A Cheap and Easy Target

The downfall of the arts endowment was caused by a bungling cultural community, not just election pressures

The cost of the National Endowment for the Arts amounts to about 69 cents -- not dollars, just pocket change -- per U.S. citizen per year. Its share of total public spending is so small that in the short form of the federal budget, it is rounded off to zero. Of the nearly 90,000 NEA grants awarded over the past quarter-century, at most a few dozen have sparked any significant public controversy -- and the cumulative cost of all those was less than a cent a person, at a time when people often won't stoop to pick up a penny from...