With Republicans back in control of both Congress and the White House, several federal agencies that are routinely targeted for spending cuts appear to be back on the chopping block.
The New York Times last week reported on an internal memo within the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that suggested eliminating several agencies that have long been targets over the years, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), among others. Also cited in the memo was the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which houses the Social Innovation Fund (SIF).
The SIF is in danger as a budget item but it’s also a centerpiece of the evidence agenda that House Speaker Paul Ryan has gotten behind, according to Patrick Lester, director of the Social Innovation Research Center. “We are working to get the GOP to reauthorize, improve, and take ownership of the program,” he said, adding he’s “cautiously optimistic,” but there are no guarantees.
In a Feb. 15 letter to the president, 24 U.S. senators, including two Republicans, wrote in support of the NEA and NEH, both of which were established in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Abolishing the NEA would have disastrous consequences for the arts and for communities across our nation,” Thomas Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said in a statement released on Saturday. “Funding for the arts is quite simply the lifeblood of the culture of our nation. It supports not just artists, it strengthens communities, large and small, across the nation on a daily basis, and it helps to support the cultural and educational achievements for which today’s society will be remembered many years from now,” he said.
Former U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney was confirmed as OMB director on Thursday and last month President Donald Trump appointed Paul Winfree of The Heritage Foundation as director of budget policy and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council for the White House. Winfree is the primary author of the foundation’s “Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017,” upon which much of the proposed cuts are based.
The Heritage report calls for eliminating or reducing a vast assortment of federal agencies and programs. In addition to NEA and NEH, the report advocates cutting the Legal Services Corporation and the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund while privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
The report estimates those cuts would save upward of $1.3 billion and overall, its proposal estimates spending reductions of $10.5 trillion over 10 years and balancing the budget within seven years.
A national survey released by PBS last week indicated that almost three out of four voters, across the political spectrum, oppose eliminating federal funding for public television. The telephone survey of 1,001 registered voters was conducted in January by a bipartisan polling team on behalf of public television.
Republican voters opposed elimination by an almost 2-to-1 margin of 62 percent to 32 percent. Two-thirds of voters who voted for Trump favor increasing or maintaining federal funding for public television and 86 percent of those who voted for Hillary Clinton think the same.