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Mr. Clay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. WILLIAM L. CLAY, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI
Mr. Clay. Mr. Chairman, I believe that the National Endowment for the Arts has enriched the lives of millions of Americans, rich and poor, young and old, all across this country. I'm somewhat puzzled that the number of congressional districts not receiving grants would be advanced as justification for not funding the NEA. That a hundred and forty-three congressional districts receive no grants should not be the criteria any more than the more than 200 congressional districts that don't receive subsidies for peanuts and for sugar and all other kinds of programs. So I don't think we ought to be talking in terms of which congressional districts receive funding.
But, Mr. Chairman, through partnership at the local level, NEA has leveraged millions of dollars from local and state agencies, from corporations, from foundations, businesses, and individuals. In rural, suburban, and urban communities, the arts have come alive with locally sponsored museums, folk festivals, theater and arts centers that enhance the quality of community life.
Recently studies have shown that early exposure to music and the arts encourages cognitive development in children. It increases their self-esteem. They do better on the SATs. And they work more cooperatively with others.
Mr. Chairman, I want to shorten my statement here, but I ask unanimous consent that the entire statement be entered in the record. And I will just say, in conclusion, that there are some groups that want to abolish federal funding for the arts. They have attempted to discredit the NEA and its recipients through misinformation and exaggeration. We should not let them tear down what so many local communities have built up. The majority of Americans support federal funding for the arts. We should continue to support local communities, who want to make art, music, dance, and literature available to all of their citizens.
And I ask unanimous consent to insert the full text in the record.
Mr. Hoekstra. So ordered.
[The statement of Mr. Clay follows:)
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HON. WILLIAM L. CLAY, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF MISSOURI - SEE APPENDIX E
Mr. Hoekstra. Ms. Mink?
Mrs. Mink. May I ask unanimous consent that I be permitted to insert at this point my opening statement?
Mr. Hoekstra. So ordered.
[The statement of Mrs. Mink follows:)
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HON. PATSY MINK, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF HAWAII - SEE APPENDIX F
Mr. Hoekstra. Any other members who have opening statements can submit them, and they will be inserted in the record at this point. Mr. Clay, the same offer is extended to you as we go through the hearing today. And if you hear misinformation or wrong information, today would be a wonderful time to clarify it and bring it forward.
Mr. Clay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you. We'll now go to our members' panel. Thank you for being with us today. We'll start with Representative Stearns.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. CLIFF STEARNS, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE
Mr. Stearns. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Let me just compliment you on having this hearing and also to say that we appreciate your courage on this issue. I have great respect for both parties and their views, and I see in the audience there are people in our party, on the Republican side, who have a strong disagreement, and I think this debate and this hearing are important.
Before you came to Congress, I had the opportunity to try and reduce the funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. I want you to know on the House floor, we had a vote in which we could not reduce the NEA funding by two percent. This is when it was about $170 million. So we have come a long way to not only talking about reducing the funding but to eliminate the funding.
This particular agency represents so much more than an endowment for the arts to so many Americans. To put it clearly, the NEA has come to represent much which is wrong with the federal government. The agency translates money from poor, middle-income taxpayers to elite groups of people in large cities. It is a poorly run bureaucracy; an agency that doesn't provide value for American tax dollars; and, quite simply, an agency that embraces values antithetical to our national heritage. - Ann
Taking real measures to reduce the deficit is not an option. It's an imperative. In these times of fiscal crisis, we must put each and every federal program under the microscope. Any program not vital to our nation's well-being must be a candidate for reduction, if not outright elimination. We as a nation must focus our scarce resources on only what is absolutely necessary.
To state the obvious, the NEA does not defend Americans against invasion. It does not protect them from crime. It does not shield us from economic hardship. In other words, it does none of the things we all agree the federal government should do, none of the tenets delineated in and guaranteed by our Constitution. Mr. Chairman,
quite simply, it is not constitutional.
Unfortunately, not only does the NEA not fulfill a vital function of the American community, but the agency also flaunts the constraints and good will of society constantly. Every one of us is all too well-aware of the many examples of questionable art funded by the NEA. We all know about the Echo Homo Festival, the "Watermelon Woman” lesbian film, the Walker Arts Center sacrificial ritual, Andres Serrano's “Piss Christ,” and so many other examples, all of which are so antithetical to our national values.
What is most surprising to me is not that these projects receive federal funding, but they and others like them continue to receive federal funding, despite public outcry, despite congressional amendments that reduce funding from the agency, and despite letters from Republicans and Democrats alike.
All the NEA had to do was apologize, simply apologize, clean up its act and move on. Instead, the NEA persisted in its questionable funding. And the agency and its chairwoman persisted in defending those decisions. Obviously its core supporters, including the chairwoman, support this questionable art.
Unfortunately, the agency's problems don't stop there. Not only are their funding decisions questionable, their accounting practices are questionable as well. Amazingly, 79 percent of the endowment's projects audited between 1991 and 1996 couldn't document their costs properly. In fact, 63 percent of the audited cases had books that didn't even add up properly.
It is important to note that this information comes not from a partisan witch hunt but from the NEA's own Inspector General. Put simply, there is no accountability or stewardship of the American tax dollars here.
As mentioned, 143 congressional districts receive no direct funding whatsoever. While those districts may receive funding from the minimal amount provided to the states for distribution, it does not compensate for the fact that 6 of America's biggest cities garner 30 percent of the already disproportional funding. In other words, those that need the money least get the most. Quite simply, the NEA competes for the title of the most unnecessary agency in the federal government.
Art has existed as long as man has existed, and art will persist as long as man persists. The United States has no responsibility for art's existence, nor with the government of the United States play any role in art's future. Art exists because people want it to, not because the NEA says it should.
Americans alone give over $10 billion a year to support art. The $99 million endowment for the arts has very little to do with the arts overall.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the bottom line is quite simply -- if we can't eliminate this agency, this little, tiny agency, we can't eliminate any of the excesses that exemplify and permeate our federal government. In other words, if we can't de-fund the NEA, we have little hope of ever balancing the budget.
This agency is not managed properly, not constitutional, not our values. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, it's not necessary.
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you. And thank you for staying within the five-minute lights there. Hopefully all of your colleagues will as well because I do have kind of a weak gavel. So I'm usually generous by the time, but if you could try to stay with the five minutes, that would be very helpful.
We're going to go kind of bounce back and forth so it doesn't look like the deck is stacked. So we're going to go to Representative Slaughter.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. LOUISE SLAUGHTER, A CONGRESSWOMAN FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Ms. Slaughter. Good morning. Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much. And good morning to all of my colleagues. I really want to talk about this in a very concise way. So I'm going to try to stay within those five minutes.
I want to talk about three things that these arts programs give to the United States. I want to talk about the federal budget and to education and to the future of this country.
First let's talk about the federal budget. What does NEA say to our budget? Less than 100th of one percent of this budget is spent on arts in the United States. Now, obviously if we eliminate that, we're not going to make dent here on doing away with the budget. So that I think is sort of a red herring.
But it will show if we eliminate it, that we're completely out of touch with the people in the United States because 79 percent of Americans support the funding for the arts. And if you don't believe that, ask people in your school district what happens in your schools when they try to cut out art programs.
The inadequacy of private funding. Another thing we hear all the time is, “If we don't put this money in, somebody else will." But will they? The fact of the matter is that the NEA has been the single supporter of arts for over two decades. The private investment is important, obviously. And NEA leverages a lot of private money. But we can't rely on that alone. If we do, we will be only getting arts programs in major cities and metropolitan areas of the United States.
Now, what the NEA does is support arts in small cities and rural areas, where there is almost no funding without the NEA. For example, 50 percent of the arts programs in states like Alaska, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming are money from the NEA. And without it, we wouldn't have programs like the Bartlesville, Oklahoma Mozart International Festival, which includes the world's premier of a new opera and additional rehearsal opportunities for many of the students in that area.
Does it matter? You bet it does. Why does it matter? The second point I want to make here is: What does it do for the students in the United States?
You know, we are just suffused now with all the new information we have with the PET scans and the human brain and how it evolves and what we have to do with children to make sure that they can grow to be everything that they can be. And in every case, art has something to say about that. We talk about singing, rocking babies, stimulating them. These again are art programs.
But what does it do for children in the school? You've heard already, but we just say it but we don't really pay any attention. What else can we do to school to make an SAT score go up 44 points? If art programs do that, they make the verbal scores go up, wouldn't it be foolish for us to do away with it? If we know that art programs in schools cut down on the dropout rate, wouldn't it be stupid for us not to do that?
If we know that art students who are damaged by some conditions in their lives who are creating with their hands and with their heads can heal themselves with their emotions finally being open to be able to talk about it to get rid of it, if we can do that in our schools, why not do it?
If we spend all the time here on education talking about what can we do to stop the dropout program, what can we do to raise all of these scores, to make these children smarter and better as we go into the next century and art has such an incredible effect on that, why in the wide world would we cut out something like that?
Now, the minuscule amount of money, again, that we put in, what does that do here for us financially? Let's talk about the thing that we care about most in Congress, and that's the economy.
We put in a very small amount of money. We put in, I know, as I pointed out, less than one-tenth of one percent. And, yet, what we get back in the Treasury every year is over $3.5 billion. Now, if that isn't the best bang for the buck that we get for our federal dollar, I challenge you to tell me something that is better.
In addition, we have had examples all over the United States, Peekskill, New York being one of a small village that was almost a ghost town. It became an art colony, and people came in there to see it and stayed over night. So hotels and motels, restaurants, and other theaters and other support systems sprang up.
Providence, Rhode Island would tell you right now that they have set aside one square mile within their city as an arts area, where people again are coming and revitalizing what was a dead area. We see it over and over again. Sacramento, California tells us the same thing.
But, once again, as I point out to you, if we can give a child self-esteem, if we can help give him some sense of being able to create because I believe children who create don't destroy, if we can make them smarter and better students with arts programs and it costs us so little to do it, how foolish it would be for the United States of America to be the one civilized industrial country on the planet to say we don't care about it anymore.
You know, it's been terribly important in our past to really understand who we are and where we came from. One of my colleagues said something on the floor one day that's terribly important to me. We looked back at cultures that have been rediscovered, dug up. Archacologists all the time try to determine who a people were by what? By the art that they left behind. That tells us how advanced and how skilled they were.
As one of my colleagues said on the floor one time, I don't want the United States of America to only be known when people dig up our artifacts as having left behind styrofoam.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Hoekstra. Somewhere there's probably an artist who has been working in
Ms. Slaughter. And missiles. Right.
Mr. Hoekstra. Yes. Somewhere there's probably an artist who has been working in styrofoam and may be offended by your last statement, but
Ms. Slaughter. Well, God bless him. And I hope economically he does well.
Mr. Hoekstra. Yes. Okay. I really also want to thank you for again reinforcing the comment that Mr. Clay brought out about the importance of art for the development of our children.
Ms. Slaughter. Yes.
Mr. Hoekstra. And I think it goes beyond, the report actually goes beyond, saying - it doesn't say exposure to the art. I think it technically says