For years, Republicans have targeted the National Endowment for the Arts for elimination, and so it was no surprise that President Trump’s budget proposed defunding the organization once again.
“Don’t you think it’s kind of funny that artists who are ‘against the grain’ and ‘thinking for themselves,’ all of a sudden they’re queuing up for their handouts from taxpayers?” Fox commentator Tucker Carlson asked on his show. “Why wouldn’t artists just strike out on their own and be independent?”
“This is a old, familiar argument,” says Alissa Wilkinson, “floated against the NEA, usually by conservatives who believe the independent government agency ought to be eradicated: It’s just money going to things that only liberals care about.” But, she insists, this “rich liberals are the ones who benefit” argument has got it all wrong.
“It’s a reality borne out by the data: The NEA does fund art and culture in every kind of community across the United States” James Bennett, former chief of staff and director of public affairs, told Vox.
First of all, rich liberals are not the only ones who care about classical music, literature, or dance. More importantly, the accusation is purposely misleading. The NEA is deeply committed to rural and suburban communities as much as it is to urban communities and is focused on funding broad, diverse, accessible programming across the country. In fact, 40 percent of its funding “is given to regional, state, and local arts agencies, so they can in turn run their own grant programs,” says Wilkinson.