NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Opinion: Federal Arts Funding Lacks Rationale

March 26, 1997

Republicans in Congress reportedly cannot muster enough votes to kill the National Endowment for the Arts, which only two years ago was a top candidate for oblivion. In 1995, Congress agreed to phase out the agency over two years.

Aside from the issue of its grants to what some critics consider distasteful, vulgar projects, opponents of the agency question whether it is the appropriate role of government and federal bureaucrats to determine what is art and what is not.

  • Private donations to the arts exceed $9 billion a year.
  • At least 30 percent of NEA funds go to just six cities, while almost one-third of all Congressional districts get no direct NEA funding.
  • Overhead costs consume 19 percent of the entire NEA budget.
  • The NEA's $99 million budget represents about 6 percent of the federal subsidy to the arts and is less than 1 percent of total private contributions to the arts.

Critics say these factors establish that federal arts funding is unnecessary and -- since grant decisions are made on the basis of politics -- signs of an unhealthy trend.

Source: Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), "Arts Don't Need Handout," USA Today, March 26, 1997.


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