National Endowment for the Arts

While no one appreciates the value of the arts and humanities more than I do, I believe the National Endowment for the Arts is an extra-constitutional luxury our nation simply cannot afford. At a time when our federal deficit is hovering around $220 billion, we should not be increasing the debt of future generations to fund this particular government agency.

The NEA has played a highly controversial role in recent years, having funded such bigoted and offensive works of "art" as a photo depicting a crucifix submerged in urine; HIV-positive Ron Athey's bloody mutilation of himself on stage; and the exploitation of mutilated corpses. Regrettably, the arrogance of many in the arts community has lead them to believe that they are entitled to federal funds without any accountability to the U.S. Congress or the American taxpayers. This is unacceptable.

Moreover, I do not believe that the NEA is a constitutionally defensible responsibility of the federal government. In fact, during the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Charles Pickney attempted to have the federal government pay for the arts. This measure was, however, soundly defeated by our Founding Fathers who believed wisely that the federal government had more important and pressing duties to perform, such as providing for a national defense.

Recognizing how crucial it is for us to prioritize federal spending and reduce the deficit, Congress pared down funding for the NEA to $99 million in the Fiscal Year 1996 Interior Appropriations bill, a cut of nearly $160 million. Further, there is a commitment from the House leadership to phase out funding for this agency and then eliminate all federal support in 1999.


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