nce Again, the administration is proposing to cut spending for the National Endowment for the Arts. This, and the arts community’s outraged response, was treated as major news for two days running in The New York Times. “I’m just appalled,” Beverly Sills, director of the New York City Opera, told the Times. “I think that to take that enormous percentage off such a minuscule amount in support of the arts is a disgrace.” Well actually, the spending request ($144.5 million) is the biggest the Reagan administration has ever made; the proposed cut (11.7 percent) pales next to the 50 percent cut Reagan asked for in 1982.
There’s every reason to suppose that, after Congress makes its usual adjustments, the NEA budget will be the same as, or bigger than, last year’s, just as last year’s was bigger than that of the year before. What’s more, the “enormous percentage” is less than the administration wants to trim from other programs like child nutrition (16 percent)–not to mention Urban Mass Transit, Job Corps, and the Economic Development Administration, which are slated for complete termination. Says Ms. Sills: “I’m just hoping that if enough of us yell and scream and stamp our feet and have tantrums President Reagan will take another look and say, ‘My god, that’s really very little money.’” Maybe so, but it would be nice if the nation’s cultural commissars–and The New York Times–put the special sufferings of artists in some kind of perspective.