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!