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The effect of Trump's policies on the Cultural Sector

Monday, February 26

When President Donald Trump took office last year, there was a shock felt around the world. His radical ideas on immigration, gun control, and foreign policy caused widespread uncertainty. The feeling was that our lives would change for the duration of the four years of his presidency. Groups that first felt the brunt of Trump’s policies acutely include those that represent the artistic and cultural communities. It was clear from his campaign that Trump intended to decrease spending in some fields - including the cultural sector - in order to designate more funds towards national security and other causes that better suit his interests. Over a year into his presidency, the scenario until the end of Trump’s first term is still uncertain. 

Although there is no official word on Trump’s stance towards the creative industries, some of his actions have made his position clear. One notable move that caused enormous impact was to cap the amount of tax-deductible individual charitable giving to $200,000 per couple per year. The arts sector in the U.S. receives 30% of its funding from private donations - individuals, foundations, and corporations - and this percentage can be even more prominent in the case of museums, operas, and other traditional institutions. It is important to notice that while tax deductions are not the only incentive for people to give, limiting these deductions can only hurt the possibilities for the funding of cultural institutions across the country. 

Another policy enforced by Trump which hurt the development of the art world was repealing Obamacare. Obamacare's goal was to provide health care for self-employed, low-income individuals and their families, many of which are artists and musicians. Also, if the average American families spend more of their monthly budget on its members' basic needs - such as paying for health care - their budget for culture & leisure will be compromised. It is easy to understand how the absence of this program can affect the financial health of cultural institutions.

Trump’s travel ban rocked a number of cultural institutions on many levels. Not only does the artistic community feel that this is an affront to their freedom, they understand the impact it will have on artists who are unable to obtain visas to come into the country to perform or exhibit their work. They also note that worldwide travel has been a key to education and intercultural exchange, which will now be limited due to Trump’s policies. As a reaction, many artistic communities have already come together to protest the travel ban.

Another issue that could affect cultural institutions during the Trump administration is net neutrality. Net neutrality is the internet’s guiding principle. It preserves our right to communicate freely online. Without net neutrality, specific applications and content will be blocked. Nevertheless, in December of 2017, Net Neutrality was repealed. Although we are still waiting to feel the effects of how this will play out, there is little doubt that deployments can affect the cultural sector, especially the music industry. 

It seems clear that actions taken by the Trump administration over the past year have had an adverse effect on the art world and that there are no signs that this situation will change. Yet, even though the President himself did not directly address the arts sector in his first year, financial limitations and restricted freedoms deployed from his policies made it difficult for cultural institutions to flourish. Museums, artists, and cultural institutions have played a considerable part in the shaping of America and deserve respect and consideration in every administration. Luckily, these practices and institutions are permanent while governments are temporary.