Millions in Federal Arts Spending Goes to Billionaire Organizations, Study Finds

Published September 8, 2017

The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities (NFA-H) sends millions of taxpayer dollars every year to organizations that already have billions of dollars in assets, a new study reports.

NFA-H, the government agency responsible for administering the National Endowment of the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, transferred $441.1 million in taxpayer money to more than 3,000 nonprofit organizations and colleges in 2016, the July 17 report stated. Seventy-one such subsidized organizations received approximately $20.5 million in taxpayer funds despite already possessing assets in excess of $1 billion each, the study found.

The audit of the agency was conducted and published by Open The Books, a project of American Transparency—a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank promoting open disclosure and tracking of spending at all levels of government.

Reverse Robin Hood?

American Transparency’s Chief Operating Officer, Adam Andrzejewski, told Budget & Tax News government arts subsidies transfer money from all taxpayers to the wealthy.

“The argument for public funding of the arts goes something like this: If you eliminate public funding of the arts, then the starving artists will go away, and you need this to have a vibrant culture in our country,” Andrzejewski said. “Well, we found that most of the grants don’t go to starving artists. They go to well-heeled, asset-rich organizations. In fact, about $8 out of every $10 go to organizations with high assets.”

Government Art Control

Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, says government bureaucrats use arts subsidies to tell artists what to say and how to say it.

“While subsidies for the arts may result in more art overall, the majority of the change in artistic output will occur for those types of art where subsidies are available,” Bydlak said. “This opens up the door to all sorts of perverse incentives and doesn’t exactly support true creativity.”