As of February 14, 2011, another abysmal Hollywood comic-based movie, The Green Hornet, became a “big box office hit” in the US, so far bringing in $175 million in ticket sales. Also on Feb. 14, President Obama announced his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012, which will once again slash the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, this time reducing the NEA’s already meager funding of $167.5 million to a laughable $146 million. “A Great Nation Deserves Great Art”? Apparently not.
Obama has not just taken the axe to the NEA, he has proposed drastic reductions for almost all cultural funding. His appropriations to the National Endowment for the Humanities have been cut from $167.5 to $146 million, and funds for the National Gallery of Art have been reduced from $167 million to $138 million. Here it must be remembered that under the Republican presidency of George H.W. Bush, the NEA’s budget was $176 million.
On May 13, 2009, President Obama appointed Broadway theatrical producer and businessman Rocco Landesman as the head of the National Endowment for the Arts. In late Jan. 2011, Landesman addressed a national conference held in Washington, D.C. on the future of American theater. Appearing to prepare the way for Obama slashing the national arts budget, Landesman told more than 100 theater directors, writers, and artistic managers, that “We’re overbuilt, there are too many theaters.” It is outrageous that the chairman of the NEA, who should be advocating and working towards the expansion of arts programs in the U.S., is instead in favor of their curtailment.
Landesman has been considering meting out larger NEA grants to a much smaller number of institutions, in effect, defunding numerous arts groups, and under Obama’s arts funding reductions that will become a reality. On Feb. 15, the L.A. Times reported that Obama’s budget severely impedes the ability of the NEA, the NEH, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to make grants, since it “calls for preserving staff salaries and taking all the cuts out of line items for ‘promotion of the arts’ (NEA), ‘promotion of the humanities’ (NEH) and ‘assistance to museums/assistance to libraries’ (IMLS). The proposed line items represent a 24.6% loss for the NEA, 17.8% for the NEH, 33% for IMLS museum grants and 13% for its library grants.”
To put Obama’s pathetic budgetary appropriations to the NEA in context, on November 19, 2010, he deployed a company of sixteen M1A1 Abrams Battle Tanks to Afghanistan. Since that deployment four months ago, running those sixteen tanks 8 hours a day has cost the U.S. taxpayer approximately $230,400,000.