Type to search


A case against the National Endowment for the Arts

Levine is a sophomore politics major and can be contacted at benjamin.levine@drake.edu

The National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson and is hailed by liberals for promoting necessary art in America. When conservatives propose cutting it from the national budget, all hell breaks loose from the Left.

But the NEA should be one of the easiest things to cut.  I don’t even need to do any research on the agency to know that it needs to be sliced from the federal budget. There is absolutely no reason the government should be involved in the arts.

Still, I looked closer at the NEA, and what I found absolutely reiterated my assertion: cut it all. There are very legitimate reasons why.

First, the NEA promotes art that supports the state. In a controversial conference call from 2009 between the NEA and White House officials, independent artists and the Corporation for National and Community Service, there was a clear agenda for the arts: support President Barack Obama.

Russell Simmons’ political director Michael Skolnik was quoted during the conference call, claiming that the “White House and folks in the NEA” asked him to “bring together the independent artists community around the country” for that meeting.

Why? Because of “the role (they) played during the campaign for the president and also during his first 200 some days” in office. Obama certainly is not the only president to do this, but he is the most recent. The NEA should not be involved in politics, but it inevitably is.

Promotion of politically correct art is quite obviously a problem that needs to be stopped, but as long as the NEA is around, this trend will continue. John Breslauer, a theater critic, wrote in the Washington Post that the NEA’s strict policies pressure artists “to produce work that satisfies a politically correct agenda rather than their best creative instincts.”

A second reason for cutting the NEA is that it completely wastes resources (classic government). Sure, cutting the NEA from the federal budget won’t make a huge difference. With deficits in the trillions, cutting the proposed 2012 NEA budget of just over $146 million dollars is not going to close the gap alone. But this is the exact mindset that has taken us toward financial disaster. As former Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen (R) once said, “A billion here, a billion there, and — pretty soon — you’re talking about real money.” This rings true today more than ever.

An example of wasted resources can be found in the poem “lighght.”  No, I’m sorry to inform you, that is not a typo. That is not even the title of the poem; it is the poem. That’s the entire thing. Thanks to the NEA, American taxpayers paid $1,500 for it. Certainly this is not the most moving reason for abolishing the NEA, but it’s entertaining.

It should not be surprising that this happened. Government is known for promoting subpar products. As American writer Richard Moore put it: “Only mediocrity can destroy art. And in every bureaucracy, mediocrity luxuriates…it isn’t just that the money we give to artists is being wasted. It’s doing positive harm.”

He hit the nail on the head.

These are simply a few good reasons to cut the NEA, but they assuredly are not the only ones. We do not need any more reasons, though. It is quite obvious from the start that the NEA should not exist; in a free society, the government should not guide the agenda in the arts. Not only is that a problem, but it wastes money. We need to cut the NEA, and not by a small percentage, but entirely.


You Might also Like


  1. D November 14, 2011

    Are you for keeping anything? You want to nix the National Endowment for the Arts (which should not be confused with the National Education Association when you use “NEA”). You want to nix federal student aid. You want to nix tax increases for the top 1%. What else would you want to get rid of? You might as well get it all out in one column instead of continuously writing about what you want to get rid of. And then maybe you get write a column(s) about some positive thoughts you have.

    1. Benjamin Levine November 14, 2011

      I want to get rid of a lot. I’m glad you’ve taken notice!

      I personally think these thoughts are extremely positive! Limiting government is the goal here, not to contribute to statism. You’re acting on the assumption that what I have proposed is not a solution; however, it is precisely the solution. Get rid of government programs we don’t need. That’s the solution.

  2. D November 15, 2011

    Here’s a compromise: Let’s tax the people that can afford to be taxed a little more and we can cut The National Endowment for the Arts. Conservatives win a little and so do liberals….what a concept.

    What I’m saying is you should just do one column of everything you want to get rid of. Because reading column after column of it is nothing but annoying. I actually didn’t say anything about not having a solution in this column; you’re mistaking that from a comment on your previous column. There is nothing positive about someone who wants to get rid of anything that liberals back without willing to give up anything themselves (this also applies to liberals that aren’t willing to give up anything).

    I also suppose that you think it’s okay for Justices Scalia and Thomas to be wining and dining with health care law opponents while the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on the case in March?

  3. Benjamin Levine November 15, 2011

    Compromise: An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.

    I will not make concessions on moral issues and I believe strongly that taxation is a moral issue. It is essentially taking private property from one individual and giving it to another or spending it in a manner that the individual had no control over. But I also don’t think higher taxes are necessary or sound policy. America has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. I mean, you wouldn’t tell a junkie to get more heroin if he was running low. You’d tell him to cut back on the heroin. Similarly, we shouldn’t tell our government to take in more money when they are running low; we should tell our government to cut back on spending.

    What you say is true, I could write just one article on everything I want to cut in government but I am afraid that I wouldn’t have enough space to justify all of them. So, if you find it “annoying” then please do not read my articles. And I think it is unfair of you to demand that I just list everything I want to cut because I would not have sufficient space to give my arguments. What I try to do when I write these articles is force students to quesiton why government does so much that, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be doing. If you disagree with me, write an article yourself explaining why we should keep certain things but do not complain simply because I write too many opinion pieces.

    “A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic.” Bringing up the health care Supreme Court case is so ridiculous! It has absolutely nothing to do with what I am talking about in this article. What is even more ridiculous is to assume I would think it is okay that Scalia and Thomas are “whining* and dining” health care opponents. How would you draw that conclusion from anything that I’ve written so far? I actually agree with you on this point.

Skip to content