Why Conservatives Want To Defund Federal Arts Funding

Jun 5, 2017

An example of an orchestra.
Credit http://music.umsl.edu/files/images/Ensemble%20Photos/Orchestra.jpeg

A Pennsylvania State University assistant arts education professor wrote an article about the history of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.  Aaron Knochel said the current conservative administration is not the first in history to consider cuts to federally funded arts programs. 

In Aaron Knochel’s article he mentions several reasons why the NEA funding is important. He argued that funding art programs draws further funding from multiple sources to create greater cultural and artistic diversity.

“There’s a real strong correlation between NEA funding and other forms of funding," Knochel said. "The other thing that’s really important to note is that NEA funding has a really tremendous return on it’s investments- and again here we have something that’s not talked about a lot in terms of these arguments of using federal tax dollars for cultural spending. Statistics that every one dollar of NEA funding leverages up to $9 in other private and other public funds resulting in $500 million in matching support - and that’s in the year 2016.” 

Damon Cann is an assistant professor of political science at Utah State University. He said in general conservatives would rather spend federal money in other ways.

“For a lot of conservatives their major interests are in things like defense and advancement of science technology, things that will build the economy developing a well trained work force, some of those kinds of things," he said. "And they would rather put some of that funding into those things instead of in the arts at the national level.” 

Cann said that many conservatives focus on whether the federal or local government should spend money. However, Knochel argued that if federal funding for the arts is being cut, then other federal education programs could see cuts as well.

“Things like the national science foundation, looking at funding around environmental science and threats that their under right now," he said. "All of these things align as a kind of lack of support from a central government in terms of funding knowledge generation in our culture and society. And we badly need good solid research to promote health, a rich diverse democracy in our country and also a vital culture environment for people to learn and experience.”

Both Cann and Knochel agree that throughout history conservative leaders tend to focus on ways to reduce the size and control of the federal government. Knochel says one of the unintended impacts of making cuts to national arts programs is the impact those cuts will have on local and state programs that depend on NEA funding, saying in his article that 40 percent of the NEA budget is distributed to state arts organizations.