What does the NEA's $148-million budget buy? 7,789,473 taco bowls but not even one mile of the 405 Freeway
President Trump has issued his federal budget, and it contains not a penny for the National Endowment for the Arts, the federal arts funding agency that has been the perennial whipping child of the right.
Culture critics, such as The Times’ Christopher Knight, immediately noted that the NEA’s annual budget — which was nearly $148 million in fiscal year 2016 — is minuscule compared to other federal expenditures. Defense, for example, is more than 3,600 times that — almost $583 billion a year. (Perhaps it’s time to ask the Pentagon to economize on toilet paper?)
All of this means that doing away with the NEA isn’t going to save much money, but it will hurt a lot of arts organizations — many of which cater to constituencies that include schoolchildren and military veterans.
Which raises the question: What exactly can one do with $148 million — besides fund thousands of arts programs in communities large and small across the nation? When it comes to big, infrastructure-y photo-op stuff — like expanding a freeway or building a border wall — not all that much. It won’t even get you an entire Picasso at auction.