President Trump's proposed budget calls for big cuts in a wide array of domestic programs — among them, agencies that fund the arts, humanities and public media.
Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be cut to zero under the proposal, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely, the first time any president has proposed such a measure.
The spending outline is what White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney calls a "hard-power budget," with spending increases for defense and homeland security at the expense of many other programs in the discretionary part of the budget.
Mulvaney appeared on MSNBC Thursday morning to defend the proposal.
"Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?" he asked. "The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense and we will, but we can't ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."
CPB received $445 million in federal funding in the last fiscal year; the NEA and NEH got about $148 million each — a tiny portion of the roughly $4 trillion federal budget.
In a statement, CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison said, "There is no viable substitute for federal funding that ensures Americans have universal access to public media's education and informational programming and services." She called public media "one of America's best investments," costing "approximately $1.35 per citizen per year."
Most CPB funds go directly to local radio and TV stations. NPR's funding sources include the program fees those stations pay, and the network receives less than 2 percent of its budget directly from CPB.
In a statement, NPR COO Loren Mayor said:
"Millions of Americans depend on their local public radio station for the fact-based, objective, public service journalism they need to stay informed about the world and about the news in their own communities. Public media serves the public interest with essential educational, news and cultural programming not found anywhere else, as well as vital information during local and regional emergencies. Federal funding is an essential ingredient to making this possible."
The federal funds are especially crucial for local stations, as well as local arts groups, which often receive matching funds from other donors based on their federal allocations.
NEH Chairman William D. Adams issued a statement saying his agency is "greatly saddened to learn of this proposal for elimination." NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, "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."
That reference to every congressional district is key for the survival prospects of all three agencies. Congress will have the final say about the fate of Trump's budget, and while some conservatives have long targeted arts and public media for cuts, lawmakers from both parties have supported the agencies in the past.
The NEH says its grants "have reached into every part of the country," noting:
"Residents in Whitesburg, Kentucky are preserving the photographs and films of their local Appalachian region through Appalshop cultural center. Veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan connect with classic texts and the public through Aquila Theatre. Students, teachers and historians have access to the papers of Founding Father George Washington."
According to Americans for the Arts, NEA's annual appropriation supports a $730 billion arts and culture industry, 4.8 million jobs and a $26 billion trade surplus for the nation.