Trump administration plans to privatize public broadcasting and deep-six the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities

From The Hill we hear of the Trump administration’s plan for slashing government spending (my emphasis):

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.The changes they propose are dramatic.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts [NEA} and National Endowment for the Humanities [NEH] would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

This is all hard to bear, but I’m especially distressed to hear of the elimination of the NEA and NEH. What will replace government funding: corporations who slap their name all over the arts, and discourage inventiveness? Have a look at the NEA’s 2015 annual report, or the NEH impact report, to see the good things these organizations do. As for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, privatizing it will simply fill a once-engrossing venue with annoying ads—if the CPB survives at all.

If you want to argue that the arts and humanities are superfluities in a time of financial constraint, consider that they, along with much of science, deeply enrich our culture, or, as someone said, “make our country worth defending.”

What’s next: slashing of science? For the fact is that much of science has no practical value, but forms an intellectual pursuit designed to satisfy our curiosity about nature.  True, we can’t predict what practical benefits can come from funding weird-sounding projects, and that has often served as a justification for such funding, but really, much of basic research is there not to make us richer or more technologically advanced: it’s to enrich our brains.

I love this quote, also from Mencken (his Chrestomathy) about the scientist:

“The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes.”

And who is being vetted as Trump’s science adviser? Don’t ask!

h/t: Ken


  1. DrBrydon
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Then again, I seem to recall hearing this under Reagan, and they are still here. They are traditional Republican targets, like the Department of Education. Anything that requires the action of both houses of Congress is likely not to happen.

    • Mark R.
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps, but this new batch of Republicans that hold BOTH houses of Congress are not rational. How many do you think will go against the party line? I bet none will. I won’t be surprised by any of their radical antics; this is just the beginning.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

        And to my recall Democrats still controlled both houses of Congress during both of Reagan’s terms. With the nuts in charge of both houses of Congress and about to take the White House, the current situation is a hell of lot gloomier than it was 36 years ago.

  2. busterggi
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, like the feds actually spend most of the budget on this.

    Bogus numbers from a bogus POTUS.

  3. busterggi
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, like the feds actually spend most of the budget on this.

    Bogus numbers from a bogus POTUS.

  4. Lee Quave
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Their anti-science stance is one of the main reason that I am no longer a republican.

    • Posted January 20, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Yes, me too. Anti-science and religious nuttiness put me over the edge.

  5. Kevin
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Reality is oddly an onto of Trump. If he remotely pins himself to ‘Make America Great’ it comes at a cost: innovation does not grow on trees. As much as Trump would like science to be magic, it is not. He may not know this, but it clearly makes him pause.

    His prospective appointment of Gelernter is just another thumb sucking admirer to surround himself with. If Trump truly endorses his isolationist attitude toward science it won’t be long before private industry outpaces anything the US government is capable of doing. I am afraid, fortunately for America, Trump has no power to stop science and neither will his nearest neighbors.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    This must be Trump’s secret plan to balance the budget after he vastly increases military spending, rebuilds the crumbling infrastructure, provides health coverage for all, keeps entitlements at current levels, builds a 2,000-mile wall on the southern border, and vouchsafes a yooge tax cut to his fellow billionaires.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      I thought they were all programmes being transferred to the budget of the 52nd state? The one between the Rio Grande, Guatemala and Belize.

  7. stephajl
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink


  8. Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    A most significant portion of the nation’s budget already goes to the military, and Trump purportedly is planning to beef that up substantially. We already have insufficient oversight into what is ordered, how it is constructed, and whether or not it is completely and properly built at the time of release to the military (instead of
    fixing the problems after the fact as repairs not covered under the original contract.) And, what about all those cost overrides?! Also,
    what about that super aircraft we’ve spent so much on that looks as though it will never be completed and functional?!

    Our government and our corporations already have too much say in what scientific research is done at universities and elsewhere. DARPA is our mentor.

    We’ll get our budget cut down to pay only for military, government structures and budgets, whatever Trump and group considers to be essential government services: not roads, not internet and communications, not clean energy, not healthcare.

    • Denise
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      You didn’t really believe them when they said they wanted smaller government, did you? They love big government. Reducing the size of the Federal bureaucracy is just a pretext for getting rid of the programs they don’t like – the ones that don’t enrich themselves or their friends.

      They’re happy to spend gobs of money as long as it goes where they want it to go – i.e., directly into the pockets of 1%ers.

      • somer
        Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink


      • Posted January 20, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        “Small government” is a technical term. It has a pretty elastic stipulative definition, too, but has to include:

        (a) Less “welfare” (whatever that is)
        (b) More guns and bombs

    • Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Military is very important. But if one decides to take down his pants in front of Putin, even the best military of all imaginable worlds would be to no avail.

    • eric
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      We already have insufficient oversight into what is ordered, how it is constructed, and whether or not it is completely and properly built at the time of release to the military

      I have to disagree with this. I think some of the problems of our over-expensive military is caused by too many Congressional mandates (aka pork), which specifies that DOD *must* buy X, *must* make Y in Z congressional district, and so on. Congress makes irrational purchases and logistical demands on DOD in order to keep jobs and business in their districts, without much regard for how it affects military readiness. Congressional “oversight” largely consists of ordering DOD to spend money to employ people it doesn’t want in places of no strategic or military value and buy things it doesn’t need.

      I think, frankly, that you could cut the budget of each branch by 10% but open the budget to allow the military itself to direct what it buys, how many troops it keeps, and so on, and our whole military would get a lot more efficient. Of course a lot of red states would lose the federal hand outs they rely on to economically survive, so we can’t have that.

    • somer
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      goodness knows what he will beef it up for given his foreign policy may well undermine western security on every front

    • nicky
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

      That “super aircraft” you refer to is the Lockheed Martin F-35 multirole fighter. The only thing super about it is it’s horrendous price tag (>3 billion apiece), which is ‘super’ for the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about.
      For the rest, any leaner fighter, without the useless VTOL the Navy insisted upon, will take it out, like a peregrine takes out a duck.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        I’ve not wasted any time on the recent decades of military woes, but the Royal Navy found the VTOL capabilities and associated manoeuvrability of the Harrier to be damned useful in the Malvinas (a.k.a. Falklands) war.
        But then again, that was a war against a technologically capable enemy – so it’s not something that the US military is likely to need any time soon.

  9. Posted January 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    All of this is getting very frightening, very early.

  10. alexandra Moffat
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    the words trump and truth cannot be in the same sentence, nor trump and arts & humanities.
    The debasement of a country

  11. chris moffatt
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Please; be reasonable. Where else is the money to come from to add to the “defence” budget? And Amerika don’t need no stinkin’ culture. Trump’s threatened confrontation with China isn’t going to be free you know.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      And Amerika don’t need no stinkin’ culture.

      The American Society of Sewage Microbiologists probably disagree with you on that.
      However, for sure, 99% of America are going to get a lot more culture under Trump. Just not what you’d call “highbrow” culture. Monobrow culture, perhaps (to propagate a slur upon our several percent of Neanderthal ancestors).

  12. jwthomas
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    The rape of the Energy Department would have far more serious conseqences for the country and world than any
    defunding of cultural programs.

  13. rickflick
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I hope these plans to defund are unsuccessful. There may be a reservoir of rational actors within the GOP.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Fella could go broke fast, bettin’ on that proposition.

  14. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s said that Churchill asked, when his staffer said they’d cut artsy funding to fund the military, “then what are we fighting for?”

    … gotta look it up though.

  15. veroxitatis
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Looks like Trump’s admiration for Britain extends no further than golf.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      But golfs are German cars.

  16. Merilee
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    So depressing

  17. kieran
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Those numbers are bogus, 5 billion for the NEA from 65 to 08. So very much a tiny amount, public service broadcasting is 60/40 60% government funding at around a billion a year? so ten year 10 billion, and around a 100 million for NEA. Hardly the big ticket items.

    In Ireland we don’t charge artists tax up to€50,000 a year. After that they get charged… one of the few things CJ haughey did right

  18. Mehul Shah
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink


    Few months ago, I was hoping that everyone would become vegan :-), now I’m hoping elephant meat doesn’t show up at my local Safeway.

  19. eric
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I fully support the arts and think any administration plan to cut them. However…the article mentions NEA, Commerce, and DOE in the same two paragraphs. They are in no ways comparable. The NEA has a $148M budget for the promotion of the arts. The DOE spends about $20 billion per year to ensure our nuclear stockpile is safe and secure. These people are utterly crazy. They want to reduce the risk of WMD terrorism, but their “plan” for doing this is to reduce the security surrounding US nuclear material?

  20. Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like fake news to me. I don’t believe a word of it. Where’s the evidence?

  21. George
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    The someone who said, “make our country worth defending” was Robert Wilson, the founding director of Fermilab. He said this is testimony before Congress on April 17, 1969.

    “In that sense, this new knowledge has all to do with honor and country but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.”

  22. Jonathan Livengood
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Your remark, “For the fact is that much of science has no practical value, but forms an intellectual pursuit designed to satisfy our curiosity about nature,” and your Mencken quotation (which I agree is very nice) reminded me of the following bit from C.S. Peirce: “True science is distinctively the study of useless things. For the useful things will get studied without the aid of scientific men. To employ these rare minds on such work is like running a steam engine by burning diamonds.”

  23. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Though I don’t know much about entrepreneur Jack Ma, and he does love his Trump, I liked this comment from the Geneva meeting:

    “Jack Ma, one of China’s most successful and richest entrepreneurs, has responded to America’s growing globalization backlash, arguing that the superpower has benefited immensely from the process – but that it has largely squandered its wealth.
    “American international companies made millions and millions of dollars from globalization,” Ma – the founder of Alibaba, the world’s largest online retailer – told participants on the second day of Davos. “The past 30 years, companies like IBM, Cisco and Microsoft made tons of money.”

    The question is: where did that money go? It was wasted, Ma explained.

    “In the past 30 years, America has had 13 wars at a cost of $14.2 trillion. That’s where the money went.” He also questioned America’s decision to bankroll Wall Street after the 2008 financial crash, arguing the money would have been better spent in other areas.

    “What if they had spent part of that money on building up their infrastructure, helping white-collar and blue-collar workers? You’re supposed to spend money on your own people.””

    [ ]

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Oops, Davos, not Geneva.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      You’re supposed to spend money on your own people.

      And what are Trump and associates doing? Spending money on their people – anyone born with a billion dollar silver egg in his … Paltrow.

  24. Martin X
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Ignoring anything else, the severe reduction in spending would be very contractionary. Making lemonade out of lemons, a severe recession would help keep Trump a one-term president.

  25. Hempenstein
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Is the National Endowments the organization that makes the awards @ the Kennedy Center? Before this happened, I’ve been wondering who Boss Tweet would find to make the presentations. Maybe this the real reason.

    No matter, once he’s gone, it’ll be back.

  26. Posted January 19, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    A trillion bucks a year in ‘savings’, with zero military cuts?

    The entire discretionary spending budget *including* the military is about a trillion bucks.

    • eric
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Typically what they do is give a very highball answer to the question of what they might save over 10 years. Because of the exponential nature of investment and savings, most of the estimated savings will come in the last few years of that 10 year estimate. So to hide that fact, they simply divide the total by 10 and report savings per year.

      Its obviously largely bullflop. Its a highball estimate to begin with; no President controls 10 years of budget, and we won’t realize 10% of the 10-year estimate next year even if the rest of it wasn’t bullflop.

      When either party reports a savings/year for one of their proposed programs, congratulations, you have just seen an example of the statistics in the phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  27. Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    That artist shouldn’t have painted him naked with an undersized penis :-). Now, he is mounting a revenge against everything artsy.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      You mean, the “hands” in “little hands” wasn’t supposed to be taken literally?? 😉

  28. Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    So they are going to save a trillion dollars a year by cutting those agencies? I don’t believe it — the figure must come from “yuuge” slashing of our already-tattered social safety net. Science will of course suffer too.

  29. somer
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    There are so many levels in which this prospective president and his horror chamber are awful. That is terrible. I wish I had superhuman powers and could personally strangle the man. In theory of course.

  30. mfdempsey1946
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    The Disunited States of America is in the midst of a second Civil War.

  31. ChrisB
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    If the entire NEA, NEH and CPB budgets were cut from the federal budget, the combined amount would account for about 0.07% of that 10.5 trillion over 10 years. I wonder where the rest of the cuts come from?

  32. colnago80
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Look at the comments on the Washington Post article. This is an example of the type of stuff that the followers of dummkopf Donald exhibit. Gelernter is a climate change denier. I wonder what other scientific theories he denies.

    • Posted January 19, 2017 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps you should read this feature article about Gelertner published in Time Magazine only last year: What comes across quite clearly is that he is very accomplished, not only in Computer Science (where he was one of the inventors of parallel processing), but in a number of other areas as well. In particular, ‘anti-intellectual’ is not the first word that springs to mind in relation him. However, the Washington Post would have us believe that Gelertner is a no-name unaccomplished right-wing buffoon. This type of crazy biased reporting flies in the face of all evidence, and amounts to nothing more than a politically motivated character assassination. It is fake news of the first water, and one of the reasons why established media outlets like the Washington Post deserve all the opprobrium they’re getting.

      • colnago80
        Posted January 20, 2017 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        Gelernter is, indeed, a smart man who has made significant contributions to issues in computer science. That doesn’t make him competent to discuss issues in physics, chemistry, or biology. In particular, consider his climate change denialism, a subject on which his lack of qualifications to discuss is manifest. I can name other scientists, including Nobel Prize winners who are incompetent in areas outside their field of specialization. Think Linus Pauling, William Shockley, and Brian Josephson as examples. In addition, he is a borderline antisemite and anti-Zionist, hardly calculated to appeal to the Christian Zionists in Dummkopf Donald’s coalition.

        Of course, Mr. Hulley’s diatribe against the Washington Post is quite typical of the right wing smear machine, as evidenced by the talkbacks to the WP article. Whatever their failings, the Washington Post and the New York Times are far more reputable then Fox News and Breitbart.

      • Craw
        Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        Can anyone here defend the label “fiercely anti-intellectual”?

      • ChrisB
        Posted January 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        It’s true Galertner is accomplished and well respected in his field. What is astonishing is that such an intelligent person could be so deluded as to be a climate change denier. And that Trump singles such a person out to be science advisor. Pure emotional ideology at work.

  33. Posted January 20, 2017 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  34. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Authoritarian governments, when they aren’t co-opting the Arts, tend to gut them. Who wants people writing books and creating comedies that go against their ideology?

  35. Posted January 20, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I suggest we all boycott today’s TV broadcasts of his inauguration. To most effectively affect the ratings, you have to be tuned into another program. Leave the TV on sports etc, even if you’re not going to be home.

  36. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    As for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, privatizing it will simply fill a once-engrossing venue with annoying ads—

    Is it possible to buy a subscription to the Beeb via (say) to get ad-free service from iPlayer? I’d have thought that would be a very popular product.

  37. Posted January 20, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    How are PBS and NPR created? Does it just take an executive order to destroy them? Or do they have enabling legislation that would have to be repealed? Or …?

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