Proposed Budget Rescissions in the Arts and Humanities

Print Share on LinkedIn More

February 14, 2011; Source: Office of Management and Budget | In his proposed FY2012 budget, President Obama is calling for a 12.6 percent reduction in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, one of the nation's main cultural grantmaking agencies.

The combined grantmaking budget of the National Endowment for the Arts and its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities, would be reduced by $22 million from $168 million to $146 million. The President's rationale is that the two agencies are working to better coordinate and consolidate some functions, which will result in overhead cost savings. But $22 million worth of savings?

As a percentage of the proposed federal budget $3.73 trillion, the NEA and NEH appropriations don't even register. Even adding in the $861.5 million requested for the Smithsonian ($635.5 million for salaries and expenses and $225 million for facilities, including $125 million for the construction of the National Museum of African American History and Culture) is still is hardly more than a blip on the screen.

Of course, the president's funding proposal might sound generous after Congressional budget cutters start whacking. Neither the Arts nor the Humanities agencies are on the agenda of conservative Republicans for saving, much less budget increases. This is much more than an issue for nonprofit arts organizations. It is a question about this nation's commitment to investing in the arts.—Rick Cohen


    These are discouraging times, reminding one of McCarthyism, when all creative people were suspected of being “red”. There is such an overwhelming intolerance to curiosity, creative thinking and expression of ideas. Why are conservatives so afraid to answer questions? Why are they so afraid of thinking? Why are they so closed to any new or creative idea? A nation that does not encourage the Arts is a nation without culture or heart. It is a nation without a future.d45e8

  • rick cohen

    I would love to see some comparisons of our central government’s spending on arts and culture with central governments in other nations. I started doing some of that analysis on the fly, but I wasn’t sure that what I was looking at in the numbers was exactly comparable. Do any NPQ readers have some good insights into how federal gov’t expenditures on arts and culture in the U.S. compare with other countries in Europe for example?