By Morton Marcus
Through his budget proposals, President Trump is forcing all of us to be more explicit about our values. Take his desire to eliminate federal funding for the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA), the Humanities (NEH), plus programs for libraries, museums and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).
These federal organizations will lose $971 million in Trump’s budget. Indiana’s Arts Commission and its Humanities counterpart together get about $1.6 million. The CPB pumps $8.8 million into the state for public radio and TV. Museum and library support comes to $3.2 million. That totals to $13.6 million for Indiana from the Feds.
Weigh that against the Indianapolis subsidy for the Pacers (a presumably private, professional basketball team) to the tune of $16 million per year. What is the annual subsidy for the Colts? Is there a public subsidy for the baseball team in South Bend? For the hockey team in Fort Wayne? For the Evansville Otters?
Let’s be clear: I’m a sports fan. This weekend I watched IU lose a (7-3) baseball game to Nebraska. Need I do more to prove my devotion (addiction) to sports?
Our love for sports was impressed on my mind in the early 1970s at a Little League baseball game in a public park in Grand Island (NE). The modern playing field and stands were brilliantly lit for a night game. The players wore attractive uniforms and had new-looking equipment. It was an impactful testimonial to what we value.
I see the attraction of sports activities to potential businesses and residents. I believe it is good for a community to have teams to rally around, be they professional, college or high school. Americans love competition and eagerly identify with “their” teams, but do professional teams require perpetual government subsidies?
Americans also value the arts, the humanities, public radio and TV, our museums and our libraries. Arts and sports have many similarities. Both reward individual discipline and team performance. Both involve intensive learning and skill development. Both are practiced by a very limited number of professionals.
Sports are focused primarily on youth; arts, humanities, etc. are lifetime involvements. However, the imbalance in public funding of sports and “cultural” institutions is horrific.
I endorse my friend Fred McCarthy’s blog (indytaxdollars.typepad.com) suggesting each Hoosier community take a serious, open and comprehensive look at how it spends its public funds on sports and other beneficial activities.
In addition to the budget cuts mentioned above, the president wants to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation which provides 12 percent of the budget for Indiana Legal Services.
Annually, the nine Indiana offices of this vital organization help 11,000 low income Hoosiers in civil actions to protect their rights against overbearing government agencies and private businesses.
The federal government is poised to step away from activities that define civilized society. Individuals, communities and states, by public and private contributions, can protect themselves against the forces of disintegration now gathering strength in our nation.
Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to email@example.com.