- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2017

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is urging President Trump to reconsider proposed budget cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts, arguing that the agency helps underprivileged kids across the country “test-drive their God-given creativity.”

The two-time Republican presidential candidate and avid bass player penned an op-ed for The Washington Post Wednesday evening titled, “A conservative plea for the National Endowment for the Arts.”

In it, Mr. Huckabee argued that while the NEA might seem expendable because of Hollywood’s hateful rhetoric directed at President Trump, the agency does less to help high-profile celebrities and more to benefit talented children who are strapped down by poverty.

“I do care greatly about the real recipients of endowment funds: the kids in poverty for whom NEA programs may be their only chance to learn to play an instrument, test-drive their God-given creativity and develop a passion for those things that civilize and humanize us all,” Mr. Huckabee wrote.

“Participation in the arts leads to higher grade-point averages and SAT scores, as well as improvements in math skills and spatial reasoning,” he continued. “Creativity finds cures for diseases, creates companies such as Apple and Microsoft and, above all, makes our culture more livable.

“In the past, the NEA largely subsidized individual artists, which essentially placed the government in the role of sponsor of some artists and censor of others,” Mr. Huckabee wrote. “Thanks to reform in the 1990s, however, 40 percent of NEA funds are now channeled directly to states, to be matched and distributed, with the rest going directly to communities, arts councils, arts organizations and select individuals. This has empowered localities to offer real participation to those who otherwise would have no avenue to music or the arts.”

Mr. Trump’s first budget proposal would eliminate funding for the arts endowment, which accounts for roughly 0.004 percent, or $150 million, of the federal budget. Mr. Huckabee said that amount is “not what’s breaking the bank” and is worth being saved.

“I truly want the government to stop wasting my tax money,” he acknowledged. “I want it to stop funding things that don’t work and things that get funded only because they are some congressman’s pet project or have a powerful lobby behind them. To some, it may seem as though the $147.9 million allocated to the NEA in fiscal 2016 is money to be saved. But to someone such as me — for whom an early interest in music and the arts became a lifeline to an education and academic success — this money is not expendable, extracurricular or extraneous. It is essential.

“I’m for cutting waste and killing worthless programs,” Mr. Huckabee concluded. “I’m not for cutting and killing the hope and help that come from creativity.”

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