The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a U.S. government agency that provides funding for art projects. In 2004, it had a budget of $121 million. In 2008 it was $144 million and in 2011, $154 million. So, while our debt and deficit problems have gotten worse, we have increased funding for the “arts” by $33 million since 2004.
What does the NEA do, exactly? In May 2011, for example, it gave $20,000 to a company called Amphibian Stage Productions for their Jumbies Fort Worth program.
[Amphibian Stage Productions'] mission is to produce outstanding theatrical works in Fort Worth and New York City that implement innovative artistic concepts while exploring relevant societal issues.
Since 2008, Jumbies Fort Worth! has visited thousands of children in under-served schools, offering workshops, performances, and lectures. In 2010, the focus has shifted to train children from area schools in the art of traditional West African drumming and stilt dancing in order to create local troupes that can perform year-round.
Ok, so this doesn’t sound bad at all, but I think the real question is, why in the world is the government involved in promoting art at all? Our debt has reached $15 trillion. It has gone up by $5 trillion in three years. They are talking about raising the debt ceiling yet again, and we are increasing funding for something that the government has no business being involved in, in the first place?
“Oh come on. Don’t be mean. These art programs help kids and do a lot of good.” This, of course, is irrelevant, because there is no authority in the Constitution for the federal government to do this. Secondly, let’s pretend you don’t care about the law and you think the federal government should be getting involved in whatever it wants…The art industry does not need the government’s help. Here’s some information from NEA’s own website:
…in 2004 about 44 percent of the income generated by American arts organizations came from sales or the box office. The rest was donated—overwhelmingly from the private sector. Only about 13 percent of arts support in the U.S. came from the government, and only about 9 percent from the federal government, of which less than 1 percent came from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Let me get this straight. We are giving $154 million dollars a year to an agency that “helps” an industry by providing them with less than 1% of their revenue? And 87% of the income received by art organizations come from sales or voluntary donations? And 91% of their income does not come from the federal government? So, if we were to eliminate this agency, the arts industry would lose a whopping 1% of its income. The budget deficit, on the other hand, could be reduced by $154 million.
“The amount of federal government support is miniscule by European standards, and yet the American system works,” says the NEA on their site in what appears to be an attempt to justify their existence and point out the success of this “mixed market” system, as they call it. Doesn’t that make my point? The amount of government support is miniscule. It’s not making a significant impact on the industry, based on the numbers. I bet I know who it is having a significant impact on. Those who work for the agency. I found these two open positions on their website.
Supervisory Program Analyst
Office of Research & Analysis
Salary Range: $105,211 – $136,771
Visual Arts Division
Salary Range: $89,033 – $115,742
This is just one example of how our money is being wasted and what it is being spent on. How many others exist? Think about this the next time someone tries to convince you that our fiscal problems are a result of the rich not giving the government enough money.