Eliminate the Unnecessary, Inefficient NEA

As America approaches $17 trillion dollars in debt, there has been never been a more urgent need to think of ways to cut spending.  Eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) would be a great place to start.

The federal government spends roughly $146 million a year on the NEA that taxpayers cannot afford.  In its 2011 annual report, the agency bragged that its “funding made possible approximately 88,000 concerts, readings, and performances; 4,000 exhibitions; and 9,000 artist residencies.”

No rational person would categorize NEA funding as a necessary role of government, though.  Funding art projects should be done by individuals and the private sector.  As Heritage has explained, the federal government could easily cut spending by following the simple principle of privatization:

[T]he federal government has assumed myriad activities that are beyond the necessary role of government at any level. These should be restored to the private sector. 

And why is this such a good principle?  It works – far better than the federal government.  Take Kickstarter, a crowdfunging cite founded by Perry Chen.  This cite has funded over $600 million in arts projects.

The Washington Post notes:

Indeed, people have been saying since last year that Kickstarter funds more art-related projects than the NEA. And it’s true! For 2012, the NEA had a total federal appropriation of $146 million, of which 80 percent went toward grants. Kickstarter funded roughly $323.6 million of art-related projects if you include all design and video-related projects, which make up $200 million of the total.

Individuals have always been the backbone of arts funding. The NEA has never tried to compete with individual donors, and that’s the premise of Kickstarter—it’s a platform that allows individual donors to fund projects. In 2011, individuals contributed $13 billion to arts and cultural charities. According to the NEA, individuals make up 75 percent of all private giving, much more than corporations or foundations. Kickstarter, in essence, simplifies the long-held American tradition of individual private donors giving to the arts.

Sure, the private sector may not fund a “report on the important aesthetic and economic impact of outdoor arts festivals,” but Kickstarter’s success is fairly convincing evidence art projects will still get their funding when the NEA no longer exists.  Now is the time for the federal government to gracefully bow out.

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