Reduce Funding for the Arts and Humanities

In 2010, combined federal funding for several arts and humanities programs that received federal subsidies was just over $1.8 billion. Recipients of the subsidies included the Smithsonian Institution ($761 million), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($506 million), the National Endowment for the Humanities ($168 million), the National Endowment for the Arts ($168 million), the National Gallery of Art ($167 million), and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ($40 million).

This option would cut support for those programs by 25 percent and hold future appropriations constant at those nominal amounts. Federal outlays would be reduced by about $2 billion between 2012 and 2016 and by $5 billion over the 2012-2021 period.

One argument in favor of this option is that such programs may not provide social benefits that equal or exceed their costs. Another argument is that certain practices--such as charging admission at museums-- could be more widely used to help mitigate the effects of a reduction in federal funding and that funding could be obtained from other sources.

An argument against such a policy change is that a decline in federal support would reduce activities that preserve and advance the nation's culture and that introduce the arts and humanities to people who might not otherwise have access to them. The effect on the arts and humanities nationwide would depend in large part on the extent to which other sources of funding--such as state and local governments, individual or corporate donors, and foundations--boosted their contributions. But alternative sources might not fully offset a drop in federal funding; most state and local governments, for example, are themselves facing tight budgetary constraints. Subsidized projects and organizations in rural or low-income areas might find it especially difficult to garner increased private backing or sponsorship.