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We have had elections intervening since the so-called agreement was reached. And the people of the United States made their feelings known on NEA and many other issues during those elections.
This is a new Congress with new members. I would urge the committee not to deny the House an opportunity to vote on reauthorization of the NEA.
And let me add a word here about the statement of the majority leader. He vowed, and quoting a letter that he wrote to, I think it was, Congressman Souder, that as long as he was majority leader, he would not permit an NEA authorization bill to be scheduled for floor action.
In that case, what is the purpose of this committee? Why should it bother existing if the majority leader can overrule it? I was under the impression that committees reported bills, that the Rules Committee set the time available for debating those bills on the floor and the terms and conditions of that debate, and the majority leader, among his other responsibilities, scheduled floor debate.
I was not aware that the majority leader can function as a dictator to thwart the will of the standing committees and of the majority of the House by single-handedly killing bills he doesn't like that are reported to the floor simply by never scheduling them.
I believe this would be a grievous abuse of power and a grievous abuse of the rights of this committee, a grievous abuse of all the rights of all the members of the House, and a grievous abuse of the democratic, with a small “d,” rights of the American people. And I hope that he will reconsider such a pledge.
The Congress must continue its support for the arts and reauthorize the NEA, as America's President Clinton noted in his State of the Union address, “to remain as a beacon not only of liberty but of human creativity and of progress.”
Thank you very much.
[The statement of Mr. Nadler follows:)
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HON. JERROLD NADLER, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK-SEE APPENDIX H
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you very much. And knowing Mr. Armey's commitment to freedom, I'm sure he would never participate in taking away the freedom from this subcommittee or Mr. Riggs' subcommittee to do what we think is the best thing to do. Thank you for those words of caution and warning. Mr. Lewis?
STATEMENT OF THE HON. RON LEWIS, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF KENTUCKY
Mr. Lewis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On behalf of the Family Caucus, I certainly appreciate you giving me the opportunity to talk to you here today about the National Endowment for the Arts.
Art enriches our lives. Music, dance, theater, and individual arts provide a way to communicate things that are sometimes difficult to express otherwise. I do not believe, however, that artistic expression begins with a bureaucrat in Washington. In fact, in many cases Washington is particularly ill-suited to carry out goals that are better pursued by local government.
Mr. Chairman, in my view, the NEA has driven the states and local communities to precisely support where the arts could come from. That is not to say that a federal agency like the National Endowment for the Arts has not supported some worthy projects. It has. Sadly, however, it has in my judgment done more harm than good.
By politicizing artistic expression at the federal level, the NEA has put taxpayers into the position of supporting art that is deeply offensive to many Americans, including me.
Artistic expression and freedom are important to our society. I firmly believe that a federal board who passes judgment on what qualifies as art and then expects the taxpayers to pay for it is just bad policy. This approach either requires an anything goes mentality or a program that is reduced to funding the lowest common denominator projects.
In the end, I am uncomfortable with a government agency determining which art is worthy of federal support and which art is not. I think these kinds of decisions should be made by private citizens spending their own money. This debate, therefore, is not about censorship.
We cannot forget, too, that we are facing a federal debt of well over five trillion dollars. If Congress and the administration are going to prove to the American people that we are serious about balancing the budget, we must show that we have the courage to cut a program that is inefficient and is not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. In my judgment, the NEA meets these criteria.
I know that during this debate, we will hear that the arts will suffer without the NEA. This argument could not be further from the truth. The NEA represents only a small part of the overall funding for the arts. Despite reduced funding for the NEA over the past couple of years, the arts in this country are thriving.
State and local government spending has continued to grow. Private funding has been on the rise since 1965. And steady show attendance is up. So we should not worry that this is an industry that will fall without the NEA.
For several years, I have enjoyed oil painting as a hobby. Artistic expression teaches you many things: patience, the importance for detail, and that beauty can be found in ordinary things, just to name a few of art's lessons. It also teaches you that art thrives, not on government handouts, but on thousands of individual acts of creativity.
I just wanted to add something to my statement. It seems to me that when we have men and women in our military that are overextended, that are under very stressful situations because of a lack of funding, that to put them in that position and continue to fund $99 million for the NEA or, to put it another way, what would we think of a family, mother and father, that would sell their food stamps to take their children to the theater? I think we're in a situation where our budget is in a very precarious position. And to take money and to apply it other than for those things we actually need is wrong.
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you, Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Houghton, our third panel member from the great State of New York.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. AMO HOUGHTON, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. Houghton. Right. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for holding this meeting. As you know, I am an advocate for the National Endowment of the Arts. I'm a Republican. I go back a few years in this process to Nancy Hanks, when she was doing such great work in New York with a personal hero of mine, Nelson Rockefeller.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I hope you don't mind. I would like to be fairly blunt in my comments today. And, incidentally, I'd like to submit this testimony for the record if that would be all right.
I testified a little over two years ago with David McCullough and Ken Burns and a variety of other people. It was a polite exchange. It was a good testimony. But nothing happens, sort of words over the transom without any particular destination.
So let me say right now at this hearing that in my personal opinion it is a crime, underlined crime, leveled on the younger, undefended people in this country and, of course, their parents to consider abolishing the NEA.
To me it is short-term, fuzzy thinking to ask our federal government with a 1998 cost base of $1.6 trillion to dim the lights on one of the few intellectually stimulating programs we have in our country.
There are two types of expenses in my mind. One, there are the cost expenses; and, the other, the investment expenses. The NEA to me represents an investment expense. This need not be a large amount, and I'm not going to get into numbers here, but it ought to be there to provide a fulcrum for essential private monies.
Now, the naysayers give several reasons why they think that this is wrong for the support of the NEA. First is the programs are too costly. We are on our way to a balanced budget and the NEA takes us away from this.
Well, this is ridiculous. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Here we are looking at approximately an $80 to $85 billion tax cut. And so, therefore, we say we cut the price of our product and then say if our income were only higher, we might be able to afford other discretionary expenses.
That makes no sense at all. I ran a business for many years. There's no one in this Congress who has done more cost-cutting than I have. But you never cut the investment expenses. All the problems we had here during the '50s and the '60s and the '70s and the early '80s, you never cut research. You never cut museums. You never cut the educational expenses.
When you cut costs, you must look around the corner at the other side of the economy and just say: What have we got left? What have we got to build on? I see an awful lot of cost experts around here suggesting that we cut, for example, research and development. Last year we eliminated the OTA, $20 million, the only eyes and ears in this country and the world, cut it out, over, finished. Wrong.
The second reason for sinking the NEA is on the basis of morals. There's too much pomography. The Lord knows and all of my associates that I am not a saint, but I've been close to my church and its precepts, and I get this from my family. And I've done a lot in my community through and with the church. But, you know, I don't need others to tell me what I should believe. I am 70 years old. And I don't need them to tell me about morality,
Now, no level-headed parents want pornography. I have got seven children. I've got 15 grandchildren. You don't eliminate the S&Ls because of Charlie Keating. You don't close this building or eliminate the office of the Capitol architect because it's 100 percent, 100 percent, overrun on this building in which we're sitting. You dismiss or dress down the bad actors. You close down the pornographic art, just as you eliminated the producers of the $500 toilet seats. This should not be a difficult problem to solve. It does not take a rocket scientist to do it.
Number three, still another criticism is that we should not be in the arts at all, it is not a proper function of the federal government. Who says? Who says that? I don't say it. And most of the people that I talk to don't say that.
Who are these individuals of such great wisdom that in planning a balanced budget in 5 years over $9 trillion with a cost base are unable to swallow a program like the NEA?
New York, which Mr. Nadler and Ms. Slaughter and I represent, pays into the federal Treasury $18 billion more every single year than we take out. It has gone on for years and years and years. Is it wrong for us to ask for a small portion of that extra $18 billion to come back and help the children and the families in our state? I don't think
And I'm dumbfounded when I hear “Let the private sector do it." Who do you think does it now? And I ask those who want to X out the NEA, how much of their own private money have they put in as a percentage of their income? How much do they give to the education and the arts if they think the private sector is so flush? But, really, even that's not important.
Let me tell you two stories. One is a story of a creative arts program in Dover, Massachusetts. It started 25 years ago. It asked for $5,000 a year for 5 years to get it started, couldn't get any private money. Nobody would support it. Finally it got that grant. And with that fulcrum grant, monies came in. It has affected thousands of children. There are those programs in 40 other communities.
Let me tell you another story. When I was growing up, which was a long time ago, the only arts program we had in a little town of 12.5 thousand called Coming, New York, was we would go into one of the school rooms and hear Walter Damrasch and the NBC Orchestra once a week. That was all we had.
What did my children have because of the New York Council on the Arts and because of the NEA and because of the change in the attitude hecause of those two agencies in our community? An entirely different educational perspective, entirely different.
The arts are at the core of what makes for educated men and women. I read an article in The New York Times on Sunday in the front page that described the area in which I live in upstate New York as falling behind the economic times because of a variety of reasons. The article was absolutely right on.
And it is not easy to fix it. Some of us have been struggling with this issue over the years. But the only asset we have to build on is our people, and educated people, people whose minds have been opened to the rich experience of Western and Eastern civilization, people whose spirits have been enlarged by exposure to philosophy and art and music and social sciences and literature and drama.
How does one learn to frame the questions of one's life and dare to pursue those expansive, untidy problems other than through exposure to creative intellectually stimulating thinking?
The employees of tomorrow are not the employees of when I went to work in 1952. Last week in a nearby town, Elmira, New York, an electronics company announced plans to eliminate 200 assembly jobs while increasing jobs of another, a more intellectually stimulated skilled function. To succeed in tomorrow's world, employees must have a different mind set, different disciplines, must be broader gauged, able to grapple with ambiguity and all of those things that come from a liberal education.
By the year 2000, only 30 months away, one-third of all the school-aged children will be minorities in this country. The unemployment rate for young black people will be double that for whites. Educational opportunities in all forms will be the single most important element in achieving economic advancement.
So the nation's changing demographics will require more minority leaders. And that leadership, if history is our guide, will stand squarely on one's cultivation and imaginative faculties.
Let me finish by one story. In 1814 a Congressman named Cyrus King embarked upon a debate in the House of Representatives over the issue of a library, the Library of Congress. You see, the British had burned the books in the old library in the War of 1812. And Thomas Jefferson had offered to re-create that library by selling the government his own personal library.
“This bill,” and I quote Congressman King, “would give $23,900 into Jefferson's pocket for about 6,000 books, good, bad, indifferent, old, new, worthless, in languages which many cannot read, and most ought not." Wise man Mr. King. With the NEA at stake, do we now want to go down that same road?
(The statement of Mr. Houghton follows:)
WRITTEN STATEMENT OF THE HON. AMO HOUGHTON, A CONGRESSMAN FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK - SEE APPENDLX I
Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you. Just to make sure that as a member of the Budget Committee there isn't incorrect information going out on the budget, the area that the NEA is funded under -- discretionary spending -- is not going to be cut over the next five years. I believe the spending in that part of the budget is forecasted to increase somewhere in the neighborhood of $55 to $60 billion.
So I would hate to start these rumors again that those people in Washington are cutting spending. Discretionary spending is going up extensively.
Mr. Houghton. Well, Mr. Chairman, therefore, there shouldn't be any problem in funding the NEA.
Mr. Hoekstra. You're right. There shouldn't be any problem. I'm just clarifying the information. I think, as the earlier panels were talking about, this is a matter of setting priority and making choices, but I would hate people to believe that Washington's at it again and we're cutting spending because it's one of the areas that some of us might have hoped that spending wouldn't go up, but it's going up significantly over the next five years.
You also talked a little bit about the issue of pornography, which has not been much of the work of the Oversight Subcommittee. The only thing that I can state is there is our former colleague, who had worked so hard to write decency standards, which were passed into law in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, last week an appellate court threw out the decency standards. I'm not sure how Congress is going to deal with this, but the legislative direction Congress established in the early 1990s to focus on stopping the pornographic materials is now considered unconstitutional by the courts.
I'd like to thank this panel. We are going to move directly on to the third panel. Amo, you asked for some extra time, and we gave it to you.
Mr. Houghton. I appreciate it.