A savings act that doesn’t save anybody

Every now and then members of Congress do things that really get my blood boiling. Like propose to cut the National Endowment for the Arts. And the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And Energy Star. Are you kidding me? So here’s my opinion on the matter (running as my column in this week’s newspaper).

In this time of tightening belts and slashing funds, there comes a point when Americans need to take a step back and ask, when is it too much?

Last week, the Republican Study Committee, chaired by Ohio representative Jim Jordan, revealed a plan to cut federal funding of the arts down to zero. The same committee wants to cut spending on a number of other important programs that leaves me scratching my head and asking, why?
Here are just a few of the programs the committee wants to eliminate.

• The National Endowment for the Arts. The committee says this will save America $167.5 million annually. First of all, isn’t that a drop in the proverbial bucket? Here’s some perspective: To build one fighter jet for the U.S. Air Force, it costs about $150 million.

Locally, the National Endowment for the Arts just contributed $20,000, split between the Glacier Symphony and Chorale and the Whitefish Theatre Company. The symphony will use the $10,000 grant to support its week-long classical music event Festival Amadeus, which is July 31-Aug. 6 at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish. Guest artists will teach clinics for the community. The Whitefish Theatre Company used its share for last weekend’s Dancing Earth performance. Outreach activities included school matinees and lectures targeted to rural youth.

Nationally, the Endowment supports the American Ballet and arts education programs around the country. It’s been said that part of the reason America is so great is because unlike other nations, American schools have extracurricular activities, like art and shop classes and sports. Other countries don’t have those programs to enrich the lives of their youth and keep those kids occupied after school. Soon, it looks like America won’t either.

Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts told the LA Times that federal investment in the arts helps to sustain 5.7 million jobs nationwide. But what’s another 5.7 million jobs in an economy that sloughs off 100,000 jobs a month?

• National Endowment for the Humanities. The committee says this will save America another $167.5 million. This endowment supports history and culture workshops for teachers. It supports the National Digital Newspaper Program, which makes available online a digital resource of United States newspapers from the nineteenth century to the present. It supports research; National Endowment for the Humanities-supported books have earned 18 Pulitzer Prizes.

• Save America’s Treasures program. The committee says this will save $25 million annually. The Conrad Mansion in Kalispell is a partner of this organization, which is a public-private partnership that includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The program seeks to preserve places important to American history and identity, places and objects like the Star Spangled Banner flag, the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to move to the back, the Emily Dickinson home and the Thomas Edison Invention Factory.

• Title X Family Planning. This cut will save $318 million. Yet Title X provides vital assistance to many youth and low-income families every year. Yes, some family planning clinics perform abortions. However, Title X has allowed millions of American women to receive necessary reproductive health care, plan their pregnancies and prevent abortions.

• Energy Star program. The committee says this will save $52 million annually. And yet in 2009, Energy Star appliances and rebates helped Americans save $17 billion on their utility bills. I’d say that’s a program that pays for itself. Energy Star products range from high-performance windows and efficient heating and cooling equipment to light bulbs, refrigerators, TVs and dishwashers. The program, bottom line, helps Americans save money.

Then there’s the suspect line: “end prohibitions on competitive sourcing of government services.” That means outsourcing, people. And outsourcing means someone in Bangladesh gets an American’s job.

The committee has proposed cuts that do make sense, such as reducing funding for congressional printing and binding. Using less paper benefits us all. So does cutting the federal travel budget (though you’ll be seeing less of your senators and representatives).

But the vast majority of the cuts (with a supposed savings of $2.5 trillion, though that’s unadjusted for inflation) this committee wants to make will only hurt Americans. For a complete list of proposed cuts, visit http://rsc.jordan.house.gov/Solutions/SRA.htm.

If the government really wants to cut spending, the only budgets they need to zero in on are Defense and Homeland Security. But we wouldn’t want to jeopardize those likely unconstitutional full body scans, now would we?


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