In the context of the federal budget, the National Endowment for the Arts is a drop in the bucket, amounting to about 0.004 percent of total spending. At the same time, the program is completely unnecessary, so preserving it while claiming to make "hard choices" and "difficult decisions" signals a lack of seriousness. It should come as no surprise, then, that President Obama's plan to "re-establish fiscal responsibility" includes an $8 million increase in the NEA's budget.
"The administration request of $154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts is a greatly needed increase of $8 million from the $146 million that Congress appropriated last year," says Robert L. Lynch, CEO of Americans for the Arts. "Since 2010 the NEA has been cut $22 million to $146 million, which threatens its ability to make critical grants throughout the county." He adds that "the higher appropriation enhances the ability of the NEA to fund projects in every congressional district," which presumably will improve its chances of getting more funding in the future.
Mitt Romney, Obama's likely opponent in November, is a not much better on this fiscally trivial but symbolically significant issue. Romney calls for "deep reductions" in the NEA's budget yet still cannot bring himself to abolish it, thereby implicitly putting it in the category of "absolutely essential" federal programs, which he says are the only kind he would preserve.