How to Save $167.5 Million Dollars

I want to save money. So does the US government. With the US economy barely on its feet after the recession (see Dow Jones Industrial Stock Average, here) and the unemployment rate still close to double digits (see unemployment rate, here), the government is looking for ways to cut the budget, to reduce the national deficit. One of the agencies on the hot seat is the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). The NEA (see website, here) is an organization that essentially preserves, restores, supports, and funds art project. The NEA is “dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established, bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education” (Website). While it is an independent agency, the NEA still receives money from the government. In fact, the cost of the program is $167.5 million dollars. While that may seem like a lot, the NEA is only 0.012% of the overall budget and costs lest than 25 cents per American (Gee).

Still, I thought that this type of program was exactly what the government needed to cut, as the NEA was something that does not directly benefit Americans. I am not an artist or for that matter very artistic. However, after more research, I found that the NEA helps fund museums (including the Smithsonian), gives art educations to the needy, preserves famous American art pieces, and provides grants (they are the largest grant maker for arts in the US) to different artistic projects. This list includes many places that I and many others take for granted. However, some politicians have been steadfast in their belief of closing the NEA. There have been different attempts to abolish the NEA, starting from 1981, 1989, 1990, 1995-1997, and 2009 (“National Endowment for the Arts”). However, the NEA still exists.

For me, art has always been important, but not as necessary as other areas, such as education and city purposes. Despite me not being very into art, and initially wanting to eliminate the NEA, when I saw that it only was 0.012% of the overall budget, I began to change my opinion. I personally believe that considering the significance of art in society today, not just paintings and sculptures, but visual arts as well, the NEA is an incredibly small price to pay to support up and coming artists and also preserve historically significant pieces of art. While we may be progressing into a more technology-based society, we must not forget our past and the art that helped express so many ideas and thoughts for both social and religious purposes. For example, David (image, here), the famous masterpiece sculpture by Michelangelo, shows a visual representation of the David and Goliath story from the Bible (Khan).

Despite this though, art is no longer primarily used to show wealth and power. According to John McKay, Lorenzo de’ Medici, a Florentine oligarch, and his family spent 663,755 gold florins (their currency) for art over a period of 35 years. De’ Medici stated that he thought “it casts a brilliant light on our estate [public reputation] and it seems to me that the monies were well spent and I am very pleased with this” (McKay 421). While it would seem that that would be extremely excessive, it goes to show the importance and cultural significance of art. But still, despite being in a post-recession era, $167.5 million dollars seems like a lot of money. However, even I recognize that 0.012% in the grand scheme of things is just enough.

All this for art?

Works Cited:

Gee, Bill. “How Is Art an Example of Government Waste?.” Nolan Chart. N.p., 31 January 2011. Web. 1 Mar 2012. <;.

Khan, Salman. ed. “Patronage: A Case Study (David).” SmartHistory. Khan Academy, n.d. Web. 1 Mar 2012.

McKay, John, Bennett Hill, et al. A History of Wester3n Society. B. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008. Print.

“National Endowment for the Arts.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 6 January 2012. Web. 1 Mar 2012.

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  1. john726

    Good work on this post. I agree wholeheartedly with your idea that such a “small” price for so much culture is worth it, even with budget cuts necessary for a decreased deficit. Though it may be a little off-topic, this is one of the big arguments for bringing back space exploration; it brings much national prestige, not to mention scientific knowledge, and its costs are not extravagant (0.5-1% of the budget).
    Thanks again for your post.

    • vijaye

      Hi John,

      I’m glad you agree. Thanks for reading. It would be interesting to explore space exploration now that the budget for the wars overseas is starting to decrease.


  2. matthewthemadscientist

    Awesome post.
    Art really is important. If the budget is important, maybe we should spend less on on stuff that blows up and stop playing Team America World police.

    @john: space exploration is important from a scientific perspective more than anything else. Also, for long term human survival, space colonization is a necessity. Stupid Congressional tradition of cutting NASA’s budget every time they ask for money.

    • vijaye

      Hi Matthew,

      Like I said with John, I believe this frees up more of the budget, such as art and space exploration. Thanks for reading.


  3. austin0907

    Great job!! The changes you have made to the draft I read yesterday has turned this into a really strong and effective post! I liked the way you presented your original thoughts to introduce the research you conducted. You say that the amount being spent on art is just enough, but what about all the budget cuts on the arts programs in public schools?

    • vijaye

      Hi Austin,

      Thank you for your reply. I tried to incorporate all your feedback. I think that the money for arts programs in school, comes under the education budget. I think that art programs may be cut in favor of sports programs, for example, in public schools. I think that the NEA is more for public art, rather than for school art. Then again, if we were to cut the NEA, we could have more money to fund school art…

      Thanks again for your reply,


  4. zach2342

    Hi Vijay, I really enjoyed your post. You made a lot of strong points and you also backed them up with information and facts I think that’s what made this an effective post. Also, I agree with Austin about all of the budget cuts the government has made towards art programs. Luckily, at OES there is a pretty good emphasis on art but imagine if we weren’t that lucky and had no art around us during school. Overall, I really enjoyed your post great job.

    • vijaye

      Hi Zach,

      Thanks for reading my post. I agree with you in the sense that we are very lucky to have a strong art program. For those serious in art, it provides them with the right foundation to pursue their goals. For those who are not, it provides them with the opportunity to experience an important subject. If there was no art in schools, our knowledge of the world would be limited.

      Thanks for replying,


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