Funding for public broadcasting, the arts, humanities, museums, and even Meals on Wheels would be eliminated under President Donald Trump’s budget proposal released Thursday.
“Consistent with the president’s approach to move the nation toward fiscal responsibility, the budget eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs and focuses funding to redefine the proper role of the federal government,” the proposal reads.
Funding for 19 independent agencies—including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities—would be eliminated completely.
If Congress were to support the plan, roughly $450 million in annual government funding would be withdrawn from the CPB, which partially funds NPR and PBS, the original home of Sesame Street and PBS Newshour. (In 2015, Sesame Workshop signed a partnership with HBO to produce five seasons of Sesame Street, but the episodes still air nine months later for free on PBS.) The CPB also supports almost 1,500 local public television and radio stations across the US.
CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison said in a statement Wednesday that her organization believes the proposal would spell “the collapse of the public media system itself and the end of this essential national service.”
“The elimination of federal funding to CPB would initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education, public safety, connecting citizens to our history, and promoting civil discussions – all for Americans in both rural and urban communities,” she said.
Paula Kerger, the head of PBS, said her station enjoyed strong support among Republican and Democratic voters.
“The cost of public broadcasting is small, only $1.35 per citizen per year, and the benefits are tangible: increasing school readiness for kids 2-8, support for teachers and homeschoolers, lifelong learning, public safety communications, and civil discourse,” she said in a statement.
On Wednesday, prior to the budget blueprint being unveiled, NPR announced its ratings were at an all-time high, with Nielsen Audio ratings showing a total of 37.5 million weekly listeners tuned in during the fall of 2016.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat of Oregon and founder of the Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus, said the proposed cuts would "decimate" the access to public broadcasting for people in rural and small communities.
“Eliminating this cost-effective investment is not smart economically nor is it good policy, and there will be a serious negative impact for millions of families," he said in a statement.
Through his budget proposal, Trump has also become the first president to call for ending the NEA and the NEH, according to the New York Times.
The two bodies were established under legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson to promote an “advanced civilization.”
“Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens,” read the original 1965 Act. “It must therefore foster and support a form of education, and access to the arts and the humanities, designed to make people of all backgrounds and wherever located masters of their technology and not its unthinking servants.”
NEA Chairman Jane Chu said Trump’s budget request is “a first step in a very long budget process,” and vowed to continue to advocate for the arts.
“We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation,” she said in a statement.
During the 2016 financial year, the NEA recommended awarding 2,400 grants across almost 16,000 US communities. The group’s entire operating budget of $147.9 million represents just 0.004% of the total federal budget, according to the NEA.
NEH chairman William D. Adams also said he was “greatly saddened” by Trump’s budget proposal.
Since 1965, the NEH, which provides funding to authors and scholars, has handed out more than $5.3 billion in over 63,000 grants to fund films, museum exhibits, and books.
The director and president of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas P. Campbell and Daniel H. Weiss, said the proposal to eliminate the funding of the NEA, the NEH, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services was "shortsighted and does a terrible disservice to the American people."
"For more than 50 years, these programs have provided, at modest cost, essential support to arts organizations throughout the country—many times sustaining the arts in areas where people do not have access to major institutions like the Metropolitan Museum," the pair said.
The arts and humanities were not the only areas threatened with funding cuts or withdrawals under the budget blueprint.
The Community Development Block Grant, part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would also be eliminated under the budget proposal.
Among other things, the $3 billion program partly funds Meals on Wheels, which brings food to the elderly and handicapped.
Meals on Wheels President and CEO Ellie Hollander said "cuts of any kind to these highly successful and leveraged programs would be a devastating blow to our ability to provide much-needed care for millions of vulnerable seniors in America, which in turn saves billions of dollars in reduced healthcare expenses."
The Trump proposal said the Community Development Block Grant is “not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results.”
Also threatened is the Legal Services Corporation, which provides civil legal aid for low-income Americans, including the working poor, the elderly, and veterans.
Linda Klein, president of the American Bar Association, said she was "outraged" at the proposal.
"Without this assistance, court house doors will slam in the faces of millions of Americans, denying them equal access to justice," she said.
Here's the full list of independent agencies identified for funding elimination in the budget proposal:
- The African Development Foundation
- The Appalachian Regional Commission
- The Chemical Safety Board
- The Corporation for National and Community Service
- The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
- The Delta Regional Authority
- The Denali Commission
- The Institute of Museum and Library Services
- The Inter-American Foundation
- The US Trade and Development Agency
- The Legal Services Corporation
- The National Endowment for the Arts
- The National Endowment for the Humanities
- The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation
- The Northern Border Regional Commission
- The Overseas Private Investment Corporation
- The United States Institute of Peace
- The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
- The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
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