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End of the Honeymoon

Well it didn’t take long for the organization that said it was going to work with the Trump administration until it said it wouldn’t has finally come to the realization that there are some kinds of people you just can’t work with.

President Trump’s ludicrously titled budget plan eliminates, among many other things, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the ALA isn’t happy about it.

There are several other things the budget eliminates that philistines really, really hate: the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment of the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and big cuts to many other things.

If the budget passes as is, it’ll be bad for the poor people who voted for Trump and the pro-science people who probably didn’t.

It doesn’t seem particularly likely to pass. So far the President has failed to accomplish anything of significance, since he keeps getting stopped by pesky things like federal judges, the Constitution, and reality.

Other than the hiring freeze, there has been a lot more visible activity by ICE agents trying to deport people, but that’s just a continuation of President Barack “Deporter-in-Chief” Obama’s administration, who deported “more than 2.8 million undocumented immigrants” in eight years, more than any other President before him. Oddly, I don’t recall any big protests about that.

Otherwise, it’s been a bust so far, so the elimination of the IMLS, etc. is far from a done deal.

I will commend the ALA statement defending the work the IMLS makes possible. It’s a lot better than some alternatives.

It claims a high return on investment for federal dollars, emphasizes the major role of the states in allocating the money (state’s rights!), and lists several examples of programs that probably sound good to normal people: “veterans transitioning to civilian life, small businesses seeking to expand their business online, summer reading programs, resources for blind and hearing-impaired patrons, resume writing and job skills workshops and computer coding courses to teach youth 21st century job skills.”

The lack of the Oxford comma after “workshops” grates on purists, but surely it won’t have the significant effect that sometime happens when leaving it out.

The claim that it supports “an incredible range of services for virtually all Americans everywhere” is probably overstated, but the overall argument is that the IMLS does a lot of good with a relatively small amount of money.

That’s better than the Washington Post’s implication that these cuts shouldn’t be made because they’re a “negligible as a percentage of the larger federal budget.” It adds that “they play a vital role in a cultural economy built on a system of federal stimulus,” but by highlighting the relatively small part of the budget right at the top, it feeds into the opposition.

That the NEH, NEA, CPB, and IMLS together accounted for .02% of the total federal budget last year can be played both ways.

One can argue that the amount is so relatively small that cutting it won’t amount to any significant savings, so why not just keep the tiny programs that do a little bit of good.

On the other hand, one could argue that if the amount isn’t that significant, then the private sector shouldn’t have any problems picking that up. Warren Buffett or Bill Gates can probably cover the costs with no problem.

Also, those four programs cost $971 million last year. It might not seem like much relatively speaking, but spend a billion here and a billion there, and eventually it starts to add up to real money.

But if the philistines are defeated, it’ll be because enough of the right people know that there’s more to a great country than kicking people out of it and preparing to fight the rest of the world, that libraries are popular and helpful, that art is human nature, and that there’s more to humanity than slaving until you die. Whether we still have that level of sanity anymore is an open question, though.

At any rate, lots of librarians will be happy to see that the ALA’s briefest of brief honeymoon periods with the President are finally over.



  1. I’ve contacted my senators about IMLS. I would recommend not ranting about NEH or NEA. Keep your message on IMLS. Corporation for Public Broadcasting can go. When the Children’s Television Workshop makes millions each year I don’t need to fund their programming. Remember PBS gave us Barney. Nickelodeon gave us Dora the Explorer. Commercial ≠ Bad.

    • Not everyone has access to Nickelodeon. I grew up watching PBS and credit it to helping me learn English and learning how to read. I only got to watch Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel when I visited friends and family who could afford cable.

    • I haven’t had cable in 6 years. My kids are fine with PBS- but they are also fine with youtube, checking out dvds from the library (novel concept for those who don’t have cable!), Qubo, and- get this- reading books/having books read to them. They also, on occasion, but not as much as I’d like, play outside.

      NEH and NEA are fine- but it will continue to be great if the burden of cost are shifted or trimmed. They also have their own advocates.

    • @br
      The Children’s Television Workshop can fund their own programming. In 2014 the CTW revenue was ‎$104,728,963. I don’t have cable, haven’t had it for years. I use my local library and support it. The return on investment is much higher than CTW/Sesame Street.

    • I mean, maybe instead of advocating for the cutting of the CPB we focus on things like the increase in military spending? You know, considering our spending without an increase dwarfs every other meaningful military power? Heck our spending with a 50% decrease would still be more than everyone else.

    • PBS has also given us The News Hour, Nature, Masterpiece Theater, Live From Lincoln Center, The Civil War and the rest of Ken Burns’ documentaries, the Metropolitan Opera, and so many other worthwhile programs. The arts economy is thriving, and we need to recognize that.

    • anonymous coward says:

      ne- Not advocating for something to maintain funding is NOT the same thing as advocating for the cutting of said funding. Of course there are other things that can (and should) be cut. That doesn’t mean we can afford shotgun support.

      Joneser- Those are great programs, but let’s not confuse what has been with what must have been. Ken Burns docs, opera, etc., would probably have found homes (and PBS would still be alive and strong) without the CPB funding.

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