Former presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, has a bad habit of taking big-government positions that are antithetical to conservatism. The latest example is his support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
“To some, it may seem as though the $147.9 million allocated to the NEA in fiscal 2016 is money to be saved,” Huckabee wrote in a Washington Post column. “But to someone such as me — for whom an early interest in music and the arts became a lifeline to an education and academic success — this money is not expendable, extracurricular or extraneous. It is essential.”
Here are five reasons why Huckabee’s desire to continue funding the NEA is idiotic:
1. It’s a program that subsidizes corporate welfare. Huckabee writes in his piece that 40 percent of NEA grants “go to high-poverty neighborhoods, while 36 percent reach underserved people such as veterans and those with disabilities.” However, over 20 percent of NEA’s grants go to “multimillion-dollar arts organizations,” according to a 1997 Heritage Foundation report. John Ellis, who was once involved in the arts himself, writes in PJ Media that he has witnessed art organizations receive “taxpayers dollars, and with a kindergartener level of pettiness disbursed that stolen taxed money amongst their friends.”
Clearly, a decent amount of the NEA’s funds are a form of corporate welfare and should easily be on the chopping block.
2. Huckabee’s argument is predicated on the broken window fallacy. “The arts are a $730 billion industry, representing 4.2 percent of our gross domestic product — more than transportation, tourism and agriculture,” Huckabee writes. “The nonprofit side of the arts alone generates $135 billion in economic activity, supporting 4.1 million jobs.”
Huckabee is essentially implying that federal funding is needed to prop up an important industry, but this is a perfect example of the broken window fallacy – the notion that breaking a window is beneficial to the economy just because someone is getting paid to fix it. According to the broken window fallacy, the money spent fixing the window could have been spent on a luxury good to improve the consumer’s life; the consumer is no better off than he was before the window was broken.
The same holds true for the economy: federal tax dollars that go toward various arts organizations could have been better allocated by the market. Ellis delves into this further:
The economic stimulus felt and supposedly generated by the arts community comes at the expense of other markets. Chances are, the tax dollars given to arts organizations would have been more effectively used elsewhere to benefit local economies. All that money pumped into the local economy by arts organizations would have been pumped into the economy anyway. The taxpayers would have decided which markets to support. And those markets would’ve naturally grown, strengthened, and added jobs and wealth to the economy. The National Endowment for the Arts model artificially props up mostly unwanted markets by using tax dollars that get funneled through inefficient and wasteful bureaucracies.
Therefore, Huckabee’s economic argument for the NEA is not compelling.
3. The arts community receives far more money from private funders than from the federal government. Huckabee states in his column that $147.9 million went to the NEA in fiscal year 2016. What he doesn’t mention is that in 2015, the arts community received $17 billion. By comparison, the NEA’s funding to the arts is a drop in the bucket. America’s music and arts industry was thriving even before the NEA was created and will continue to do so should it get de-funded.
- $10,000 to produce a musical called Zombie In Love.
- $10,000 to produce a show about a girl hallucinating that she is Elvis Presley and hanging out with Teddy Roosevelt.
- $95,000 for a William Shakespeare production that didn’t feature any words.
- $20,000 for a “Piss Christ” photo.
- $20,000 on art promoting climate change propaganda.
- $10,000 on a play called Cocked about a lesbian couple promoting gun control.
- $50,000 on a play called Trans Scripts, which, as the name implies, is about males who decided to identify as females.
5. If the NEA can’t be eliminated, there is no hope of reigning in the federal debt. Huckabee notes in his op-ed that the NEA only consists of “0.004 percent of the federal budget.” It may be a miniscule part of the budget, but the NEA is low-hanging fruit; every cut counts. If the government is incapable of cutting 0.004 percent of the federal budget, then it would be impossible to tackle the nearly $20 trillion fiscal operating debt.