Ben Mehic, Managing News Editor
Imagine living in a world with no art – a world where creativity isn’t articulated by those with imaginative minds and the expertise to express it in tangible form. With no art, the world would be restricted of the essence of what it means to be human, stripping away the uniqueness of the individual and making life, in general, more uniform.
Last month, President Donald Trump proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for humanities, becoming the first president that has ever called for ending the endowments, according to Sopan Deb of the New York Times.
The endowment funds “cultural institutions such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television and radio stations.” Since its inception in 1965, the endowment has been one of the sole reasons for intellectual progress in the United States, including 7,000 books, novels, essays, according to the Humanities website.
According to Deb, the combined budgets for both endowments is about $300 million of the $1.1 trillion allotted for spending on such endeavors. The argument for cutting the endowments typically involves the notion that it’s not the government’s job to get involved in the nation’s culture.
“Federal art grants should be eliminated altogether and it’s not necessarily due to the budgetary savings that can be had there,” said Heritage Foundation economist Romina Boccia, via USA Today. “We should have separation of the federal government and the arts just like we have a separation of church and state. The arts are not a federal government priority. The arts are something that we do in civil society. It’s something that we do through our culture and that’s already happening. There’s no need for federal government involvement.”
The government, in many ways, is the backbone of a society, setting up the nation’s citizens for stability or lack thereof. According to the nation’s debt clock, the United States is almost $20 trillion in debt – an amount of money that cannot be conceptualized by even the brightest economist. The money saved by cutting the endowment would, in theory, cut into the nation’s accrued debt. But given the current administration’s rhetoric and policies – the failed ones, even – it could be assumed that the money formerly used on the arts and humanities would be funneled into national and border security. The funds would likely also be used to strengthen the military.
In 2015, the United States had the most expensive military in the world at $596 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China had the second most expensive military in 2015 with $215 billion – less than half the amount of the United States. On the surface, the money used from the endowments – the $300 million that would likely be spent to strengthen borders, national security and ultimately the military – wouldn’t make a significant difference to building the administration’s priorities.
Ironically, Russia – widely considered the second most “powerful” country in the world – isn’t known for its creativity nor ingenuity. The oppressive nation led by Vladimir Putin has been known for valuing its military and perceived strength more than its people’s seemingly inalienable rights. In 2002, the most recent data available, Russia spent $67 billion Russian Ruble on art funding, which equates to $2.25 billion U.S. Dollars. It could be inferred that Putin, who was the country’s leader in 2002, didn’t care, to put it bluntly, about the country’s cultural progression. The emphasis on the country’s apparent strength and almost self-consciousness of Russia’s political muscles restricted their people’s ability to express themselves in an artful fashion, leading to a lack of imagination and creative growth. Ask yourself this: when was the last time a “cool” invention was created in a country that devalues thinking?
The United States has been a hub for creativity and mindful exploration, but with the endowments being cut, that could become stagnated. Something as simple as taking your children to the natural arts museum – a trip that’s inevitably taken for granted – could become an impossible task if the funds do indeed get cut. The consequences could be irreversible. Time passes quickly and with it the notion of art being a part of the human formula could dissolve.