The story of conservative dissatisfaction with the Bush administration is starting to get more attention. One of the complaints has been excessive federal spending. Nevertheless, the Bush administration further angered conservatives by proposing an $18 million increase in the 2005 budget for the National Endowment for the Arts, an agency that gained notoriety for funding pornographic and obscene art. Bush didn’t announce the funding increase himself; his wife Laura did it.
The explanation for this development is evident in the headlines generated in the press. It makes Bush and his wife look like they want our kids to appreciate art and culture. The Washington Post noted that, “Days before the announcement of the President’s budget message to Congress, Laura Bush has been happily leaking details of the proposal.” This is how a conservative administration tries to curry favor with the liberals in Washington.
A New York Times story waited almost until the end to note that real conservatives opposed the money. It reported that “Some conservatives, like Rep. Tom Tancredo, vowed to oppose the increase. Tancredo told the Times, “As a member of the House Budget Committee, I know that we are looking at record deficits and potential cuts in all kinds of programs. How can I tell constituents that I’ll take money away from them to pay for somebody else’s idea of good art? I have no more right to do that than to finance somebody else’s ideas about religion.”
Another conservative, Rep. Joseph Pitts, said that “the NEA has a record of supporting art that actually degrades America and promotes ideas that are offensive to most Americans. The best solution is for the government to get out of the business of funding art entirely.” One project that recently generated outrage was an AIDS fund-raiser featuring nude performers. Rep. Dave Weldon of Florida commented, “While this may be ‘art’ in New York City, most Americans would be horrified to learn their hard-earned tax dollars are supporting an organization showcasing nude go-go dancers.”
Even before the announcement about the NEA, the Republican Study Committee had created a table summarizing the announced costs of President Bush’s new proposals and the sources of funding for these proposals. Its key finding is that over the next five years the sum total of federal spending on the President’s new proposals is approximately $53 billion, of which only $11.5 billion in offsets have been announced. Those “offsets” are ways to pay for the new spending. This means the proposals will increase the federal deficit by tens of billions of dollars.
As the administration announced more money for the NEA, news broke that the cost of the administration’s Medicare drug plan will far exceed its original estimate. The cost was said to be up by a third. The White House says the plan will require $534 billion in the next decade, $134 billion more than the President said. The change was blamed on a “discrepancy” of some kind, to be paid for by the same children that are supposed to be benefiting from more federal spending on the arts.