President Donald Trump made good on a long-time conservative goal in his first proposed budget Thursday morning, targeting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities for complete elimination.
Trump’s budget would zero out the $445 million budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a relatively small source of funding for programming and broadcast operations on public TV stations and NPR radio stations nationwide, per the Washington Post.
The budget would also eliminate the budgets for both national endowments, which stood at $148 million each in 2016, as well as $230 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supports libraries and museums. Additional cuts would affect two tourist mainstays in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.
Combined, the four arts organizations account for less than 0.02 percent of the U.S. government’s $4.6 trillion budget.
In 2016, the NEA allocated $47 million to 50 states and five jurisdictions, funding that that helped to leverage $368 million from state governments to support arts organizations via more than 24,000 grants, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. In 2015, funding for the NEA was almost one-third what the U.S. budget allocated for military bands.
Republicans have long put the NEA and the CPB in their budget crosshairs. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan attempted to shut down the NEA, but backed down from the plans after a task force including actor and Reagan friend Charlton Heston advised against it. Reagan did, however, make major cuts to the NEA’s budget.
In December, Trump’s staff suggested that the incoming president would consider appointing Sylvester Stallone to head the NEA, though Stallone later declined.
The NEA and the NEH — which supports museums, archives, libraries, and universities — were created in 1965 by Lyndon B. Johnson. “An advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone, but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future,” according to the congressional act.
Defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is unlikely to cripple either PBS or NPR. NPR received less than 1 percent of its revenue from the CPB, and PBS less than 7 percent, according to data from 2014 reported in the Washington Post.
The CPB has relatively low overhead and paid out 99.3 percent of its $445 million appropriation in 2014 in grants, more than 90 percent of which went not to the national networks but to local affiliates in less populated cities like Lawton, Okla., and Texarkana, Tex.
By Thom Geier