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Posted at 6:00 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Conservative Republicans pledge to eliminate cultural funding

By Jacqueline Trescott

To no one's surprise, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities have been targeted for zero funding by a group of conservative Republicans.

The Republican Study Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), unveiled a plan Thursday to cut the federal cultural endowments down to nothing. The Spending Reduction Plan, which sponsors want to introduce formally on Monday, pledges to save the country $2.5 trillion. It would eliminate $167.5 million for both the NEA and NEH. The agencies had slowly regained some budgetary ground in recent years after taking a pounding during the cultural wars of the 1990s. The bill would also take away $20 million from the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Jim Leach, the NEH chairman and a former congressman, quickly reminded the Congress that NEH, in particular, has supported scholarly research that has added to the country's knowledge of events, such as the Depression, and public figures, such as Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King, Jr.

"We recognize the pressure Congress and virtually all levels of government are under to restrain spending and understand that shared sacrifice is important. As Congress reviews various federal programs we ask only that care be taken not to subject cultural institutions to disproportionate cuts," Leach said. And Leach pointed out that supporting NEH is inexpensive, adding up to "barely more per capita than the cost of a postage stamp."

And the arts supporters on the Hill reminded citizens that the arts are a substantial contributor to the American economy. In a Thursday release, marking the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy inauguration, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, said the value Kennedy placed on the arts continues today.

Quoting Kennedy, Slaughter said 'He said, 'There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts.' " Citing a statistic that the arts industry generates $166.2 billion in income each year, Slaughter said, "Given these steep economic consequences, we must make it a priority to support a fully funded National Endowment for the Arts. NEA funding is an investment in the arts, but it's also an investment in communities and jobs."

By Jacqueline Trescott  | January 20, 2011; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, National Endowment for the Arts, national endowment for the humanities  | Tags:  National Endowment for the Arts, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Louise Slaughter, Republican Study Committee  
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As an actor, I've never been a fan of arts organizations depending on the NEA for funding, and in all reality, most orgs receive no funding from the NEA at all.

The NEA has always been a symbol of token support for the Arts, and personally, I'd rather see artists and arts orgs find ways to self-fund or break even through ticket & merchandise sales. Even private foundations are a better solution.

Posted by: CoryHuff | January 21, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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