President Donald Trump’s new budget proposal, “A New Foundation for American Greatness”, cuts programs near and dear to American hearts such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the Minority Business Development Agency. While most of the nation panics at the prospect of losing funding for programs that so many have come to be reliant upon, there is a silver lining to this development that must be considered. The line of opportunity has been drawn in the proverbial sand by Trump and his administration. No more will we be enabled by a government that provides for every want and need. Now, we are challenged to think in a new way and take action.
The Challenge Before Us
While liberals promote more social spending and conservatives promote extreme austerity, the true spirit of America promotes self-reliance, responsibility, and accountability. America was founded on the principles of popular sovereignty and federalism, which allow the populous of the nation to be self-reliant and self-sufficient while the federal government protects the nation as a whole and deals with international affairs. Trump’s budget challenges us to get back to our roots and find opportunities in building and maintaining thriving communities.
For example, the National Endowment for the Arts provides grants to many art programs that would not thrive without its funding. However, the reality is that if our taxes pay for this program, then we are already paying to support the arts, so is it really a big leap to independently fund the arts without government intervention?
In a Foreward by Walter E. Williams in the English translation of “The Law”, originally written by French economist, Frederic Bastiat, the following was written pertaining to the reality of government taxation and the opportunity within private funding:
“Bastiat was able to apply the principle of the seen and the unseen to taxes and government jobs. When government taxes, what is seen are the workers employed and the results of their labor: a road, a bridge, or a canal. What is unseen are all the other things that would have been produced if the tax money had not been taken from individuals in the private sector and if the resources and labor employed by the government had been free to serve the desires of those private citizens. Government, Bastiat explained, produces nothing independent from the resources and labor it diverts from private uses.”
American Journalist Henry Hazlitt echoed this sentiment in his book, “Economics in One Lesson”, through an anecdote called “The Broken Window Fallacy”. The Broken Window Fallacy illustrates a shopkeeper having to replace a window in his store after it is broken by a community vandal. The cost of the new window is $50, and the community sees the benefit of the glazier gaining business and the shopkeeper having his window restored. However, Hazlitt illustrates that the true cost of replacing the broken window is the loss of business to a tailor who, if the window didn’t have to be replaced, would have benefitted by gaining the shopkeeper as a new customer, which would create to employment through the production of a suit. Hazlitt explains:
“The glazier’s gain of business, in short, is merely the tailor’s loss of business. No new ’employment’ has been added. The people in the crowd were thinking only of two parties to the transaction, the baker, and the glazier. They had forgotten the potential third party involved, the tailor. They forgot him precisely because he will not now enter the scene. They will see the new window in the next day or two. They will never see the extra suit, precisely because it will never be made. They see only what is immediately visible to the eye.”
Referring back to the example of the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation has an opportunity to understand that encouraging government taxation through demanding more government programs takes away from the benefit in building and maintaining a self-reliant, self-supporting, self-sufficient community capable of developing and funding art programs or entrepreneurial foundations on its own. In the case of Trump’s budget proposal, the populous is emotionally reacting to what is immediately visible to the eye when it should be looking at the opportunity to implement alternative solutions.
Rethinking How We Do Art
The National Endowment for the Arts provides grants to many art programs that may not thrive without its funding; however, the opportunity presented by cutting this program is in seeking out or building new venues for funding art programs that preserve a culture and encourage creative entrepreneurship. Instead of depending on government programs to fund art projects and organizations, we can contribute to art foundations such as CUE Art Foundation or the New York Foundation for the Arts, or develop local programs and foundations like the Goshen Art League in Goshen, NY or Art Station in historic Stone Mountain, GA. We can take advantage of the digital age by developing and funding our own online art galleries and foundations, such as Artsy.
With the abundance of opportunity to develop and support new and existing art organizations, galleries, and foundations, there is no need for a government program to fund the arts through excessive taxation. Trump’s new budget may not be as detrimental as it first appears to be if we understand the unseen and unspoken opportunity for our nation’s communities to grow and thrive independent of federal government support.
A Forward Vision
The further concern with cutting funding for government programs is the question of where the tax money will go. According to the New York Times, Trump’s budget proposes $717 billion in spending increases over the next 10 years in areas of discretionary defense spending ($469 billion), infrastructure investment ($200 billion), veterans Choice Program ($29 billion), and new paid parental leave program ($19 billion). According to the report:
“The administration is projecting that its tax cuts and changes to welfare programs will spur significant economic growth and expand the workforce, resulting in $2 trillion more in revenue than would have been generated under current law. The economy would need to grow at least 3 percent per year, a pace most economists say is unrealistic.”
In order for this “unrealistic” goal to even become a realistic thought, the American people have to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them by supplementing government programs with community development and entrepreneurship. Analysts at the Tax Policy Center have determined that Trump’s tax plan will spur economic growth over the next 2-3 years due to Americans having more money in their pockets, but the challenge will be long-term economic growth due to a weakened dollar and adding $11.6 trillion to the national debt.
However, what isn’t being directly addressed is the new level of accountability placed upon the American people. In order for Trump’s plans to work, we will have to take the extra money in our pockets and invest it in building up our communities, supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs, and investing our money wisely instead of wasting it on petty luxuries. We the people would have to take on the “wealth mindset” and become more fiscally responsible – living within our means, saving, and investing.
This is not a time to despair. This is a time to rise to the occasion. America is a nation that can thrive even in the worst and uncertain of times as long as we the people remember who we are. Right here, right now, in this moment, we have an opportunity to triumph in the face of tribulation.
Sure, Trump may get the credit as the Presidential representative of the nation at this time. Sure, conservatives will claim that it was their victory. However, the truth will be that of an American victory – a victory for the people, by the people, in the land founded on the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Trump’s Tax Plan and How It Would Affect You by Kimberly Amadeo on The Balance
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