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Liberal Democrats are once again up in arms over rumors that the “dramatic” budget cuts that President Trump is promising will include cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB, which includes PBS television and NPR radio). Let the lamentations commence!
Remember, however, that in September 2013, Obama and the Democrats were in yet another showdown with Republicans over the debt ceiling. Speaking to CNN’s Candy Crowley, who had pointed out that Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Bush all gave up something when negotiating the debt ceiling (Obama was refusing to negotiate with Republicans), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Botoxia) claimed “the cupboard is bare! There’s no more cuts to make!”
One cannot overstate the absurdity of claiming, regarding a $3.8 trillion federal budget, that “there’s no more cuts to make”. Four years previously, with the passage of the so-called “stimulus” bill (an $830 billion slush fund for liberal/Democrat priorities), the baseline federal budget had drastically increased, ostensibly to avert the financial crisis, but never returned to normal.
Any effort by Republicans to make even tiny cuts in spending was greeted with hair-pulling, hand-wringing, Chicken Little “the sky is falling!” outrage. So spending continued to rise as it always had, with no end in sight.
In 2012 during a presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney was asked about spending cuts. He replied “Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs if they don’t pass this test: Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it…I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I love Big Bird…But I’m not going to borrow money from China to pay for it.” Obama and the Leftmedia jumped all over Romney, mocking him for getting tough on Big Bird.
Despite the mockery, it raised a very serious issue; the need to debate what spending falls under the appropriate purview of the federal government.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution outlines the “enumerated powers” of the federal government, a strict list of the only powers delegated to the national government. In a 1792, the “Father of the Constitution”, James Madison, made clear the intent of the Founders regarding the General Welfare clause, long been used by progressives to justify an endless expansion of government power and spending.
Madison wrote, “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”
Does that not perfectly describe America today?
Each year, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent to fund the NEA, NEH, and CPB, all of which conservatives oppose for their long history of funding “art” that is crude, profane, and anti-religious. For example, the NEA funding has paid for a films focusing on the sexual experiences of pre-pubescent girls, and anonymous sexual encounters between men in bathrooms. It has funded “art” comprised of an American flag in a toilet, and another placed on the museum floor to be walked upon. It has funded the self-portrait on an “artist” with a bullwhip inserted in his… (yep, you guessed it), as well as “Piss Christ”, a crucifix submerged in a jar of the “artist’s” urine.
But debate over what is art and what is not, and what is offensive and what is not, misses the point.
The point is that government has no business funding “art” even if we agreed with the content, because “art” does not fall within the enumerated powers. Let artists compete for funding in the free marketplace of ideas. If their art is worthwhile, someone will pay for it. If not, then maybe it’s time for a new vocation.
To be clear, these “artists” are free to create such “art”, even if one finds it crude, profane, and offensive. But just like your First Amendment right to free speech does not mean We the People owe you newspaper space or airtime on television, neither do we owe the artist a platform.
The political Left lost their minds over the idea that Big Bird would lose public funding, yet just a few years later Sesame Workshop (the creator of Sesame Street) teamed up with HBO, and now produces twice as many shows, free to children everywhere on PBS just a few months after release. It seems Romney was right after all.
The bottom line is this: it is not the responsibility of the state to fund “art” or subsidize television; certainly not in a digital age where everyone with a smartphone (which is just about everyone) has access to literally hundreds of programming options.
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