Monday, November 12, 2012

Government Funding for Poetry: The Latest on the National Endowment for the Arts Budget

With new constellation of fiscal issues in DC, the future of funding for the arts, including poetry, is serious. One of the most effective advocacy groups is Americans for the Arts Action Fund, which has a useful website full of facts about economic as well as personal benefits of the arts.   One of the most active spokespersons for the arts is David Fenza, executive director of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs and poet (recent work in American Poetry Review). He sent out this commentary about the election aftermath:

 “What's mainly changed in arts advocacy is that the House has a few more rookies, and more rookies who are smaller-government zealots. The NEA and Americans for the Arts have never done a better job in quantifying the economic and educational benefits of the arts. But these many studies hold no sway over the advocates of smaller government in the House. The Senate, however, will continue to serve as the saucer into which we may pour the fulminations of the House to cool, to echo George Washington.

 "The automatic "sequester" budget cuts remains the biggest threat to the NEA, and the possibility of Congress triggering another recession is probably the biggest immediate general threat to arts organizations, to arts education, and to AWP. Tax reform may also diminish the incentives for charitable giving to arts organizations, but Congress seems incapable of addressing tax reform expeditiously.

 "The sequester, the federal budget, tax reform, and the federal debt ceiling all require immediate attention. Just one of these issues, in the past, has been enough to inspire Congress to enact a spectacle rather than a compromise. Unfortunately, rough handling of the sequester, debt ceiling, or tax reform could trigger a recession. Probably, Congress will pass legislation to defer the sequester and then pass a continuing resolution to fund government at last year's levels--rather than make a new budget--while they renew some or most of the Bush tax cuts for a limited duration in a stop-gap half-measure. For Congress, it's always best to postpone till next year whatever requires compromise this year.”

Thanks to Fenza for permission to reprint his lucid summary. For more information, see