Romney Will Eliminate NEA Funding

It seemed as though the election was over following the Republican Presidential Primary; after all, the media circus reached such a fevered pitch that it seemed self defeating to continue the exercise. But that euphoria was short lived and an article in the 8/15/2012 edition of CNN Money’s Fortune blog reminds us that a down economy + presidential election = plenty of arts funding debate.

chopFor example, the 8/15/12 blog post published an interview with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney which reveals his plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other programs.

FORTUNE: You’ve promised to cap government spending at 20% of GDP. Specifically where will you cut?

MITT ROMNEY: There are three major areas I have focused on for reduction in spending. These are in many cases reductions which become larger and larger over time. So first there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs — the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to strand [sic] on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.

So there you go. It will be interesting to see if Romney’s campaign pledge will have any impact on the current round of contentious labor disputes.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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0 thoughts on “Romney Will Eliminate NEA Funding”

  1. American orchestras existed long before the creation of the NEA. But they have never survived here without private philanthropy. If the Nation’s economy continues in the way it has been in recent years, this is the real danger to the performing arts. When wealthy people around the country begin to close their pocketbooks out of fear for the future, or simply because they feel underappreciated for their efforts, what will these organizations do? Request more government support? A substantial cultural shift in the electorate would be required for that strategy to work.

    • I think you’re on the right track here Chris; US orchestras have benefited far more from individual, philanthropic, and corporate giving than government sources and that the real danger to performing arts orgs is the whether or not the overall economy improves. To that end, if the public is looking to the election as guidance for economic recovery then continued arts funding is a critical step toward maintaining and improving contributed giving from non-government sources.

      There’s a much larger (and equally fascinating) discussion here regarding the nature of philanthropic giving and the erosion of perceived civic responsibility among the generations represented by the presidential candidates. Perhaps it will make good topic fodder for a future post.

  2. While the impact of losing the NEA would certainly be felt, my opinion is that they lost their way years ago when they eliminated grants to individual artists. The message was clear: while *peforming* art is important, the *creation* of art has no value. As a composer, I find that message repugnant – especially since so many orchestras that receive NEA funds play little or no music by living composers.

  3. Congressional Budget Office:

    “Assuming that H.R. 6079 [repealing Obamacare] is enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 2013, CBO and JCT estimate that, on balance, the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting that legislation would cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2013–2022 period.”

    That leaves the others:

    $1,565 million (Amtrak)
    $422 million (PBS)
    $168 million (NEH)
    $155 million (NEA)

    That’s 0.34% of the $688 billion needed in cuts to get to the 20% of GDP spending cap.

    Always this scaremongering and typecasting of arts funding, when it’s less than a drop in a giant tanker. And while I don’t like to think of the arts in terms of economic drivers in communities, the $155 million does drive much more economic activity than what the funding costs the government.

    And funny… it looks like leaving Obamacare in place would more than pay for Amtrak, PBS, NEH and NEA…

  4. Are we really surprised by this? This has been a GOP standard trumpeted (pun intended) by Newt, Pat and Ronnie among countless others going back to the establishment of the NEA, Amtrak, etc. (just like they’ve been trying to dismantle Social Security and Medicare since their inception as well). Even though NEA funding is somewhere between symbolic to nil in most orchestra budgets, it does give a level of nominal credability to certain initiatives.

  5. Sure, it’s a big deal to us note-pushers. I often tell people that, to a composer, an entire season filled with the works of the dead is the same feeling that a performing musician gets when he/she is replaced with a pre-recorded orchestra track in a live show. Not an exact parallel, but the end result is lost opportunity and, in the case of composers, a public that increasingly believes that “classical: music is all historical and no one is composing it anymore.

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