Why do Trump and other "conservatives" want to defund opera and other arts?

The Trump Administration hopes to remove all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The total amount of money spent by government on all NEA programs is dwarfed by the amounts taxpayers spend building stadiums for major league sports, so it’s not about protecting the taxpayer from financing citizen luxuries. The government spends money on science, security, space exploration and many things that could be fully private, so it’s not just about “free markets.” The Republicans must have other specific hatreds or cynical purposes for defunding public TV and the arts. I think much of it is the same reason they oppose education in liberal arts or humanities and educational programs like Head Start. They want a citizenry that gets its news from Twitter and educates itself at trade schools, not one inspired by the progressive thinking of academics or fine artists.

The phrasing* “Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding … Like the proverbial court jester who can openly mock the king in his own court …”* reminds us of Pence being lectured at a Broadway play. Could that “humiliation” be part of the motive for this hateful Republican attack against fine arts?

Why should the Federal government fund the arts in the first place? Should not a festival in Oregon be funded by the Oregon State government? Should not a cultural centre in California be funded by the California State government?

If one considers that it makes sense for the government to fund the arts, it makes sense that any level of government can do it, plus there are forms of arts which involve multiple locations (movies for example usually do).

To know the exact reasons you’d have to speak with the specific people, and each will have different reasons. Some that I’ve heard relatively often from different people wanting their own governments to stop “wasting money” funding arts:

  • a lot of the stuff they pay for is frankly shit (mostly heard about sculptures and paintings)
  • it’s just rich people who care about that, let them pay for it (mostly heard about opera, ballet, modern dance)
  • that piece is pornography /obscene / offensive in other ways

At higher intellectual levels, anything that keeps people from thinking in creative ways makes them easier to lead by the nose. If you’re someone who wants to lead people by the nose, you want them to think as little as possible.

The federal government funds a lot of state-specific things. Why apply this standard only to the arts?

Who says the standard only applies it to the arts? I thought America had a system of government where each level of government was strictly limited. ‘Powers reserved’ and all that.

To add to this: cutting funding for the arts Appeals to the low-level part of the electorate who already have disgust for These “liberal Hipster latte-drinking city-dwellers”.

I usually hear the complaints about “why fund the opera that is only watched by the elites who are rich enough by themselves”? My reply is “as Long as we fund both opera and Soccer games*, it’s fair and balanced because citizens can choose their own taste. Funding only Soccer is panem et circenses; funding only opera is snobism (looking down on low-brow Soccer), so we fund both.”

  • The govt., whether federal or local, pays for sports not just by building the expensive Stadiums, that mostly down with sponsorship today (leading to terrible terrible names…) But there’s traffic control, and cops to prevent Hooligan battles, and public TV buying the viewing rights.

Why shouldn’t the federal government be funding NASCAR?


I don’t see any reason for any branch of government to seize people’s money in taxes in order to fund arts.

If people want arts let them create it on their own or pay other people to do it, and leave the people who aren’t interested out of it.

This isn’t something that Pence is doing because he was lectured in Broadway. This is something that was in the very first Gingrich-led Republican majority in 1995.

They made heavy cuts to the NEA back then because for years social conservatives hated the fact that it was funding works like “Piss Christ.”

And just prior to that was the whole Mapplethorpe battle in Cincinnati, with conservatives being outraged at the display of homoerotic photographs.

The right has had it in for fine art for a long time. And if they can stick it to orchestras and operas along with that, they’re happy to do so. They don’t see any legitimate role for federal funding of arts.

It’s because that they don’t want the people exposed to a wide variety of cultural experiences. Once the people have an appreciation of music and art, they may begin to realize that the US doesn’t have a monopoly on those sorts of things. They might even begin to look at how other countries handle things like health care. Better to keep the masses ignorant and shouting “USA! USA!” than to have them start to exercise critical thinking.

Fred Rogers practically single-handedly shamed Congress into saving the CPB on a few occasions. Well, he’s dead now.

Simple. NASCAR can fund itself. But the rubes won’t fund Opera unless we force them to. There is no accounting for taste.

This. Funding the arts is absolutely a state level activity.

150 million dollars a year is a lot of money. That is the total amount of income taxes paid by 16,450 people. You could hire 3,500 elementary school teachers with that money or 2,800 cops. Because the government has a deficit that money is being borrowed. That means interest on the 150 million has to be paid as well.

It is a transfer to the rich. Most consumers of the type of art that is subsidized are well off. They have plenty of money to support this type of thing if they want. Why should 16,000 middle class people give 10-20% of their income so rich people can feel slightly better about themselves?

Government paid for art is government controlled art. There is no way you are going to get politicians to fund art that offends their base. There is no reason to believe that the government is good at picking good art.

There is no need for the NEA. 150 million is a tiny part of the federal budget but an even tinier part of the overall economy. Americans spend hundreds of billions of dollars on moves, tv, music, museums, shows, and other forms of art. Just on the nonprofit arts Americans spend 135 billion dollars a year. the NEA budget is one percent of one percent of that.

I really doubt that art creates pathways for subversion but even if it did would government funded art? Why would a government pay for art that subverts that government? It would not. Artists hoping for grants have to produce the type of art that government funds. A truly subversive artist would never get funded and might even be co opted by the government money.

That would just about fund Trump’s weekly trips to his golf courses.

Are you bothered by the proposed tax cuts for the rich? The failed health plan that would have favored the rich and screwed the middle class, the poor and the elderly?

Three or four years ago, I posted a Pit thread in which I inveighed mightily against the idea of federal funding of opera, and more specifically the idea that opera fans would perforce favor such funding. The incident that sparked my ire was an evening at the opera, oddly enough. I have season tickets to the Washington National Opera, and that night they were doing an opera I had never seen before (the finding of which is a rarity!)

During intermission someone inline at the bar exhorted all of us to call our Congress folk and demand no cuts to the opera, and I spoke up saying I wouldn’t, that I didn’t agree with federal funding, even though I love opera. Shockingly, the reception there and here was mixed.

But I don’t support federal funding for the fine arts. Still.

Why are opera singers deserving of having their livelihood government subsidized but Appalachian miners not? Perhaps the opera singers need to move or seek retraining.

Do we have a good summary of how NEA money is spent? A general grant to the WNO doesn’t make much sense, IMO. Bricker and I can afford tickets with or without it. But something like funds to give schoolchildren access to the opera might make sense.

I didn’t find the wikipedia article illuminating: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Endowment_for_the_Arts#Grantmaking

The BBQ mentioned above is here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=706458

There were some “national treasure” arguments that might hold water in some situations.

What about funds to give schoolchildren NASCAR tickets?

I see that as more reasonable than just giving NASCAR money. Although a difference is that it is providing access to a for-profit enterprise vs one that is not.