Politics & Policy

Curtains for NEA and NEH

MOMA visitors take in Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans, 1962 (Reuters photo: Chip East)
American arts will thrive without them.

Supporters of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities argue that the troglodyte Trump wants to return America to the Stone Age, before Washington, D.C. rescued an uncouth nation from the horrors of square dancing, axe-throwing contests, and windswept silence.

“Without the arts in America, all we have is . . . Trump,” film director Judd Apatow lamented in response to President Donald J. Trump’s plan to delete the NEA’s and NEH’s budgets of $148 million each.

“After all the wars are fought what remains are people, art, nature and culture,” actress Jamie Lee Curtis declared via Twitter. “Trump can try but he cannot cut us out of the picture.”

According to former soap-opera actor and People magazine’s 2014 Sexiest Teacher Alive, Nicholas A. Ferroni, “as far as Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are concerned, artists, musicians, dancers and performers have no value to society.”

“You don’t make a country great by crushing its soul and devastating its heart,” New York City councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said at a pro-NEA/NEH rally at City Hall. “That is what the arts are to us. That is what culture means to us. That is what the humanities mean to us.” He added: “We will restore sanity to this country.”

Amazingly enough, America was not an aesthetic backwater before President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the NEA and NEH into law in September 1965. Indeed, the generation that preceded these agencies witnessed a florescence of innovation, quality, and beauty in elite and popular culture. From Broadway to the big screen to bookstores to black-and-white TV and beyond, consider just a fraction of what Americans appreciated in the “dark days” before the NEA and NEH.

• Between the mid 1930s and 1965 — notwithstanding the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War — the American stage showcased George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

• Filmgoers in those years savored Duck Soup, Snow White, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Fantasia, Citizen Kane, Warner Bros.’ glorious Looney Tunes cartoons, Double Indemnity, Singin’ in the Rain, On the Waterfront, Bridge on the River Kwai, Some Like It Hot, North by Northwest, Lawrence of Arabia, The Manchurian Candidate, Dr. Strangelove, and The Sound of Music. Duck Soup, Citizen Kane, and On the Waterfront are in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

• Readers turned the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

• Museum-goers marveled at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Jasper Johns’s Flag, the early works of Andy Warhol, and the photographs of Margaret Bourke-White and Alfred Eisenstaedt.

• Music lovers feasted on Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, James Brown, and the riches of Motown.

• The small screen delivered The Jack Benny Program, The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Your Show of Shows (which launched the careers of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon), Playhouse 90, The Twilight Zone, and Ed Sullivan’s famous words: “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!”

And much, much more.

In the NEA/NEH era — especially lately — just try to compose an equally impressive list of achievements in art, entertainment, and humane letters.

The Left should stop whining about the NEA and NEH and, instead, do something productive: They should fight for President Trump’s tax-cut plan. If Congress snaps out of its permanent vacation and puts Trump’s tax proposal on his desk for signature, Hollywood and Broadway artists and executives would see their top rate sliced from 39.5 percent to 35 percent. Major media companies such as Time Warner and NBCUniversal would see their corporate taxes MOABed from 35 percent to 20 or, even better, 15 percent. When wealthy show people pass away, their death taxes would have plunged from as much as 40 percent to 0 percent. Trump’s tax system would liberate billions or even trillions of dollars that could be donated to and invested in a new generation of American artistic masterpieces, honorable mentions, and beloved near-misses.

Academy Award-winning motion-picture producer Harvey Weinstein leads the way. When the Hollywood Reporter asked Weinstein whether he would give Trump a chance, the man behind Pulp Fiction, The King’s Speech, Django Unchained, and 330 other titles replied, “The less said, the better. Among the things I’m doing: a private foundation.”

The Left should stop whining about the NEA and NEH, and fight for Trump’s tax-cut plan.

Named after Weinstein’s recently departed mother, the Miriam Foundation will support, Weinstein said, “more women directors” and other goals. A source close to Weinstein told the New York Post: “He feels that it is time for people like himself to privately support causes that the government will not.”

Cutting Harvey Weinstein’s taxes would produce boatloads of art.

Ultimately, one wonders why celebrities and artists scream for the NEA’s and NEH’s salvation. Who do they think will run them for the next four to eight years? Barbra Streisand? Snoop Dogg?

If the NEA and NEH survive, their chiefs will be appointed by none other than Donald J. Trump. These new managers will not share these leftists’ worldview, and just might be people whom they actually hate.

What will these precious artists and sensitive stars say if their beloved agencies suddenly start funding projects that abrade their liberal beliefs?

What if the new NEA director is social-conservative hero, former Republican governor of Arkansas, and rock-‘n’-roll electric-bass player Mike Huckabee?

Imagine the shrieks echoing across Laurel Canyon if the NEH were led by Pennsylvania’s former Republican senator, Rick Santorum. That might send these performers and activists skittering across Sunset Boulevard screeching, “Resist the NEA! Reject the NEH!”

President Trump knows how to make the Left writhe in pain. The liberal glitterati should beware that they don’t get their beloved federal arts funding — good and hard.

– Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.



Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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