Opinion: Debt and dissent

John Aloszka

Image courtesy of NPR
Image courtesy of NPR

The Trump administration reportedly plans to cut funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, which funds programs like NPR and PBS, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds museums and libraries; even UNF professors have benefited from these endowments.

This move, on the surface, looks like an attempt to lower the budget. But this is not true. Cutting these organizations will not drastically improve the deficit, as they receive such minimal funding from the government — .02 percent of the budget to be exact.

But what this cut actually does is silence those who are most likely to criticize President Donald Trump and his administration.

NPR is one of the only major non-corporate owned news organizations. NBC is owned by Comcast and Fox is owned by the Murdoch family, but NPR is funded through grants, donations and endowments. This means NPR is not beholden to corporate profits or special interests in ways other outlets are.

PBS, which offers commercial free news broadcasting, is also free of sponsor and corporate interests, as well as being easily accessible to low income viewers. Cutting PBS reflects a need to cut the dissemination of information, not the budget.

The NEA and NEH have been under siege for decades by conservative lawmakers, but Trump’s potential axing of the endowments has a darker result than just less art. Trump has been aggressively vocal against his dissidents, and cutting their funding will silence artists who may choose to criticize Trump’s government. When the west is under siege by groups who wish to diminish the art and culture they see as inappropriate, the role of the federal government should be to support rights to expression, not squash them.

Controlling the art community has been done time and time again in repressive regimes; China sought to silence Ai WeiWei’s protest art by detaining him for “economic crimes” against the state, the USSR limited artistic movements to social realism in attempts to limit protest and not long ago McCarthy was blacklisting entertainers he deemed communist.

If Trump was truly concerned about the budget he would raise taxes on the wealthy, lower defense spending and forget about building a billion dollar wall. He would know all of this if he listened to NPR.

Thanks to Zachary Mease for making sure my art references were right. And, as always, follow me on twitter, @JohnAloszka. I share a lot of NPR articles.

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