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Doomsday Scenario: President Trump’s Bludgeoned Budgets for NEA, NEH, IMLS (with video)

William “Bro” Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and an Obama appointee, clearly knew what was coming when he precipitously resigned his position yesterday, effective today. Short notice, Bro!

William Adams
Photo by Fred Field, courtesy of Colby College

As reported by The Hill, the NEH, National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting are among 66 programs that would be eliminated under President’s Trump‘s FY 2018 budget, released today and outlined here (without listing the all the targeted programs). The Smithsonian Institution remains unscathed.

The surprisingly arts-friendly provisions in the bipartisan budget agreement for the remainder of FY 2017 (which was reached earlier this month to avert a government shutdown) didn’t deter the President from sticking to his agency-killing guns for FY 2018.

The NEA’s Jane Chu has not followed her NEH counterpart’s lead by resigning. She “continues to be NEA chairman, leading the agency as it fulfills its mission,” according to a statement released today by that agency. Long may she “fulfill”!

Jane Chu, center, with Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture, and Peter Reed, senior deputy director, Museum of Modern Art
Photo from Jane Chu’s Twitter feed

All eyes (and powers of persuasion) now turn to Congress, as reflected in the “heartened” statement released today by the Association of Art Museum Directors:

In solidarity with a broad range of our colleagues throughout the cultural community, the Association of Art Museum Directors strongly opposes the proposed federal budget, which would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), with funds only sufficient for their closure.

We have been heartened by widespread, bipartisan support in Congress [emphasis added] for the NEA, NEH, and IMLS, and the statements of senior appropriators and others who have publicly advocated for these agencies. We urge these elected representatives to continue their stand for the NEA, NEH, and IMLS, which provide vital services for people across the nation.

In response to the President’s budget, the embattled NEA issued the following statement:

The NEA is fully funded in FY 2017 and continues to make FY 2017 grant awards and honor all obligated grant funds made to date. The President’s FY 2018 budget proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, with a request for $29 million intended to be used for the orderly shutdown of the agency.

This budget request is a first step in a very long budget process. We continue to accept grant applications for FY 2018 at our usual deadlines and will continue to operate as usual until a new budget is enacted by Congress. [Emphasis added]

But although the statement asserts that NEA will “accept grant applications for FY 2018,” the agency’s Appropriations Request for Fiscal Year 2018, submitted to Congress in conformance with the President’s budget request, makes this downbeat pronouncement in its “Assumptions and Estimated Costs for Agency Shutdown” (p. 3):

NEA will fulfill its Federal responsibilities for grants and cooperative agreements awarded prior to FY 2018….No new grants or cooperative agreements will be made beginning in FY 2018. [Emphasis added]

In other words, NEA’s constituents can go through the motions of applying for FY18 grants, without any assurance that those grant programs will actually exist. With so many crucial social welfare programs in jeopardy, it remains to be seen whether legislators will go to the mat for the arts and humanities.

NEA has requested $29.02 million to effectuate its “orderly shutdown.” In its FY 2018 Appropriations Request, NEH has asked for $43.3 million for the same purpose.

Here’s NEH’s press release on Trump’s proposed budget. It ends with an indirect plea for its life:

NEH grants have reached every part of the country and provided humanities programs and experiences to benefit all of our citizens. Hundreds of veterans leaving the military service and beginning to pursue an education have benefited from the Warrior-Scholar program, a boot camp for success in the college classroom. Students, teachers, and historians have access to the papers of President George Washington. NEH On the Road circulates traveling versions of major exhibitions to rural towns and small cities all over the map from Greenville, South Carolina, to Red Cloud, Nebraska, and beyond.

Through these projects and thousands of others, the National Endowment for the Humanities has inspired and preserved what is best in American culture.

NEA gives a very detailed rundown of its FY16 and FY17 accomplishments at the end of its above-linked Appropriations Request.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s statement from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, regarding its budgetary bludgeoning:

Local public media stations, beginning with those serving rural communities and small towns, would cease to exist. Ultimately what would also cease to exist is high-quality commercial-free early childhood content focused on educating our youngest citizens, and access to lifelong learning for all.

IMLS issued this press release about its “wind-down” budget for FY18. Its FAQs page spells out the reason why all of these endangered federal agencies have to be careful about what they say:

IMLS is an Executive Branch Agency that operates in accordance with the Administration’s proposed budget, as well as Federal laws that limit lobbying and advocacy efforts.

They have to be circumspect. But you don’t. Here’s what Laura Lott, president of the American Alliance for Museums, had to say about advocacy in today’s press release:

We will continue to work with our bipartisan allies in Congress to reject these destructive proposals, and I encourage everyone who believes in a thriving cultural sector to join our efforts today.

Having followed these vibrant, vital agencies from the beginning, I can’t believe I’m writing about their possible imminent demise, now memorialized in a (still mutable) government document.

Let the lobbying begin!

For now, here’s a distraught-looking “Bro” Adams, in his valedictory video:

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