Each October we celebrate as National Arts and Humanities Month, building on decades of support to encourage a lifelong love of arts and humanities for all Americans. When I chaired the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee four years ago, increasing federal funding for the arts and the humanities was one of my proudest accomplishments.
Unfortunately, under House Republican leadership, our federal investment in the arts and humanities has been slashed in the name of deficit reduction, caught up in broader efforts to reduce the federal debt. And some in Congress have used the pretext of balancing the budget to level disproportionate cuts on the arts and the humanities.
We must maintain the federal investment for in this investment lies the best hope for a more civil and prosperous future. Proposing a 49 percent cut to our already shoestring budget for arts and humanities, as House Republicans did last year, is no way to do that. Sadly, this misguided effort fails to appreciate that the arts and humanities help grow the economy and create jobs.
Economic studies have found that the arts industry generates nearly $135 billion in economic activity each year and supports over four million jobs. Locally, nearly 2,200 arts related businesses that employ approximately 12,000 people call Northern Virginia home. Recent figures suggest that industry expenditures were over $130 million, with millions in revenue for state and local governments.
From Alexandria to Falls Church and the City of Fairfax, art industry expenditures generated millions of dollars in tax dollars and created hundreds of jobs. In Northern Virginia, NEA grants support forums such as the Signature Theater in Arlington and the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Vienna, anchors in the community that families visit for generations.
It may be more difficult to quantify the economic benefits of investment in the humanities, but it is critical to understand that the creativity and understanding advanced through the humanities have provided the foundation for advancements in technology and discovery. This yields better insight and understanding to help our nation cope with the challenges of a chaotic world.
Sadly, when the local governments that fund many of these organizations take their cues from the federal government, programs that make up the economic, social, and cultural fabric of our communities are cut. As Ranking Member of the House subcommittee that oversees federal funding for programs such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, I will continue to support both of these institutions, not just because of the economic benefits they provide but for their contribution to the cultural and spiritual health of our nation.