The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which were put on the chopping block as part of a drastic budget plan proposed by the Trump administration earlier this week, may have an unlikely ally in Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO nominated by President Donald J. Trump to serve as U.S. Secretary of State.
The proposal, which outlines significant funding cuts affecting numerous government agencies and services, aims to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over the next decade.
Under the plan, the NEA and NEH “would be eliminated entirely,” according to a report in The Hill. Combined, the NEA and NEH accounted for only .006 percent of the annual $3.9 trillion spent by the U.S. government in 2016. The move to cut the programs was seen by some as an extension of what the Dramatists Guild described as the “anti-cultural, anti-intellectual, and anti-humanitarian” rhetoric that has plagued the Trump administration.
Tillerson, a Texas Republican who is expected to be named Secretary of State when the full Senate votes next week, addressed the controversy surrounding the NEA/NEH cuts in a series of tweets on January 25.
“An artless nation is a spiritless nation, which is detrimental to the wisdom required for int'l diplomacy and govt,” he wrote. “I encourage @POTUS to continue funding the @NEAarts and @NEHgov so we may represent the great American spirit abroad in the years to come.”
An artless nation is a spiritless nation, which is detrimental to the wisdom required for int'l diplomacy and govt. I encourage @POTUS (1/2)— Rex W. Tillerson (@realRWTillerson) January 25, 2017
Signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 under the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, the organizations were created to nurture “constant dedication and devotion” to the arts and humanities, which “reflect the high place accorded by the American people to the nation’s rich cultural heritage and to the fostering of mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all persons and groups.”
An official petition has been created at WhiteHouse.gov, to preserve the institutions. Numerous organizations, including the Dramatists Guild of America and Americans for the Arts, have condemned the proposed cuts.