President Bush will seek a big increase in the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single source of support for the arts in the United States, administration officials said on Wednesday.Just after the State of the Union, the White House promised critics they would hold the line on federal spending. We knew that was a lie, and the NEA increase proves it. The president just can't say no to any "charitable" cause, meaning any government program that spends money.
The proposal is part of a turnaround for the agency, which was once fighting for its life, attacked by some Republicans as a threat to the nation's moral standards.
Laura Bush plans to announce the request on Thursday, in remarks intended to show the administration's commitment to the arts, aides said.
Administration officials, including White House budget experts, said that Mr. Bush would propose an increase of $15 million to $20 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. That would be the largest rise in two decades and far more than the most recent increases, about $500,000 for 2003 and $5 million for this year.
To be fair, many congressional Republicans already slobber over the NEA. My favorite is Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, who argued, "Government involvement is designed to take the arts from the grand citadel of the privileged and bring them to the public at large. This democratization of the arts ennobles the American experience." That's funny, because I would think leaving the support of the arts to the free market would make things more democratic, since consumers could decide for themselves which artists and disciplines to support. But maybe capitalism doesn't "ennoble the American experience".
I wonder if the NEA ennobles the American experience the way a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man, as Jebediah Springfield once said. Probably not.