Earlier on Monday, the White House released its annual budget for the next fiscal year, charting a path for the Trump administration’s potential second term. The $4.8 trillion proposal includes steep cuts to social welfare, foreign aid, and housing. Also on the chopping block are federal arts programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This year marks the fourth time that Trump has threatened to significantly cut both organizations’ budgets.
Within the proposed budget, both agencies are listed under a subsection entitled “Eliminating Programs with No Proper Federal Role,” which includes National Parks Service preservation grants and funding for volunteer programs like AmeriCorps. “Activities funded by NEA/NEH are not considered core Federal responsibilities,” the document reads, “and make up only a small fraction of the billions spent each year by arts and humanities nonprofit organizations.”
This year, the Trump administration has also proposed further cuts for the State Department’s international affairs budget, which includes the elimination of embassy-based grants for what the White House calls “non-strategic events and programs,” including, “$4,800 to send American artists to a poetry festival in Finland; $7,500 for a foreign student to attend Space Camp; and $10,000 to support the Muppet Retrospectacle in New Zealand.”
Historically, presidents have used the White House budget to signal their political agenda. Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to the White House’s requests. Lawmakers have previously rejected Trump’s many prior attempts to bankrupt domestic programs, and last year increased NEA and NEH funding by $2.2 million.
“We see our funding actively making a difference with thousands of communities and in every Congressional District in the nation,” the NEA told ARTnews in a statement concerning the president’s 2021 budget proposal. “As a federal government agency, the National Endowment for the Arts cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue to share and educate about the National Endowment for the Arts’s vital role in providing access to the arts for all Americans.”
The $4.8 trillion budget increases spending on the military, adds $2 billion to the border wall, and gives NASA’s coffers 12 percent more in funding. White House officials say that the plan will make for $4.4 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, with almost $2 trillion coming from safety net programs and student loan initiatives. Reductions would affect Medicaid, federal housing assistance, food stamps, and federal disability insurance. Foreign aid would also be slashed by 21 percent.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be eliminated. The Environmental Protection Agency would receive a 26 percent cut, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention would see a 9 percent decrease in spending as the coronavirus continues to cause global panic, though $4.3 billion for fighting infectious diseases would be preserved.
Democrats have already signaled their disapproval for Trump’s budget. Over the weekend, Representative John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat who serves as chairman of the House Budget Committee, called the White House’s plans “destructive and irrational.” He criticized the president’s proposals as targeting “programs that help Americans make ends meet — all while extending his tax cuts for millionaires and wealthy corporations.” He added in a statement: “Congress will stand firm against this President’s broken promises.”
Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, described the White House budget in a statement as “inflicting savage multi-billion-dollar cuts” to healthcare and creating “devastating cuts to critical lifelines that millions of Americans rely on.”
Monica Crowley, Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury, appeared on Fox Business this morning to defend the Trump administration’s drastic cuts to social-safety-net programs. “The president also understands that Washington’s habit of out of control spending without consequence has to be stopped,” she said, “before it threatens the economic prosperity that we are all enjoying.”
The new budget appears to backtrack on Trump’s 2016 election vows to safeguard Medicare and Social Security. And despite promises to curtail government spending, the federal budget deficit surpassed $1 trillion last year under the president’s administration, which the White House says it expects to begin decreasing again by 2021.