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Deroy Murdock: Art will survive without NEA and NEH


Supporters of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities argue that the troglodyte Trump wants to return America to the Stone Age, before Uncle Sam rescued an uncouth nation from the horrors of square dancing, axe-throwing contests, and wind-swept silence.

“Without the arts in America, all we have is…Trump,” director Judd Apatow lamented in response to President Donald J. Trump’s plan to delete the NEA’s and NEH’s budgets of $148 million each.

“After all the wars are fought what remains are people, art, nature and culture,” actress Jamie Lee Curtis declared via Twitter. “Trump can try but he cannot cut us out of the picture.”

New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bremer said at a pro-NEA/NEH rally at City Hall, “You don’t make a country great by crushing its soul and devastating its heart.”

Amazingly enough, America was not an aesthetic backwater before President Lyndon Johnson launched the NEA and NEH in September 1965. Indeed, the generation that preceded these agencies witnessed a florescence of innovation, quality, and beauty in elite and popular culture.

Between the mid-1930s and 1965 — notwithstanding the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War — the American stage showcased George and Ira Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!,” Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate,” Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” and Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”

Filmgoers savored “Duck Soup,” “Gone with the Wind,” “Fantasia,” “Citizen Kane,” Warner Bros.’ glorious Looney Tunes, “Singin’ in the Rain,” “On the Waterfront,” “Some Like It Hot,” “North by Northwest,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Dr. Strangelove,” and “The Sound of Music.”

Readers turned the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.”

Museum-goers marveled at Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, Jasper Johns’ Flag, the early works of Andy Warhol, and the photographs of Margaret Bourke-White and Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Music lovers feasted on Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, James Brown, and the riches of Motown.

The small screen delivered “The Jack Benny Program,” “The Honeymooners,” “I Love Lucy,” “Your Show of Shows” (which started the careers of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon), “Playhouse 90,” “The Twilight Zone,” and Ed Sullivan’s famous words: “Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!”

And much more.

The Left should do something productive: Fight for President Donald J. Trump’s tax-cut plan. If Congress snaps out of its permanent vacation and puts Trump’s tax proposal on his desk for signature, Hollywood and Broadway artists and executives would see their top rate sliced from 39.5 percent to 35 percent. Major media companies like Time-Warner and NBCUniversal would see their corporate taxes MOABed from 35 percent to 20 or, even better, 15 percent. When show people pass away, their Death Taxes would have plunged to 0 percent. Trump’s tax system would liberate billions or even trillions of dollars that could be donated and invested in a new generation of American artistic masterpieces, honorable mentions, and beloved near-misses.

Ultimately, one wonders why celebrities and artists scream for the NEA’s and NEH’s salvation. Who do they think will run them for the next four to eight years? Barbra Streisand? Snoop Dogg?

If the NEA and NEH survive, their chiefs will be appointed by none other than Donald J. Trump. These new managers will not share these Leftists’ worldview, and just might be people whom they actually hate.

What if the new NEA director is social-conservative hero, former Republican governor of Arkansas, and rock ‘n’ roll electric-bass player Mike Huckabee? Imagine the shrieks in Laurel Canyon if the NEH were led by Pennsylvania’s former Republican senator, Rick Santorum.

President Trump knows how to make the Left writhe in pain. The liberal glitterati should beware that they don’t get their beloved federal arts funding — good and hard.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor with National Review Online.

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