should be involved in the arts. I took a closer look at the NEA and what I found absolutely reiterated my assertion: Cut it all.


The NEA promotes a political agendaFirst, the NEA promotes art that supports the state. In a controversial conference call from 2009 between NEA and White House officials, independent artists, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, there was a clear agenda for the arts: Support Barack Obama. Russell Simmons’ political director, Michael Skolnick, was quoted during the conference call claiming that the “White House and folks in the NEA” asked him to “bring together the independent artists community around the country” for that meeting.  Why?  Because of “the role [they] played during the campaign for the president and also during his first 200 some days” in office. Obama certainly is not the only president to do this but is the most recent.


Government promotion of a specific political perspective in art is quite obviously a problem that needs to be stopped, but so long as the NEA is around this trend will continue.  John Breslauer, a theater critic, wrote in the Washington Post that the NEA’s strict policies pressure artists “to produce work that satisfies a politically correct agenda rather than their best creative instincts.”


A second reason for cutting the NEA is that it completely wastes resources (classic government). Sure, cutting the NEA from the federal budget won’t make a huge difference. With deficits in the trillions, cutting the proposed 2012 NEA budget of just over $146 million dollars is not going to close the gap alone. But this is the exact mindset that has taken us toward financial disaster. An old Republican Senator from Illinois, Everett Dirksen, is claimed to have once said, “A billion here, a billion there, and—pretty soon—you’re talking about real money.” This rings true today more than ever.


An example of wasted resources can be found in the poem “lighght.”  No, I’m sorry to inform you, that is not a typo. That is not even the title of the poem; it is the poem. That’s the entire thing. And, thanks to the NEA, American taxpayers paid $1,500 for it! Certainly this is not the most moving reason for abolishing the NEA, but it’s entertaining.


Yet it should not be surprising that this happened. Government is known for promoting subpar quality products. As Richard Moore, an American writer, put it: “Only mediocrity can destroy art. And in every bureaucracy, mediocrity luxuriates.” He continued by saying that it “isn’t just that the money we give to artists is being wasted. It’s doing positive harm.” He hit the nail on the head.


These are simply a few good reasons to cut the National Endowment for the Arts but certainly are not the only ones. We should not need anymore, though. It should be obvious from the start that the NEA should not exist; in a free society, the government should not guide the agenda in the arts. Not only is that a problem, but it wastes money. We need to cut the NEA — and not by a small percentage, but entirely.

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