Why the Arts Industry Doesn’t Need Government Funding

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a U.S. government agency that provides funding for art projects. In 2001, it had a budget of $104 million. In 2012 it was $146 million. So while the U.S. debt went from $5 trillion to $16 trillion, we increased funding for the arts by $42 million.

What does the NEA do, exactly? In May 2011, for example, it gave $20,000 to a company called Amphibian Stage Productions for their Jumbies Fort Worth program.

[Amphibian Stage Productions’] mission is to produce outstanding theatrical works in Fort Worth and New York City that implement innovative artistic concepts while exploring relevant societal issues.

Since 2008, Jumbies Fort Worth! has visited thousands of children in under-served schools, offering workshops, performances, and lectures. In 2010, the focus has shifted to train children from area schools in the art of traditional West African drumming and stilt dancing in order to create local troupes that can perform year-round.

You may think this is  a worthy cause but the real question is, why is the government involved in promoting art at all? Our debt has reached $16 trillion. Congress continues to increase the debt ceiling, and we are increasing funding for something that the government has no business being involved in.

“But these art programs help kids and do a lot of good,” you may think to yourself. Even if we ignore the fact that the Constitution does not give the Federal Government the authority to fund the arts, the truth is the arts industry does not need the government’s help. Here’s some information from NEA’s own website:

…in 2004 about 44 percent of the income generated by American arts organizations came from sales or the box office. The rest was donated—overwhelmingly from the private sector. Only about 13 percent of arts support in the U.S. came from the government, and only about 9 percent from the federal government, of which less than 1 percent came from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Let’s get this straight. We are giving $146 million tax dollars a year to an agency that “helps” an industry by providing them with less than 1% of their revenue? And 87% of the income received by art organizations came from sales or voluntary donations? And 91% of their income does not come from the federal government? So, if we were to eliminate this agency, the arts industry would lose a whopping 1% of its income. The budget deficit, on the other hand, could be reduced by $146 million.

“The amount of federal government support is minuscule by European standards, and yet the American system works,” says the NEA on their site in what appears to be an attempt to justify their existence and point out the success of this “mixed market” system, as they call it. They’re helping me make my point, aren’t they? The American system works even though, by their own admission, the support they get from the federal government is minuscule.

So taking into consideration that we have a huge debt problem, shouldn’t closing down the NEA be one of those no-brainer decisions when trying to figure out where to cut to get our deficit down? The NEA is not having a significant impact on the industry, based on the numbers. The only ones the NEA is having a significant impact on are those who work for the agency. I found these two open positions on their website.

Supervisory Program Analyst
Office of Research & Analysis
Salary Range: $105,211 – $136,771

Indemnity Administrator
Visual Arts Division
Salary Range: $89,033 – $115,742

This is just one example of how our money is being wasted and what it is being spent on. How many others exist? Think about this the next time someone tries to convince you that our fiscal problems are the result of the rich not giving the government enough money.

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  • prwins

    NEA.. sound a lot like DEA with 87% funded by drug running operations and the rest directly from the IRS petty cash box.

  • youreanass

    wow buddy, you obviously don’t care about the arts, or the united states establishing any kind of artistic identity. granted, it’s 154 million a year, but look at the military budget per year, maybe cutting their funding would save us billions per year, versus your moronic idea that cutting 154 million dollars a year. do you really think that would make any dent in the 15 trillion dollar deficit? are you that stupid? please say yes, because apparently, YOU ARE! maybe that’s why europeans think americans are fat lazy idiots? because we care more about football, than the future van gogh.

    • As I pointed out in the article, the Arts industry gets 99% of its income from other sources. So you ask “do you really think 154 million a year would make a dent in the 15 trillion dollar deficit?” Now I ask you, do you think the Arts industry would be significantly affected if they lose 1% of its income? Why do you insist on spending $154 million on something that clearly does not need it?